It may take years to come up with a “correct” diagnosis, and then who really knows? I mentioned that I have depression. Actually, what’s sent up to my insurance company is schizoaffective disorder (some symptoms of schizophrenia and some of a mood disorder), but my “official” diagnosis may be incorrect, and my current psychiatrist agrees. I may have had depression with psychotic features in the past, which is the cause of the confusion. That is not unusual for someone who is experiencing a bad depressive episode.
I had a little joke that I liked to tell when I was doing the In Our Own Voice presentations for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. These are speaking engagements given by people living with mental illness for the purpose of informing the public. My joke was that I have been diagnosed with so many things in my “career” as a mental patient except bipolar disorder; therefore that is the next one I am working on. Joking aside, it is not always easy coming up with a diagnosis. After all, it’s not like a broken bone that you can see on an X-ray. Also people change over time and clinicians do disagree. If you put ten psychiatrists in a room with a patient, I surmise you’ll come up with at least five diagnoses. (And while you’re at it, ask them to change a light bulb.)
To my mind psychiatry/psychology is a mix of science and art, and, as such, I admire, pity, and exonerate the professionals in the field. Gray areas are not uncommon, and I see myself as falling into one. There was a time I believed I was possessed by evil spirits, and I had to do their bidding or terrible things would befall me. That was long ago. I don’t know why those symptoms receded. It’s not from medication since I haven’t taken neuroleptics (antipsychotics) for nearly a decade. Maybe just getting older helped, or as Dr. E. Fuller Torrey noted in his consummate book, Surviving Schizophrenia, some people improve substantially on their own. The depressive part, however, is still all-consuming, and I’d gladly take anti-depressive medication if I could. Unfortunately, my severe migraines render it impossible.
Adding to the mix, I have obsessive-compulsive disorder, but in the world of illness, having one does not rule out having another and another …