Psychiatric Assessment – My experience

A few days ago a comment was left on my blog by twenty7zero3, asking me what happened during my diagnosis assessment – so I said that I’d write a post about it.

First of all, it’s worth mentioning a little bit of background. I’d really struggled to get the help that I required from the NHS and the doctors that I were seeing weren’t referring me to the correct people. I’m a university student who was also on my placement year which made life fifty times harder as well, and at the time it turned out that I lived in three different counties with three different doctor’s surgeries and three different sets of opinions on what was right for me.

Every time I moved from one place to another, I had to re-register and start the process all over again, and then a few months later I’d need help in another place and had to re-register again. It’s a massive problem that university students that live away from home have and a big flaw in the system only being able to be registered at one surgery at a time when students have multiple homes.

No one was listening. No one was helping, and I just got to a point where I’d had enough. There was one particular night which forced me in my own mind to get the help I needed, and that was after having stood in the middle of a dual carriageway near my house waiting for a car to wipe me out.

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The NHS wasn’t working for me in this instance, and luckily I was fortunate enough at the time to be able to afford a private assessment (now I wouldn’t be so lucky!). At the time I wasn’t too far from London, so I did a bit of Googling and came across Clinical Partners which have an office near Oxford Circus, as well as offices in other major cities across the UK.

I don’t know if they were the best place to go or whether this is a good way of gaining a diagnosis; I’m not somebody that is able and trained to give such an opinion. But what I do know, is that they did for me what I need them to do. They gave me answers.

The actual assessment was about two hours long, I think. I’d previously filled out mountains of paperwork about how I was feeling, my experiences and what I wanted to achieve out of the session which they had read through before my arrival. But the assessment was just a general talk – about me and my life. It was very much just telling the psychiatrist my issues and them trying to understand in the best way that they could in the restricted time available.

I was incredibly nervous when I first got there but as the conversation started to flow I calmed right down and it wasn’t an unpleasant experience at all. When the session was almost over, emotional instability was mentioned and possible Bipolar tendencies – but nothing was set in stone.

Then came the wait. Around a week later I received a folder through the post with information on suggested treatments and the diagnosis’ I dreamt of getting. Some people hate the idea of being labelled with something, and I agree if it’s a negative stereotype, but for me at that time I was just relieved that I had some answers.

Answers = Solutions.

I’m sure you’re all aware, but that day I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and Cyclothymia – and getting those diagnosis’ has been just as useful as I had anticipated.

I think it’s disgusting that it takes knowing what you have to get a doctor to listen to you, but that’s what’s happened. My referrals are quicker, they pay more attention, and everything runs more smoothly. No one wants to be liable for a tragedy and the fact of the matter is, a diagnosed Borderline-Cyclothymic could be on the edge of one.

I remember the first time I went to the doctor after my assessment so clearly. It made me laugh at their idiocy but the irony infuriated me. They won’t listen to us until we have a disorder. But most people can’t get the name of the disorder without them listening.

When I first began to explain what my problems were, the doctor sat facing the computer and barely looked at me. They typed away, but no eye contact was made and they barely said a word. As I carried on, I began to explain my disorders, and as soon as I name-dropped them, the doctor swiveled round on their chair and turned to face me.

I got everything I asked for in that appointment for the first time in ten years. For the first time since I have begun suffering, they were eager to help.

So that was my experience with my assessment and what the answers have meant for me. They’ve made life easier in terms of being heard, getting solutions and being at comfort in the knowing that I’m not the only one. I wouldn’t take back my assessment (and my £400!) for anything.

lovelauren

Reading up on your disorder – more harm than good?

I’ve only ever actually bought one book relating to mental health – The Borderline Personality Disorder Survival Guide which I bought straight after my diagnosis. I also have Cyclothymia and anxiety, but BPD was the diagnosis I found hardest to understand and get a hold of what it actually is.

Obviously it goes without saying though that I have constant access to Google – and I do research my other conditions sometimes as well.

20150125_221637But what I want to know is, is it a good idea? Is it a good idea to gain clarity on what’s ‘wrong’ with you, or does it become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Is it better to just get a diagnosis and allow the doctor or psychiatrist to decide what they feel is best for you, and you continue only knowing as much as they think you need to know?

Do I for example read:

It simply means that you have a pattern of thinking, feeling, and behaving that may be hindering your ability to have a high quality of life, keep your relationships going strong, or reach your goals.

…and make that a reality for myself? Do I read that clear defining statement of what BPD is and begin to automatically think that I can’t be in a strong relationship and therefore push my boyfriend further away until the relationship breaks down? Or do I read that I can’t reach my goals and therefore decide to leave university early because it’s been said that it may be too difficult for my personality type to handle?

Being someone with BPD, I already don’t have a strong sense of identity, so what’s stopping the things I’m reading from becoming apart of my already shaky identity and not necessarily in a positive way?

It’s natural instinct to want to find out more. As humans we are inquisitive and seek answers to our problems. But is it wise? Just because we are programmed to do something doesn’t make it the right thing to do.

I’m not necessarily talking about the world of blogging, because that’s on the whole about sharing personal experiences. It allows for us to have a way of letting our frustrations go and it allows us to feel comfortable in the knowledge that someone will listen and understand.

Blogging is like a world where people are OK with talking about their problems and don’t feel ashamed of it (which is great!), and it should happen in the real world too – but it’s not medical.

