For well over a decade, and since my very first therapy session many moons ago, (aka JUST after the dinosaurs died out and at the time when there were Tyrannosaurus Rex bones still lying about EVERYWHERE after that rather inconvenient meteor), therapists and psychologists across the country have always said that there is “something” wrong with me. Obviously they have always known about my OCD, Eating Disorder and Depression, yet still many have insisted that there is “something else” lurking within me and playing general havoc with my brain.
I have always found this “something wrong” that nobody can put their finger on, (or any body part for that matter), to be rather confusing.
When I was 15 the it was banded about that this “thing” might be bipolar disorder, but after trial and error with a few medications, that suggestion was tidied away as well as all the others and I have tried my best to forget about it. I was doing pretty well with this forgetting thing in my opinion (I had placed the “there is something wrong with you that we do not understand” memory alongside Pythagorus’ theorem in the box of “things I no longer need to know after the age of 16”), but then my forgetting box was rudely ripped open again very recently.
If you have been following this blog for a while you may remember that I had an assessment with a new OCD service in October of last year, a three hour interrogation examining all of my mental health problems and experiences of the world throughout my life. I mentioned nothing of any extra “bonus” diagnosis that nobody was sure of, so for this reason I was surprised when the psychologist I was speaking to randomly asked if I had any other diagnoses, as yet again I was showing signs of this “something else”, that something possibly being a “personality disorder”. I didn’t mention this when I had the assessment all those months ago because I imagined it would go away like all those other conversations of mysterious mental health problems in the past.
When I was told that the OCD service may not be able to facilitate my care if I had a personality disorder and I may need to see another service first however, I was unable to forget it again and became increasingly frustrated. Here I was potentially having issues with receiving treatment because of a mysterious something that I wasn’t even diagnosed with, and it was at that point that I knew I needed answers.
Like I said in my “why I like being diagnosed with mental health problems” blog post a few weeks ago, I like having the labels and diagnoses of my conditions in black and white because it helps me to deal with them and means I know what enemy I should be fighting. If you want a full understanding of why I like being diagnosed with (NOT HAVING) mental health problems, then I fully recommend checking that post out before this one (Why I Like Being Diagnosed With Mental Health Problems – it really is a great read. Trust me it involves a picture of a monkey banging a gong and singing Bohemian Rhapsody), but as a brief summary for all those with an aversion to classic song performing primates, my argument was that I like being diagnosed with mental health problems because it is only when you name a problem and pin it down that you can figure out how to overcome it. It is useless for a person working in a garage to simply say “there is something wrong with your car” because then they can’t fix it. They need to specifically identify the issue that there is a gaping hole in the front tyre, as only when they know that, do they know where they start tinkering and what equipment they will need.
Consequently, after my OCD assessment, I went to each of the three therapists I see in turn and asked them to tell me if there was something wrong and if so, what the hell it was. I can’t remember who first brought it up, but rather quickly a condition (we will call it Penguin condition for the time being), was suggested as the answer to all the questions I have had over the years. From that suggestion I had many appointments discussing the condition and as instructed, I researched it, learnt about it, and I watched a DVD given to me by a therapist, of various people being interviewed about their experience of Penguin condition.
Of course I didn’t relate to every single person on the DVD nor did I agree with some of the explanations of Penguin condition online, but on the whole, when learning about it, something clicked. As I heard people talking about what it was like I was astonished to hear them basically describing things I do/have experienced in life, and although scared and not eager to add a new diagnosis to my list, I was at least a little relieved. Finally I wasn’t just “weird”, I had Penguin condition and maybe if I started dealing with it, things would improve across the board. Perhaps the underlying issue of Penguin condition was the reason for the OCD and eating disorder, perhaps none of the treatment has cured me yet because we were actually treating the wrong parts first, like trying to eat the chunks of brownie at the bottom of a sundae glass before you have tackled the ice cream piled on top of it (ALWAYS SAVE THE BROWNIE BITS FOR LAST. ALWAYS. THAT IS THE RULE. ICE CREAM FIRST, BROWNIES LATER).
