Misdiagnosed With Depression: A Circuitous Journey to Bipolar

October 2016

Today marks my first ever meeting with a psychiatrist. A good ole crazy people doctor for good ole crazy me.

The psychiatrist turns out to be a sweet, bubbly, round-faced young woman who looks more like a favorite elementary school teacher than a psychiatrist, but in a good way. I like her immediately. Finally, someone normal.

Side note: I get the whole psychiatrist thing. Decent money, and you get to learn about crazy people brains. Way more satisfying than being a therapist, if you ask me. I could do it, if, ya know, I don’t die first.

The psych takes me to her office and gets straight down to business screening me for mental illnesses. I find the process intriguing, yet highly flawed. I wish she could just see what’s in my brain and treat me that way, instead of relying on my responses to determine the problems with my life.

“Have you lost all interest in activities you usually enjoy?” Depression question, I think to myself. How can I be honest when I can essentially pick out my illness based on my answers?

“Do you have constant racing thoughts and worries?” Anxiety.

“Do you believe you have to do something over and over again, like turning your lights on and off or repeating certain words?” OCD.

“Do you sometimes suddenly feel intense negative emotions, such as fear, and physical differences, such as a racing heartbeat?” Panic disorder.

“Do you hate being the center of attention?” Social anxiety.

“Have you ever gone through or witnessed a traumatic event?” PTSD.

“Do you ever feel so excited or wired that you get into trouble and sleep less?” A manic bipolar state.

“Have you ever excessively exercised, taken pills, or starved yourself to keep your weight down?” Anorexia nervosa.

“Have you ever made yourself throw up to keep your weight down, or had periods of binge-eating followed by periods of starvation or purging?” Bulimia nervosa.

“Do you find yourself drinking or using recreational drugs more frequently than most of your friends?” Dependency.

The questions end as quickly as they started, and I wait for the shrink to see right through me, to recognize that I fabricated my responses, based on my hypotheses about which question matched each illness, and that I’m really not sick at all, I just know how to play the screening game.

But she’s not done yet. My psych then asks for my family’s mental health history. I tell her that my mom takes antidepressants. Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner. Naturally, like mother like daughter, I too am diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. I know that mental illnesses consistently show a strong genetic basis, so I am not surprised. I’ve assumed I have depression since middle school.

But on top of the depression, the psych gives me a big ole dose of anxiety. I had recently started getting panic attacks before big tests, but I didn’t realize my physical responses differ from any other stressed college student. Oops. Generalized Anxiety Disorder it is.

Self-harm and self-hate and self-esteem, oh my.

The psychiatrist prescribes me Prozac, the exact same medication and dose that my mother claims, “Changed her life” in 2012. And that’s what I need, some serious life changing, if I’m ever going to get out of these doctors’ offices. I’m more than willing to take the pills.

The psychiatrist explains to me all possible side effects, including an increase in anxiety and suicidal thoughts. She mentions something called serotonin syndrome. I crease my forehead. Aren’t antidepressants supposed to alleviate those kinds of things? I think to myself. But I don’t question the good doctor. She tells me that these side effects, if they occur at all, should relieve themselves after about a week.

“And please don’t hesitate to call if you think you’re going to hurt yourself,” she reminds me as I’m leaving.

I snort. Do doctors really think a person who’s going to hurt herself decides instead to make a phone call? There’s no way.

I’m ready to get my ‘script and go.

I wait by the pharmaceutical window at the student health center for a good 30 minutes before I receive my first bottle for my brand-spanking, fresh-out-the-womb new diagnoses. Window lady tells me to take 10mg of Prozac for one week, and then increase the dose of 20mg. Easing into the medication supposedly stifles the side effects. I’m not too worried, I’d rather just get this show on the road, but I promise I’ll take the drugs as prescribed.

“The psychiatrist plans to evaluate your progress weekly for the next month, when the pills should reach their full effect. But it will be an uphill battle. One day you will wake up and realize how much better you feel, even if you’re not perfectly cured yet. I hope you get better soon.” She says this plainly, as if I have a cold or the flu.