Is that where the line needs to be drawn? Is it negative when we start to get medical?

Should we know about the ICD-10 of medical classification unless we’re trained to know this stuff for professional reasons? Should we be able to so easily gain access to lists of symptoms that allow us to become self-fulfilling hypochondriacs?

Is it self-destructive? Does it make us more prone to fitting into these black and white labels because we become what we’re told we are?

I don’t know.

lovelauren

A letter to my brain.

shi

I’m so fucking annoyed with you. Beyond annoyed. Furious. 

You’ve spent as many years as I can remember making everything harder for me. Making me scared beyond belief and making me sadder than I thought it was possible for a person to feel. You’ve made me feel ashamed, helpless, irritated, confused, paranoid and snappy for a large proportion of my life.

You’ve made my relationships harder with everyone around me, and you’ve made my relationship harder with myself.

It’s like you’re not apart of me. You’re cruel and twisted and awful, so you can’t have a connection to me – because I’m not cruel. How can I have something that cruel living inside of me?

Sometimes you give me the confidence to achieve anything. I could conquer the world. But you put ideas into my head that are too big. They’re beyond my knowledge, experience and they require all the money I have, but you convince me that I can do it. I can do it – I could say that a million times. I love you so much in that moment because everything’s fine. It’s better than fine, it’s amazing.

But then you dramatically and visciously tear down these ideas with belated rational thinking. And the world becomes even more fucked up than it was to start with.

You make me want to give up. You make me hate the life I lead because it’s too difficult. It’s too difficult being in my head. It’s painful and it’s exhausting – dealing with this shit all the time.

So you know what, brain – shut up. Be quiet. Leave me alone.

Let’s stop all this shit. Give me normal. A break from my reality. Make me brave enough to do what I want in life, give me confidence in my abilities, but also give me the strength to know my limits. Make me happy with what I’ve got – because I have a lot and I have no reason to be sad, and allow me to breathe freely for the first time in a long time.

I’m not asking you – I’m telling you. This shit ends now.

I’m sick of you. So stop making me sick.

l

Day 21: How many people know about your diagnosis?

31 Days of BPD

I’m an open book. I’ve never been good at keeping secrets and keeping things private. I’m not ashamed of who I am or what I’ve done in life.

When I was first diagnosed with BPD and Cyclothymia, BPD awareness month was just starting – so I shared some quotes on my Facebook page for everyone to see and also told them that this is what I had. And as for the anxiety, I couldn’t hide that from people even if I wanted to. It’s there for the world to see because it stops me from doing so many normal things. Why not educate people on why I can’t sit in a crowded cinema? It’s unusual so explain.

mental-health

Most of my friends know that I’ve suffered a lot over the years, so why not give them the reason why. There’s also a link to my blog on my Instagram; so my friends can click on it if they wish and see more in depth what it’s like to me.

If anything, my diagnosis was a relief rather than a burden. I liked the idea that there was a name for something that was causing me so much pain – and when there’s a name, there’s often a resolution. That was exciting to me.

I have this disorder and so sometimes life is harder than I wish it was. Sometimes I completely and utterly hate my life. Sometimes I love it. The brain is a fucked up thing – but that’s all it is. A diseased brain that isn’t functioning the same as everyone elses.

People wouldn’t judge you if you had any other illness with your brain would they? If you had a tumour or epilepsy or you had a stroke. And they won’t for this either.

This isn’t a choice. I do not choose to be this way. It’s an illness. Don’t be ashamed. It kills just as many people as those other life-threatening illnesses.

So my point is, if you haven’t told anyone. Tell someone. One person that you trust. Give them a little credit – their reaction won’t be anywhere near as bad as you anticipate. There’s so much focus on the stigmas associated with mental health (and don’t get me wrong, they’re there and we need to get rid of them), but if someone loves you they won’t judge you; so don’t let that put you off speaking about it.

The relief you’ll feel is incredible – and it gives you someone to talk to in your darkest hours. I wouldn’t give up my mum, boyfriend and best friends being there for me in those times for the world. It makes the world an easier place to be in.

lovelauren

Day 8: Do you have any other diagnoses?

31 Days of BPD *Trigger warning*

I also have Cyclothymia, which is commonly known as a lesser version of Bipolar.

 Cyclothymia graph

I’m not the best person to differentiate between this and BPD as for me the symptoms all come together and therefore I’m not 100% sure what is a result of what disorder (other than maybe what Google tells me). There is a bit more of an explanation on my BPD & Cyclothymia Awareness page though so check that out for more info.

I also have severe anxiety. My biggest fear is not being able to breathe, and therefore I am incredibly fearful of choking and it’s also brought on Claustrophobia and elements of Agoraphobia. Crowded spaces are a no-no, anywhere where I feel trapped such as a cinema – and more recently cars, trains and buses – which is definitely not ideal.

All of the diagnosis’ and issues I have all mixed together in one brain doesn’t make my mind a fun one to be living with. I’m up and down, I’m impulsive, unpredictable, snappy and scared of everyday irrational things. It’s not fun for anyone else to be around either.

It’s all about learning to control it though. I’m never going to be ‘normal’. As my friend Megan said to me about a week ago, ‘You’re a beautiful nut job Loz, you’re never going to be normal, but that’s why we love you’. But if I can control and live with the cards I’ve been dealt with, that’s good enough for me.

Normal’s boring anyway.

love lauren x