For this reason I became eager for the diagnosis to be put in place so that I could finally know where I stood. As well as answering my need for answers I also wanted it made official so that future therapists or medical professionals would know the full story if ever reading my notes, without me having to always add into new introductions the explanatory “I know you have read my notes but just so you know Penguin disorder is also on there but it is not written down”. I wanted it in black and white to be neat, to be clear, and partly because when things are in black and white, they look a little more like a penguin without the beak.
Then, a few weeks ago, I had a session with my psychiatrist and it was decided that we would make it official and the diagnosis would go on my records. At first I was relieved, but then he started to warn me about the consequences of it being made official. Suddenly I wanted to forget all about it and fall back into blissful ignorance again.
Apparently this condition is one with a lot of stigma to it, stigma that can lead to some therapists refusing to see you if you have the diagnosis. This wasn’t really a problem for me. If a therapist isn’t going to see me because I have a certain mental health problem then clearly they aren’t a good therapist or a person that I want to associate with anyway, but the constant reinforcement of judgement that could potentially befall me freaked me out a bit. I am not ashamed of having mental health problems, I talk about them openly on the internet for this reason and to hopefully help others be less ashamed about their disorders, yet with Penguin condition I really was rather scared and embarressed. My psychiatrist said he could treat me for the condition and just not put it on my notes if I would prefer, yet as easy as that would be, I still felt uncomfortable. Yes I wouldn’t have the “shame” of being diagnosed with a condition that faces a lot of stigma, but on some level I would also be admitting that there was shame in the condition and that I should keep it on the down low which is not how I feel about any other mental health problem I have. I am a firm believer that if you have a problem, keeping it on the down low is only going to make it worse and will not raise any of the positive awareness that could potentially be spread with honesty. Nevertheless I am a little afraid, and so for now it is on my notes as “under revision” incase I change my mind by the next appointment and want it removed (apparently without the under revision bit this is something that once on your records, will not come off no matter how much scrubbing or Cilit Bang you apply. Bang and the dirt is gone? Yeah, but the disorder will still be there!).
I have a few days until my next appointment now, and by that next session I have to decide whether or not I want to specify that mysterious something wrong or just sweep it under the carpet again. As well as debating whether to let it on my medical notes I have been debating whether or not to bring it up or “come out” with it in my blog. Again, my initial reaction was no. Even my mum agreed that it might not be the best idea. If you google the condition or do any surface level research on it, people with this disorder are painted as crazed monsters who are unbearable to be around. Reading the articles even I admit that I started to think that I would never want anything to do with someone suffering from the condition, and that was when I made my decision to get over my fear, come clean and talk about it on my blog like I talk about everything else, regardless of whether anyone else is interested. If everyone thinks people with Penguin condition are dangerously insane, then I want to talk about it and I want to raise awareness of the fact that that is not the case and what the people with it are really like. As you can see I am still scared of saying it on here (hence the code name Penguin condition), as I do fear the judgement, but they say feel the fear and do it anyway, so here it goes.
My most recent mental heath update then? After all that waffle what has happened? Well dear friend, I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality disorder. I am still exactly the same blogger you have been following for however long you have been, with exactly the same issues. It’s just that one of the hidden ones now has a name (sort of like when some women on TV seem to name one of their boobs…it is something that has always been there only now it can be addressed formally in a letter or serious conversation). As you can see this post is long enough as it is so I won’t go into what that means and what myths need debunking here, but for now I feel like telling you is a big enough step. (That said I know many people do not know what this disorder is or have many misconceptions so, before I can provide an explanation of my personal experience I have linked a PDF below from the charity “Mind” which I feel is the best and least stigmatised description around, so if you want to learn more, dear god please go there rather than to a general google search).
Maybe I will delete this post before I upload it but I hope I don’t, and if you are reading it then I guess I have been brave. Nobody should be ashamed of their mental health problems, and I for one am going to live by that, even if doing so is something that scares me right now.
Take care everyone x