The Dangers Of Self Diagnosis

Result: 66/80
Probable diagnosis of PTSD

That’s the result from an online test that I took last night.

It started when a blogger friend wanted some advice on a post she had written. So I gave my thoughts on the situation. She was worried that maybe it was post traumatic stress (which, until this afternoon, I thought was the same thing as PTSD), so I suggested that she search for the DSM criteria on it. She came back to me and it turns out that she didn’t ‘qualify’ for the diagnosis.

By now I was curious too, and decided to also take the test. “Just for fun”. As I was reading the questions and working my way through them, I felt this chill run down my spine. Those questions struck a major chord with what I have been experiencing lately. And the high score I got at the end worried me.

But then I started laughing. I actually laughed out loud at myself. Why? This whole thing reminded me of the time that I was convinced I had ADHD. I had also taken the tests for that, and had most of the symptoms. So I started reading articles and books on the subject. But then a year or two later, I got diagnosed with BPD instead. On the positive side, at least I know pretty much everything there is to know about ADHD, including the medications. That can’t be a bad thing.

It’s so easy for us to assume we have a physical or mental illness by what we read on the internet. Just like a sore throat can have many different causes and signal anything from a cold to cancer. To say “I’m going to die, I have cancer!” because Google or a medical site listed that as one cause, is dangerous. It’s the same regarding mental health. It can cause unnecessary stress and paranoia, and some people even take it a step further and change their entire lives. Thinking we know what’s wrong with us can sometimes cause serious harm, because we think we don’t need to get it checked out. After all, we know what’s wrong, right? The medical website said so, how can it be wrong? No, it’s not necessarily wrong, but there’s lots of factors involved in order to get an accurate diagnosis. So we might miss what’s actually really going on.

I don’t believe these tests should be used by individuals to diagnose themselves, and go about their lives living according to this ‘diagnosis’ that they assume they have. These tests are just a tool to help guide you to seek professional help if needed.

There are a few questions on the PTSD list that overlap with the symptoms of BPD, anxiety and depression. So how can I know whether it’s a result of these diagnoses or whether it’s PTSD? That’s one example of why this isn’t just black and white. It’s not a simple thing. I believe that only a professional will be able to distinguish the difference.

When I was working at the bookstore, a customer came in one day (clearly drunk), and asked whether we had any books on Borderline Personality Disorder. I knew the Psychology section really well, so I told my colleague that I’d help this customer. I showed him the few books we had, and he told me that he’ll take all of them. While I was ringing them up, he proceeded to tell me (very loudly) that his wife is crazy, and that she’s always shouting at him, that he can’t do anything right in her eyes. He said that she has BPD so he was buying the books for her. I asked him whether she was seeing anyone for it, and he told me that she doesn’t need to because he knows she has it and doesn’t want to waste money. That the books were cheaper. At that point I wanted to say something (a few things actually), but I kept my mouth shut and tried to get him out out of there as soon as possible, because he just wouldn’t stop complaining. Everyone around us were staring and shaking their heads. Even the manager was on the verge of throwing him out. I breathed a sigh of relief when he eventually left. But I was pissed off.

And the sad part is that this kind of thing happens all the time. I’m guilty of it myself. Case in point; I’m sure my dad has NPD. But I’ll never know whether he actually does, because he’s always made it clear that he thinks psychology and therapy is a load of bullshit. So it’s not my place to try to label him, or anyone else for that matter.

Another thing. People tend to throw diagnosis around like it’s a new fashion statement. Those people who think it’s ‘cool’ to be able to say “I think I have Bipolar Disorder”, are precisely those who don’t, because if they had to live with it, they’d be wishing they didn’t.

My previous doctor had a note on her door:

“If you come in here having diagnosed yourself using Google, you’ll be charged double.”

I can’t remember the exact wording, but it’s pretty close. Every doctor should have that sign up.

So Google… You’re helpful and all, but I don’t trust you. So I think I’ll stick to my psychologist’s assessments.

Oh, and in case anyone is interested, this is the test I took.

Insecurity, Hot On The Heels Of Vulnerability

Therapy is hard sometimes.

And yesterdays session was one of those.

I’m always open during my sessions, and trust my therapist with things I can’t ever speak to anyone else about. She holds my secrets.

But this one was particularly difficult for me. For some reason it felt like I was more exposed than ever before. I’ve told her lots of things, some worse than what I revealed to her yesterday, I think. Yet, this just felt different. It was the hardest thing I’ve told her so far, and I don’t know why that was the case. But she was amazing, and made me feel safe and comforted in those moments.

I can’t even remember what brought it on, but at some point during the session I had a damn panic attack. It was horrible. She was with me every step of the way though, something I’ve never had anyone do for me before. So I’m glad she was there, and not somebody else. She knew how to handle it, and she was gentle and kind, and I got through it.

It was a hard session, but I felt cared for during most of it. But then at one point it went horribly wrong. I took everything as an attack, a judgement. And all I wanted to do was shut down. Disappear.

I felt so fragile. I just wanted her to understand where I was coming from. But it felt like we were on opposite ends of a mountain. I was (metaphorically) yelling things at her, wanting her to really see and understand where I was coming from. And she was yelling things at me from the other side of the mountain, and I felt like she couldn’t really hear me. I felt invisible.

