TW: contains mild references to self harm so please proceed with caution.
To me, one of the most frustrating things about Mental Illness is that there is such a lot of uncertainty in both diagnosis and treatment. There are a lot of overlapping symptoms from one condition to the next so it may be difficult to pinpoint exactly what a person is suffering from. In fact, very often, we are given more than one diagnosis, or receive different diagnoses from different MH professionals. Furthermore, two people with, for example, Depression may well present with a similar set of symptoms but will likely need to be treated very differently. What works for one individual could prove useless for the next and each might have to try a multitude of medications or therapy styles (or a combination) before finding what works for them. In short, it is one big ‘grey area’.
To take myself as an example: I have been officially diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Depression and Anorexia but have also been told Asperger’s Syndrome is a possibility and given help to overcome Bulimic behaviours. In terms of treatment, I am on my 6th antidepressant in 5 years and have been on Propranolol, Diazepam and now Quetiapine for anxiety and to help control impulsivity. From what I gather, I don’t think I am in any way unique. Further, I have been in various forms of therapy with both the CMHT and CEDS for the better part of three years.
So its little wonder one can become frustrated! In times of real desperation, I have called my CPN or the Crisis Team and literally begged them to help me, I have gone to A&E with self-inflicted wounds, I have overdosed, I have reduced my own weight to dangerously low levels. Most of this was my way of communicating my pain, of asking for help. In my eyes, I was standing on a table in the middle of a crowded room, screaming. But no one can hear, and this is why: I am the only one who can help me, change things, improve the quality of my life. In my darkest times, professionals would tell me this repeatedly and it used to make my so angry. I couldn’t fathom how I could do so much damage to myself and still they weren’t helping me.
Sometimes I think we have to hit rock bottom before we can recover; I certainly did. About 18 months ago, I was suicidally depressed – I couldn’t envisage things improving, I had just been discharged from hospital after an overdose and could see no way forward. Then suddenly, lying in bed one night unable to get comfortable because my weight was so low that my bones were sore against the mattress, I had a ‘light bulb moment’. I realised with sudden clarity that I had to take the reins, start eating, taking meds properly, meet professionals half-way. I could have sworn someone actually flipped a switch inside my head.
That was the point that I embarked on the long recovery process. I’ve had good days and bad days, laughed and cried, screamed into and punched pillows, I’ve relapsed and had to learn coping skills from scratch, I fully expect to relapse again at some point in the future. But its only with hindsight that I’ve discovered that professionals can give us the tools, but they don’t have superpowers and they can’t wave a magic wand. Recovery is not a time limited thing – some people recover in a matter of weeks, for some it takes years and others may never recover but rather learn to cope/live with their symptoms…but its ours for the taking.