Does A Mental Health Diagnosis Do Us Any Favors?

“She’s a member of the prozac club…”  Yeah, that’s a lawyer’s way of discrediting witnesses.

Guess what? You’ve just shrunk your jury pool to elementary school children and Scientologists because a large percentage of the population has been on in the past, or is currently on, a med like prozac. It’s not a sin, it’s not incompetence. I am pretty resentful that so much as taking an anti depressant warrants such labeling, as if anyone who could “catch” depression is somehow inept.

 

Prior to being diagnosed with any mental health problem, I was just considered “weird” “awkward” or “eccentric.” And I was actually okay with that, figuring that my dysfunctional life had lead me to that place of dysfunction. Deep down, though, I always knew *something* was off in my brain. It didn’t matter how much I bullied myself, or how much I changed my behavior. The cycles were the same. Up, down, briefly stable, to the moon high, and back into the gutter low. Always anxious, always panicking even without a trigger. Something was wrong with me that wasn’t my fault.

But then came the counselors. I turned down meds. I talked until I was blue in the face. Still, the cycles remained the same. So I acquiesced to medication. The cycles remained the same, except the depression were worse and the manic episodes longer and more severe.

That happens when you give straight anti depressants to a bipolar patient.

Fast forward to 2006 when I was finally diagnosed as bipolar and given mood stabilizers. Suddenly, I wasn’t spending money like water on shit I didn’t need and I had no desire to. I wasn’t goofy happy for no reason, taking chances, making impulsive decisions. I was no longer screaming mad and throwing things, nor was I bawling and hiding in closets. It felt like, wow, this makes a difference.

Except…It’s never cured the depressions. I’m to the point where I’ve tried 3/4 of the anti depressants in the pharmacy. First gen, second gen, SSRI, SNRI, MAOI. The doctors look at me with revulsion, I’ve tried so many, as if I chose for them to work briefly and quit or not work at all or give heinous side effects. I am a pain in their side because I don’t fit inside their neat little box of “it works for a million other people, the problem is you.”

They don’t consider a complex multiple diagnosis. Nor do they consider all the meds they have you on for said disorders and how they might or might not combine for best results. They only care of there’s a chance for a dangerous interaction. For all they know, giving Zoloft to someone with a hormonal imbalance may make them more depressed. They don’t know, yet they still seem to place blame and responsibility on the patient.

So here I am, 13 years on disability, still jumping through hoops trying to prove I am indeed disabled, while med after med fails and counseling does absolutely no good because my biggest problem isn’t my personality. It’s what my mind state is that affects my personality. If I am in a depression, it stands to reason I am not going to be shiny happy people. If I am manic, then I’m going to be intrepid and limitless only to come down and fail once again. That’s not my personality. But back when I didn’t know what mental illness was and it could be blamed on my personality..At least I had some sense of control and dignity. I wasn’t a member of the Prozac club, my very intelligence being questioned and tainted. I was just “the weird girl.” And frankly, society’s so cruel, being the weird girl is a lot better than being the bipolar chick. People believe in weirdness. You’d be surprised by how few believe in mental illness.

I guess, if the shoe were on the other foot, I’d think the same way. Anyone who’s tried over 20 medications and only ever had good results with four…Obviously, they’re just looking for a pill to fix them. It’s to the point where I feel responsible for making my doctors happy by lying and saying the meds work when they don’t. That’s sad. I don’t want to fail anyone, not myself, not my kid, not my doctor. And yet, time after time, there it is. I arm myself with research, information, the experience of others, I provide journal entries to give a peek inside my daily mind…And still, I am made to feel like somehow it’s my fault for not responding to what a million others do. And face it, if that were how it worked, they wouldn’t need dozens of different formulas for the medications. (My old shrink said the only one that should be on the formulary at all was Zoloft and that shit made me suicidally depressed.) I feel like it’s a losing battle. I’m not looking for a cure in a pill, I just want to feel better, enjoy the things I used to, and make it STICK.

Did a diagnosis do me any favors?

I’m not sure it did, from a self esteem point of view. Yeah, I have the diagnosis and it explains much of my dysfunction. But I’m still viewed as “a member of the prozac club”, like somehow having imbalanced brain chemicals is some sort of mental hindrance to intelligence. I have no doubts that I am fairly smart. I was in gifted classes in school, honor roll,et al. I’m not dumb.

I do, however, have a disability, and it’s not simply being a member of the “prozac club”. If your body is sick, people tell you to take the time to heal and they make concessions for whatever is hindering you from keeping up with the able bodied.

If your mind is sick, somehow you’re just irrelevant and lazy. Never mind that the brain is the epicenter that runs every response in our bodies, physical and emotional.

Can you imagine if a computer had a virus that affected every aspect of its functionality? Oh, no, must remove it, must fix it, can’t run a computer if it’s corrupted.

The human brain is a computer. Mental illness is the virus. We’re not running properly and our meds are our anti virus program. Except no matter how much you update, there’s always some little asshole creating a new virus to infect your brain.

In some ways, I am grateful for my mental health diagnosis. I know it’s not just me being some loser. And mood stabilizers stave off the worst parts like the crying and screaming and doing impulsive self harming things.

In other ways…It’s like having a biohazard label stuck to my forehead for the rest of my life.

I blame society, and its collective ignorance and lack of compassion, for that.

Punishing people for seeking help with an illness is abhorrent.

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