Sunday, 28 September 2014

Your opinions please....

I'm so confused.

For the past four years I have been told I have Bipolar Disorder. Four years of mood stabilizing medication, disability pension, hospital visits, psychiatrists and therapy. Now I'm being told that could all be wrong.

I had a referral to any shrink for a second opinion on my meds because I started questioning my own doctor about his prescriptions. The new doctor was very frank about my condition and she gave me a completely new diagnosis - severe depression and anxiety disorder. That's a far cry from Bipolar. The symptoms are very similar, Bipolar combines these elements with manic attacks. I have had those episodes but not for a long time now, I have been attributing that to the mood stabilizers I take daily, such as Lithium and Invega. So I haven't questioned the diagnosis until now.

So what do I do? Who do I believe?

Do I believe the new psychiatrist and go with the new diagnosis? Or the six or seven other psychiatrists I've seen in the past years that all prop up the original diagnosis. I just don't know what to think or do.

The brain is the hardest part of the body to fix. A doctor can't make an informed decision by any normal medical standards. Half of the diagnosis comes directly from the patient in the form of interviews and observation. The other half comes from professional experience with interpreting those signs. We trust that trained psychiatrists can do this, but how well is up to the patient's interpretation. Sometimes we just don't agree with the final call, and fight back in the only way possible - a second opinion. I believe I have Bipolar Disorder, I just don't believe in all the medication that I have been saddled with. The second opinion is confusing me. Who do I believe?

In the course of my treatment I attended a Bipolar support group for six months. Above all the rest of the therapy I've gone through this group was by far the most eye-opening and useful. I had the benefit of sitting in a group with ten other people suffering the same condition, and a moderator who's professionalism and knowledge was beyond reproach. My first opinion of the group was that I really belonged. I had all the symptoms and signs that everyone else in the room had, we all shared a commonality. After a while there I began to get a better grasp on my condition and how to cope with it on a daily basis. When the program ended after six months, we all tried to figure out how to keep the group alive. We all enjoyed the experience that much. This program was the proof I needed, not the psychiatrist's opinion, my own.

Two years later I do see some of the participants now and then, they are members of Mental Health Connections - a non-profit organization here in Windsor that assists mentally ill clients with numerous activities. It's a place to go for a common cause. Everyone in there suffers from this silent beast. 

So help me out here. Please give me your opinion on this! I am quite concerned that I will make the wrong decision (even though it's the psychiatrist's decision), and I will end up starting this journey all over again.



  1. No yelling. My opinion is that in your case (as in my daughter's case) it is not the diagnosis per se that matters, but the psychiatrist and their willingness to explore and let you explore your psyche, with different medications and therapy strategies. Unfortunately, there is no perfect diagnosis, and therefor no exact treatment: it's all trial and error. So now you are going to explore a new regime. Trey to keep what works from your old group: write down what was so valuable and see if you can get parts of it other places.
    You cannot start over. You are who you are, where you are, NOW. That isn't the same person/state/mind as it was before. Go forward. Yes, it's very hard, sometimes almost unbearable. But you have borne it already. Trust that you can continue to bear it while you are looking for ways to make things better. And trust your reactions to the new medications. Don't be afraid to say it isn't working.
    All the best, Keith.

  2. From the little bit you've said recently, it seems like your current meds aren't working for you. So regardless of your diagnosis, it seems like you're in for a med change anyway, so why not let the new doctor try a different regime?

    And don't let yourself forget that different medications create different reactions in different people. I know people who are very stable on Wellbutrin, but for me, it caused my anxiety to skyrocket, so I had to stop it precipitously.

    And in my personal experience, mental health diagnoses are complicated. I was diagnosed with depression at 17. I was in my mid thirties before I was officially diagnosed with OCD, and it was several years after that before I was diagnosed with and treated for anxiety. Were these new symptoms that popped up? Of course not. I started hair pulling (my most destructive OCD habit) when I was 15 or 16. And the anxiety--once I recognized it for what it was--had been a problem since I was at least 15, but probably earlier.

    My point being that mental health can be a long journey, and it can sometimes take a long time before individual symptoms become apparent as a separate disease rather than part of your original diagnosis.

    Yeah, it all sucks, but it can get better, and the wrong meds can exacerbate problems.

    But first and foremost, be well and take care.


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