Regular readers will know that I blogged previously about the importance (or not) of a diagnosis and whether it is helpful to be labelled with a condition – which perhaps encourages the ever present problem of mental health stigma. In Should We Come With A Label?, I re-addressed the fleeting (professional) consideration that I may have a high-functioning form of Autism or, more specifically, Aspergers. I explored the different signs and symptoms, picking out the ones relevant to me and my life.
I’ve struggled to come to terms with myself for the best part of a decade now and periodically wonder if the professionals have it right. The very fact that they are professionals means I should trust them, right? If a psychiatrist believes I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), then I go with that. But there is a voice somewhere inside my head, sporadically yelling that something is not right, doesn’t fit, a piece of the puzzle is missing. A voice that I believe is preventing me from moving on. A voice that, since the publication of the above post, WILL NOT SHUT UP.
So yesterday I visited my GP. I feel comfortable talking to him and I wanted his opinion. I wanted to know if he thought it worth pursuing and, if so, with whom do I raise it? He was very receptive to what I had to say (I’d had a rehearsal with my cousin earlier in the day). He listened and, more importantly, he ‘heard’ what I had to say. I’d even go as far as to say he was interested. Looking back at correspondence from my consultant, he reiterated that my official diagnosis is GAD, but that my psychiatrist had also remarked that I have ‘avoidant personality traits’. He agreed that it was worth mentioning to my care team and that there may be something more in the mention of ‘avoidance’.
As I travelled home, alarm bells started ringing. Should We Come With A Label? got quite a good response, both on my own website and on Twitter. It sparked a healthy debate about whether a diagnosis is even a good thing, with a pretty even split. Somewhere in there, a friend remarked that a big part of Aspergers is an inability to empathise which isn’t something I struggle with. But she did remark that there is such a thing as Avoidant Personality Disorder, with many of the same symptoms. Upon consulting the website for the charity, Mind, I realised this to be true. The symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD) are:
Avoidant (or anxious) personality disorder
You are likely to:
• avoid work or social activities that mean you must be with others
• expect disapproval and criticism and be very sensitive to it
• worry constantly about being ‘found out’ and rejected
• worry about being ridiculed or shamed by others
• avoid relationships, friendships and intimacy because you fear rejection
• feel lonely and isolated, and inferior to others
• be reluctant to try new activities in case you embarrass yourself.
(Taken from Mind)
which are all, to some degree, applicable to me. The only thing is that many of the symptoms of Aspergers, as quoted in Should We Come With A Label? also apply to me…which is where frustration, anger and urges to SH come in.
So what now? I am not denying that I have GAD, that I suffer from, at times, crippling anxiety. I’m feeling anxious right now, the sort of anxiety that feels as though ones insides are being twisted into knots. I’m not denying that I suffer from Depression. But I have this overriding feeling that something else underlies all of this, that perhaps another disorder, be it Aspergers, APD, whatever, has literally driven me into the ground. That I have tried and tried to function in society until I can function no more. I want to know what it is. I don’t expect that it will change anything in terms of either my medication or my therapy, but I feel it is vital to my understanding of the last ten years and to my ability to accept and move on. Perhaps typical of someone with MH difficulties, I’m not the best self-advocate, so this post is my plea, my cry for help.