5 Ways to Not Let Your Disorders Control You
My Personal Struggle
How do you not let a diagnosis control you? How do you not let it define your entire life? With each new doctor, each diagnosis is either thrown away, or a new one is created. New words are added, old words are thrown away. As if each new doctor knows everything about you in the entire hour they have known you. As if that intake questionnaire was going to tell them exactly who I am and what kind of help I need. How do you not over think that? How do you not get angry?
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 17, after my first suicide attempt. This doctor met with me twice, total. Assuming that my suicide attempt must have been some form of manic depressive episode, I got bipolar as a diagnosis. This man knew me for less than 2 hours, barley asked me any questions, and only met with me after I had a near death experience. Of course, my emotions were all over the place. I was only 17 years old, and I had just had my daughter a few months prior. I learned some saddening news about my daughters father, and how he was having a baby with some girl from my high school. I pretty must lost it, and without even thinking anything through, I cleaned my room, took all my medication, and laid there to wait for the end. Not even 10 minutes after consuming a deadly amount of Tylonal PM and Prozac, I ran outside, into my fathers house, at 8 AM, ran into his room, and told him that he needed to bring me to the ER. Thankfully, we were less than 10 minutes away.
Now, think about it...what is the main mental illness that comes along right after a women gives birth? Postpartum Depression. I had already been depressed, so Postpartum was pretty much inevitable. Why did the doctor not think of this? Why give me a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a lifetime disorder that by the way, I really don't completely qualify for, symptom wise.
I got depression as a diagnosis when I was a kid, so depression was nothing new to me. Knowing this small amount of history, knowing that I had just delivered a child at only 17 years old, had to leave high school, then to find out that while I was at home, feeding my daughter and having her fall asleep in my arms, her father was still in school and sleeping with someone else, less than a month after I gave birth. It would be strange if I wasn't hurt by this, wouldn't it?
So, this doctor gave me the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Did not meet with him again after the second time, so I am not sure whether it was bipolar 1 or bipolar 2, but that diagnosis stuck with me for awhile.
Rewind a bit, I was only 16, a junior in high school, and I was attending an intensive outpatient program. Essentially, this was a group therapy program that I went to every single day after school until about 7 o'clock in the evening. I went here because I was self-harming and my depression was getting out of hand. I got bullied quite a lot in school, and would just cry at home and listen to sad music, as if they made things better. I went to this group therapy for 13 weeks, and the only diagnosis I was TOLD that I had, was ADHD. They gave me Adderall and then Vyvance, because the Adderall made me too jittery and I was not eating. Anxiety for me was an obvious diagnosis, so, why give somebody with anxiety, who's most common symptoms were jitteryness and nervous ticks, something like Vyvance? That was like, 10 cups of coffee for me. Out of every diagnosis, that is the only one they gave me. To my face, anyway.
Almost 8 years later, I got my medical records. I was 24 years old, and with the amount of things going on in my life, I was applying for disability. I could not work, let alone get through an interview. My anxiety was out of control. I looked through my medical records...I was shocked.
Borderline Personality Disorder. Histrionic Personality Disorder. Psychosis. Anxiety Disorder. Panic Disorder. Severe Depression.
I'm sorry, but why wasn't I informed? Why were we working on my ADHD and focus, when clearly, I had a list of other, pretty extreme issues at hand that we should be working on? Why did nobody tell me? I had to find out MYSELF through my own medical records. These things could have changed my life.
I lost custody of my daughter because of my instability at that age, my mother has her now. Yes, I am fighting and will never stop fighting to get her back.
I had 0 positive relationships until just this year, when my relationship can actually get somewhere since I am not aware of my disorders and can work on them.
I made more mistakes than I can count. I was an addict for 7 years. I was emotionally unstable, violent, irrational, and my amount of suicide attempts tippled in numbers. Yet, I had no idea I had anything wrong with me. I justified my behavior for years. I blamed it on "Oh, well I was drunk".
So, if I was not blaming my behavior on being intoxicated, I then started blaming it on my disorders.
My entire life changed after getting those medical records. I did so much research on Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar 2 disorder, because I needed to know if 1: I even qualify for those, and 2: if what I thought were just my personality traits, were actually symptoms of a disorder that I can change and revise.
My current diagnosis are.... Manic Depressive Disorder. Bipolar 2 Disorder. Anxiety and Panic Disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder. PTSD.
I literally purchased the DSM-5, and read all about all of them. Sadly, I do qualify for them all. A scary amount. But now...I know what to work on.
But, how do you stop blaming all your bad behavior on your disorders? I literally read the description for Borderline in the DSM-5, and wow, it was like a biography of my life. I had to just laugh at it, because I have never read something so true. Like, ever.
If my personality, isn't my personality, it's a disorder, how do I live knowing that? How do I live, knowing that every single thing about me, is considered a mental illness symptom? Like, how rude of the world to assume that the things I like about me are not considered normal. What even is normal?
I have come up with 5 reasons on how to not let my diagnosis run my entire life and define who I am. However, I am still working on them and it will take quite some time to make them come true.
1: Everything has a cure. Yes, I know all about chemical imbalances in the brain and how genetics carry mental disorders. I am a forensic psychology major, and have taken more than enough psychology classes to know that there are some things that are with you forever. These things do NOT need to control YOU. Yes, depression is literally in my blood, my entire family, and certainly in my brain. But, lifestyle and the mindset you keep, plays a huge part in recovery. The mind and body are connected, always. So, yeah, meditation, yoga, and a healthy eating style are amazing ways to feel better, but it is not a cure. YOU are the cure. It is all in your mind. Ha-ha, remember people telling you that?
"Oh, stop, it's all in your head. Your fine."
