If you follow this blog, you’ll know through posts such as Should We Come With A Label? and Seeking Identity that I have recently been questioning my diagnosis. Not denying that I have Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) or Depression, but wondering whether there is an underlying cause.
Well, to update anyone who is interested, my Psychologist has read both of the above posts and accepts that this is something which is clearly bothering me. She acknowledges that I’ve given it a lot of thought, have researched the issue and that I have good insight. Thus, after receiving the go-ahead from my Psychiatrist, I am currently undergoing testing for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I did an initial questionnaire and scored sufficiently that we will now move on to the next stage. In addition, my Mum has been asked to fill in a questionnaire regarding my infancy/early years. I don’t think (and nor does my Mum) that I had any problems in the early stages of my life. I wasn’t developmentally delayed, I always produced above-average school work, I had no motor impairments, I had no quirks or strange routines. From what I understand, this rules out any severe form of Autism and, if anything, would put me at the high-functioning end of the spectrum with Aspergers being more likely. If this round of testing proves fruitless, the plan is that we then consider Avoidant Personality Disorder (APD).
So that’s where I am today. Since I wrote Should We Come With A Label? I’ve read a lot about psychiatric diagnosis, spectrum disorders and associated stigma. I realise this is a vast subject area and I apologise in advance if I manage to offend anyone, but I wanted to record some of my thoughts and feelings.
I know a lot of people disagree with whatever diagnosis they have been given, and that others don’t believe a definitive diagnosis is even necessary. Some people merely want to be treated as an individual and feel being labelled with one disorder or another denies them an identity. But I can’t emphasise enough how much I long to be given a correct diagnosis or, at the very least, an underlying reason for my current diagnoses. Because right now I have no identity. I don’t have the faintest idea who I am or why I was put on this Earth, what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. I feel stuck, like I’m wading through treacle, living in a constant fog. I need someone to tell me what has gone wrong with my mind and, until such times, I don’t think I can move on. I know that, someday soon, I’m going to have to come to terms with things and build myself a life around this ‘thing’ that has disrupted my existence…but this is going to involve somebody defining said ‘thing’.
And now to the issue of spectrum disorders. I suppose, to an extent, every condition, whether physical or mental, can be measured on a scale/spectrum. My Sister has Crohn’s Disease but it is very well controlled with medication alone. Other people with Crohn’s Disease have to undergo major surgery, have parts of their colon removed and live with a colostomy bag. The problem with mental illness is that anyone can put themselves on a ‘spectrum’ because there is no scientific method by which we may compare one person to another. We don’t have ultrasound output or biopsy results to measure the state of my brain compared to the next person.
As a result, we have people all over the place saying they have Depression or Anxiety. To use my Sister as a example again, she tried to tell me a couple of weeks ago that, since she experiences nerves and anxiety from time to time, then she could say that she also has GAD…no. It never keeps her from work, socialising, going on holiday – I’ve done none of these things for years. It doesn’t keep her in the house for days at a time, or squeeze her insides so tightly that she can’t eat, sit up straight, so that everything in her stomach is purged from her system in one single bowel movement.
So what if I am diagnosed with ASD? I worry that being at the higher-functioning end of the spectrum will somehow invalidate it, that I will be classed as one of these people that moulds my symptoms into something they are not. I worry that the chronic stigma that currently surrounds mental illness will cause people to say such things as ‘…but you don’t flap your hands…’ or ‘…but you don’t sit in the corner with your hands over your ears…’
So what am I saying? That I’m ready for the label but not what comes next? It really is a minefield of a subject which, at times, has me totally baffled.