When It Feels like You're a Walking DSM-5
Life with Comorbid Disorders
In December 2016, I started anti-depressants. In July 2017, I saw a psychologist for a psychological evaluation. I began 2018 by having yet another suicidal crisis and checked myself into an inpatient facility for the first time. I had initially thought my sickness was just two things, depression, and anxiety, but it went much deeper than that. I went in wholly convinced that I would get on the anti-depressants my doctor gave me and be right as rain shortly after that.
Then reality hit after I got the results from the psychological testing. Severe Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Avoidant Personality Disorder, features of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), characteristics of Dependent Personality Disorder, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were all listed. I was utterly floored and overwhelmed. But that wasn't all I would find out. In January, after going inpatient, I discovered that what I had wasn't MDD, but Severe Depressed Bipolar II.
I went from thinking I had curable depression and anxiety, to realizing that this was going to be a lifelong battle. I always joke with my friends now that I am a walking DSM-5. I have so many comorbid disorders that sometimes I wonder what is me and what is the illness. I've spent many lonely nights feeling like an alien. My mood switches directions like the wind, going to the grocery store makes my chest ache, I continuously think everyone hates me or that I am in the way, and I have the startle response of a skittish cat.
Some days, every second is hell, but I find comfort in knowing that I have made it through everything up to this very moment. I shouldered my mother's addiction and severe depression. I withstood her numerous abusive lovers and the subsequent stalking and threats. I crawled my way through endless insults and bullying as a child. I weathered the storms of nightmares and psychosis. I faced death multiple times myself, and through those I love. I was raped in college and dared to push on. Lastly, I asked for help when I feared there was none and felt my little spark of hope light into a small fire once again.
I am slowly coming to accept my disorders through education, self-care, medication, and therapy. Sometimes it is hard not to feel completely crazy, but learning to appreciate myself and be patient is a learned skill. I have also been taking the time to find others like myself through support groups and research. Some of the most significant creative people in the world from the past and present have struggled with severe mental illness. It brings me a lot of hope and comfort to know that these issues don't have to be a death sentence, but something that can be coped with and worked around.
One of the most challenging things about facing mental illness is determining which people in your life are in your corner. There will be people that you expected to be there for you that fade out. There will be those that you haven't spoken to in a while that lend you a helping hand. There will be the ride-or-dies that would do anything in the world for you. There will also be the people who will vilify you because they are afraid of what they don't understand. Know that you do not have to educate these people single-handedly if it harms your progress. Sometimes it is necessary to clear out those in our lives that impede our healing, even if it is unintentional.
Recovery and self-acceptance can be a long and at times grueling process, but in the end, it is worth it to keep fighting. Fight for those you love. Fight for the people you have yet to meet. Fight for all the places you have not seen and the things you have not yet experienced.
Above all, fight for yourself, because you would be amazed at what happens when you say "I can."