I roll my eyes and swallow my first pill in front of her.

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23 thoughts on “Misdiagnosed With Depression: A Circuitous Journey to Bipolar

  1. Wow! I don’t know what to say about this. Your ability to out think the answers to the psych’s questions is interesting. I was hoping she would have recognized what was happening and thrown you a fast ball question. When I was in my 30’s I saw a psychiatrist and he was smarter than me. I led myself down the path and then BAM he just nailed me and I had to admit the real truth. It was a moment I will never forget. I wish you all the best with the medication and follow up. Thanks for this post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Bipolar Cat
    Really nice reading this particular blog.
    In bed at the moment exhausted 😩 and made me think of my first visit to my first of many shrinks.
    With my bipolar I’ve also chronic insomnia and have had my first good nights sleep in ages.
    I can’t take any anti- depressants as they send me completely manic and psychotic.
    I’m doing just fine and coping really well but enjoying my rest and reading your blogs.
    Cheers MoX

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Insomnia can drive anyone crazy; I honestly believe that, as I endured it myself. Don’t want to give out a spoiler alert, but it sounds like my next blog will resonate with you as well. 🙂 xoxo thank you so much for reading, love

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like the way you write, and i am inspired by your intellect and accuracy. I feel sad that nobody took the time to hear you. I am glad you have a place to express and be heard. Society makes many feel crazy especially when intellectually advanced, people feel intimidated and need to box, fear change and feel inferior – which you cannot change how another person feels as that is there walk. Be you, a d learn to love you – everybody is crazy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for sharing this experience. I have gone through that same thing with similar thoughts about it since I was in my teens. Unfortunately in the 1980’s there wasn’t a lot of choice in pharmaceuticals. Bounce, bounce, bounce around to the doctor my insurance will take…♥️ to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really enjoyed all of your posts. Honestly, I haven’t yet taken the task of visiting any therapist or psych yet. Probably because of the taboo that still revolves around mental illnesses, I’m afraid that if I even mention about the frequent and unwelcoming panic and anxiety attacks I have been having for almost 2 years, that literally stop me from taking up new tasks that are out of my comfort zone, nobody would believe me. And worse, shrug it off saying, ‘It’s all in your head. Get over it.’
    So I’m tackling this on my own. Reading as many articles as possible, understanding the nuances of anxiety and trying my best to not let it stand in my way of growth.

    I feel your blog would be really helpful for me. I’d be able to gather more information.

    Thank you for visiting my blog, I’m very glad I found yours.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. It took me 7 years to get therapeutic and psychiatric help, and even then I started only because other people made me. I never wanted to have a mental illness, or anything that could let others perceive me as weak. You are doing the right thing by educating yourself, but it is always okay to need help. xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is exactly my fear, and why I’m not sure if I even want help… I’ve seen these questionnaires before and I tend to sort through the potential answers/ results or whatever you call them worse still I’m a hypochondriac so how could/do they end up with a diagnosis that way 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My psychiatrist who correctly diagnosed me with bipolar 1 specifically asked me if i knew what mania was in a clinical sense, asked me to define it, and asked me to apply my definition to the symptoms i personally experience. That’s when I knew I’d found someone different, someone who let me talk instead of respond with yes or no answers. I practically worship the ground he stands upon now. He changed my life.

    Like

  10. I hope I can find someone like that… my husband and I are going to go to the walk-in clinic here in town to hopefully find some answers. Where to go, who to talk to, what to expect. and if I’m really lucky actually get some answers… my best friend just got her masters degree in… counseling? (i guess? it’s all the same to me really.) but anyway she said that she doesn’t think I’m bipolar but she does think I have depression. low grade, probably situational but then again I can fit myself in just about any category.. and once again, I’m a hypochondriac and I’ve done my research… :/

    Liked by 1 person

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