Well, yeah. It is in your head. But, how did it get put there? I didn't throw disorders in there. I was not born filled with anxiety. I was bullied. Terrified to raise my hand in class. Fear of laughing and having fun because, what if something then goes wrong? Fearing success and fearing failure, so I stayed home, fearing life. I wasn't born like this. I put that fear there. People put that fear there. But those people do not control you. You control you. Take that pain, that fear, and literally throw it away. Write things down and burn them. Know that one day, it will get better. That day..that day can be tomorrow morning. That day can be today.
2: Remember these always, and say them often.
Your disorders are NOT who you are. Your disorders do not define you. Your disorders are not forever. You will get free of this. YOU control YOU. YOU control your thoughts. YOU control your actions. YOU YOU YOU YOU! YOU are not your past mistakes. Learn from them. I regret everything I have done, but I can't change them...they already happened. Focus on not making those mistakes in the future, but do not fear them. If you fear something too much...your life would be at a stand still and you will sit in limbo, afraid of making the same mistakes. Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.
3: Stop listening to doctors. You know yourself better than any doctor. Even if you have physical illness's, most physical illness's are the result of STRESS. Feel sick to your stomach? Anxiety is in the gut. Feel tired and unable to find anything worth doing? Depression does that. Breaking out in a strange rash that no doctor can find the cause too? STRESS. ANXIETY. Heal your mind, and your mind will heal your body. Stop taking those 15 medications for every little thing that your doctor is saying is wrong with you.
I had acid reflux caused by acute anxiety and stress. I had just moved into a home that was very abusive and I was constantly in fear. I could not drive anywhere without getting sick 15 seconds in, and everything I ate came back up. I could eat...nothing. I love food. It was depressing and caused SO many panic attacks. I moved out...felt happier...sure, I ate less acidic foods for a bit to not flare it up, but guess what? I don't have it anymore. I also had a rash that nobody could explain, not even all of Google. Guess what? It's gone now. It was stress. It was ALL stress. Change the things in your life that you have control over. Is someone toxic? Throw them away. You don't owe anybody anything. Is your household horribly abusive and causing you harm? Stay with a friend. Get housing assistance. Stay in a motel for a night. Use Roomie.com and find someone else who also wants to run away and find a home with someone new and not toxic. There is always an out.
Stop. Listening. To. Every. Single. Diagnosis. They will control you. Believe it long enough, and it will come true.
4: Tell yourself that you are okay. Believing it long enough, it will come true. So, change that negative thinking into positive thinking. Don't hear that you have some new diagnosis from your doctor and change your whole life around it. Research it. Find out if it can be helped with natural remedies and a lifestyle change that you can do without a bunch of doctor visits and medications with horrible side effects. Do not dwell on the diagnosis. Tell yourself...it is not forever.
Smile enough and it will train our brain into thinking you are happy. It works! Strange enough, it really works. Learn all you can from the disorder, but read the symptoms. Now, these symptoms are what? CURABLE. They are just symptoms. Work on those, not the diagnosis itself. Like for me...depression. I don't stay in bed all day, I make sure I eat. Fatigue, tiredness, loss of appetite...those are symptoms. No thanks! I WILL get up. I WILL eat. Turn those symptoms into a check list as to what to do. Is your condition physical? Low blood pressure? Find foods that help with that. Eat them. Weight-gain mixed with depression? Stand up while watching TV, simple, but at least you are standing and not in bed, right? You burn more calories standing up and switching legs to lean on, than you do in bed. Look at that, progress already. AND it will make you feel better seeing the numbers on the scales going down, which will help the depression, and encourage you to want to do more. Now...look at that....a couple squats by the microwave while waiting for your food to be done. Easy. Eventually, they become routine, and you will stop thinking about your diagnosis, and focus on your new, fun and easy, schedule.
YOU ARE OKAY.
5: Last, and certainly not least, stop blaming the diagnosis. Do NOT use it an an excuse.
"Well, according to WebMD, it says that anger and irritability are just a part of my diagnosis, so."
That, is going to get you nowhere and you will not learn. Trust me, this is the hardest one. I am still working on it. If you know that irritability is a symptom of your mental illness, tell the person you are near that day something like... "Hey...I am feeling really irritable today, okay? I am sorry if I snap at you, just keep that in mind and remind me if I do snap, and I will reign it in."
Same thing goes for depressed feelings, anxious feelings, or just pure anger. Maybe you need to spend the day alone. You never want to take out your symptoms on the people you love. As hard as that is, it is possible, as long as all parties are aware. So, for this big number 5, TELL PEOPLE that you are feeling off today and to just beware. Warning people may sound a bit messed up, but if they know its not personal that you just yelled at them for opening the door for you, because you can obviously do it yourself, maybe they won't take it personally and kindly yell at you back.
"Uh thanks, but I can open a door myself." will sound totally rude. Make up for it by afterwards saying "Oh wow, okay, rude, I'm sorry, that came out of nowhere. I am so sorry, I am just feeling really, really sensitive and angry today".
If people think you are just a rude person, then you are just a rude person to them. If you make them aware that it is your mental illness, BOTH parties can help work on that. You are not alone in your recovery. Ever. Confide in people, don't hide your symptoms. Don't blame all your bad habits and rude behavior on your disorder and not try and fix things.
"I am so sorry for me acting out just now, I am working on, I swear".
Just remember, there are only so many times one can apologize for being rude before someone may take offense....limit is maybe 10. Then, they don't really believe as much that you are trying to get better.
Repeat steps 1-5 every day. Eventually, your disorder won't control you, it will just be like...a bunch of tricks to fix those very CURABLE bad habits.
About the author
I am just a 27 year old women who is trying to find herself through writing. I suffer from BPD, Bipolar, Anxiety, ADD, and PTSD.