Sitting In Mental Health Limbo

About 5 years ago I had a complete breakdown and ended up living in the local mental health ward for two weeks.

During that time I was seen by three different doctors and a dozen stern (but awesome) nurses all trying to piece me back together and figure out what broke me apart in the first place.

I have a history of depression and anxiety.  Sure, not much of it is on paper.  I didn’t talk about it, didn’t even think there was anything wrong, and drowned myself in drugs and alcohol and bad relationships.  Not many people know about the darkness I faced a few times.  Even fewer know about the other things I do to get through the day.

And I broke.  Life got too much and my body shut down to stop the screaming in my brain.

I believe I had my first manic episode in the hospital.  Bi polar was written down along with “generalized anxiety disorder” and “borderline personality disorder”.

I took part in the outpatient program.  Seeing a nurse and a psychiatrist.  Borderline personality disorder won out in the end.  

But 5 years later and I’m still not well.  I drift along experiencing life with a kind of “meh” mixed with often crippling anxiety.  The only time I feel happy and relatively normal is when I’m with my baby.  I’m down so much of the time though that when I think I’m happy it’s not the kind of happy I think I should feel.  I wonder, if I’m so low these days that when I am “manic” that it just comes across as normal?

I thought at first I had some sort of late-onset postpartum anxiety and depression.  I’m on the lowest dose of cipralex for the anxiety and have been throughout my pregnancy – but it’s not working for this.  It’s not working for the part of me that has been struggling all these years.  

I finally convinced my doctor to refer me to a psychiatrist.  He was one of the ones I saw briefly in the hospital.  He was aware of my case and had reviewed my history.  He listened to my “new” symptoms and nodded.

He wrote down Bi-polar.

He believes I was misdiagnosed.

I asked my hubby about it and he looked at me thoughtfully.  “I thought you were bi-polar 5 years ago.” He knows me best of all and has watched all my ups and downs.

My regular doctor is arguing this find.  She has, in her notes, borderline personality disorder.

They often get misdiagnosed as one another.  Here’s a quick what’s the difference blurb:

From Psycology Today

Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings, from overly “high” and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.

A cycle is the period of time it takes for a person to go through one episode of mania and one of depression. The frequency and duration of these cycles vary from person to person, from once every five years to once every three months. People with a subtype of bipolar (rapid–cycling bipolar) may cycle more quickly, but much less quickly than people with BPD (shifts can even last minutes/seconds).

According to Dr. Friedel, director of the BPD program at Virginia Commonwealth University, there are two main differences between BPD and bipolar disorder:

1. People with BPD cycle much more quickly, often several times a day.

2. The moods in people with BPD are more dependent, either positively or negatively, on what’s going on in their life at the moment. Anything that might smack of abandonment (however far fetched) is a major trigger.

3. In people with BPD, the mood swings are more distinct. Marsha M. Linehan, professor of psychology at the University of Washington, says that while people with bipolar disorder swing between all-¬encompassing periods of mania and major depression, the mood swings typical in BPD are more specific. She says, “You have fear going up and down, sadness going up and down, anger up and down, disgust up and down, and love up and down.

Another difference is that Bi-Polar is, as far as my research shows, is a chemical thing.  There’s something going on upstairs that isn’t right.  And BPD is a psychosis – something that is up with the personality and psyche and can be worked on with cognitive behavioral therapy.  Not to say that the therapy can’t be helpful to Bipolar people but I know, for me, it wasn’t – and if the chemicals are still wrong in my brain no amount of therapy is going to fix it.

So I’ve got differing diagnosis now and I’m sitting in mental health limbo.  My reg doctor, who can help me with the meds, doesn’t agree with the Bipolar one and is questioning it.  The other doctor thinks it’s Bi polar (and thought so 5 years ago) but the meds he prescribed have terrifying side effects and aren’t breastfeeding friendly.  I need my reg doctor to change the meds to another mood stabilizer but she won’t because …. well you see the circle.

Not to mention I can’t really afford these medications, and I want to apply to get some help from the government until our situation improves, but until the doctors agree I can’t.

So here I sit.  Depressed and possibly on the wrong medication.  I am on a wait list to go see a nurse with the outpatient program.  I might get in before April.  If I’m lucky.

I’m confused and frustrated.  I am having trouble dealing with day to day life.  My tolerance is super low for anybody but my baby boy.  I have no energy and have to fight every morning with myself to just get dressed and walk out the door.  

I really need something to give.  I just have to make sure it isn’t me.


2 thoughts on “Sitting In Mental Health Limbo

  1. You are NOT Borderline. I could have told you that because I like you, you’re my friend and I run for the hills when I get the slightest whiff of Borderline and believe me, I know that stench. You aren’t. There are some very key components of BPD, you don’t have any. Extreme jealousy and possessiveness – never seen either in you, on the contrary even. Remember, BPD is the disease of the abusive spouse, just think of the classic abuser and realize you are not it.

    You may be bi-polar, I don’t run from them for one, in fact have a few friends who are called bi-polar, and I can see that kind of swing, not severe enough to “diagnose” but yeah, you’re a bit of a see-saw. That seems a lot more realistic to me, in any event.

    • That’s what Fred thinks too, and has thought for awhile. Glad that things are moving in the right direction. Apparently there a few different levels of bi-polar and I’m of the variety where the swing is less pronounced, and takes longer – with more depression than mania. Thanks for your input, it means a lot to me.

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