She was pushing me. She told me I need to be pushed sometimes. That she was trying to motivate and encourage me. Whenever she’d tell me that in the past, I would agree. But I realized yesterday that the truth is… I actually don’t need to be pushed. How could I expect her to know that, when even I didn’t realize it until yesterday? I can’t. I need a gentle touch. I’ve had enough “tough love” in my life, and it’s never worked. While it may work for others, for me it has the opposite effect. It makes me feel really low, invisible and even worse about myself. When someone is gentle with me, that encourages me. That motivates me. That pushes me.

I’m not blaming her at all. I’m not attacking or criticizing her. She’s still a hero in my eyes. She’s still up on the pedestal, and in my opinion the best damn therapist there is. I just think we’re both still learning how to work with one another. Every relationship is like that. Figuring out how best to deal with each other.

Seeing that the time was running out, as usual made me feel horrible. I hate it when the session is over. I always wish it could go on a little bit longer. I hate goodbyes. I felt angry, and expressed it in a crappy way. My therapist rightly pointed out that ending sessions makes me anxious, and that I was trying to push her away. I don’t want to push her away, so I don’t know why I still do.

As the session was drawing to a close, we discussed how we felt about it. I realized that I can’t really express my feelings when she asks me my thoughts on the session, and I stumble over my words, because I usually only truly know how it felt to me a little while afterward. My mind seems to work that way… Slow. I need to analyze for a while first. I was happy to hear that she thought it had been a good session. That was reassuring and comforting.

I was going to carry that with me until our next session. Knowing that I have nothing to worry about. Then, this morning, I sent her a text, setting up our next session. And that’s when it went downhill for me. Reading things into every omission. Most of the time she ends a message the same way, by telling me to have a good morning or afternoon. But something was different today. Something so simple. Like also not asking how I was. Ending the next text with something that just felt so impersonal. Small little things that shouldn’t affect me. But those small things brought the insecurity out in full force and I felt so incredibly hurt and confused. And that intensified with the email she sent a little while ago. Most of the time our communication feels warm and soothing. This time it felt so impersonal and distant. Clinical. As if we were strangers. I keep telling myself that she’s just really busy or tired, which is the most likely scenario. I think this insecurity was caused by the after effects of being so revealing yesterday. I always tell her about things that she said that upset me, and most of the time I had just read the situation wrong. She handles it so well. So I’m hoping that once again this is the case.

But still, I can’t shake the feeling that she’s disappointed in me. I hate being so damn sensitive.

I still feel vulnerable and ashamed from yesterday. The remnants of the shame I’ve always felt about that specific event but that I would quickly push down? Because it’s one of those things that I barely ever wanted to admit to myself, and pushed away whenever it would surface. But I feel like maybe I shouldn’t have told her that after all. I’m feeling very insecure about it. Insecure in myself. And most of all… Embarrassed. Exposed. Vulnerable.

And then the thought came: What if she didn’t believe me? What if she doesn’t like me anymore?” Where is all this insecurity coming from? And why do I still feel so fragile? Like the tiniest thing will just rip me into pieces.

It seems that for me, being vulnerable opens the door for insecurity to enter. Sharing something very personal and difficult is a major risk. Even when it’s sharing it with someone you trust very much, it’s still daunting.

I so desperately want her to believe in me, but how can I expect her to when I don’t even believe in myself? As she pointed out, I have a habit of giving up too soon, of quitting. Which is the truth. I’m surprised I’ve managed to keep this blog up for so long. I’ve only had one person in my life who believed in me, and would tell me that often. And knowing that, I always did my best. One positive voice drowned out all the negative voices that kept telling me that I’ll never amount to anything. That I couldn’t do something. But her belief in me, pushed me to do and be my best and not give up no matter how hard something was. That person was my grandmother. My best friend in the whole world. The world that crashed down around me when she went away. After that, something changed. No longer did I have her encouraging voice, and the negative voices gained a powerful foothold. And I let it.

Scared. Insecure. Did I share too much? And why does it feel like my heart is breaking?

I feel this incredible need to beg her to stay. Like a child holding onto her parents legs, begging them not to leave.

Maybe she should walk away. She’ll have to do it though, because I won’t be able to.

I just don’t feel worth it anymore.

Am I still worth it to her?

Free

Nowhere to run
Nowhere to hide
Push away the sun
Keep the dark inside

Too many voices
Too many tears
Do I have any choices
Does life determine my years

Push away the images
But they follow at night
Trying to build bridges
While I desperately fight

What’s real, what’s not
Am I here, or am I there
Feeling ice cold, now what
I can’t handle the suns glare

Fear quickly follows shame
I’m so damn confused
Tell me who’s to blame
I feel so terribly used

What’s happening to me
Over and over it goes
I just want to be free
Free as the wind that blows

The Challenge And Necessity Of Being Good to Ourselves

My psychologist shared this quote online, and it’s been at the back of my mind since I saw it.

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I was approached by one of my male friends a few weeks ago. Someone I’d known for a number of years. We’ve never been close, but the friendship had its merits.

He asked me to take on a personal project for him. It would require a lot of time and work on my part, and the only thing I would get out of it would be the satisfaction of having done something for a friend. As usual, I agreed. However, since my break up and move, I don’t have the large amount of internet data it would require. I had unlimited WiFi access, but in this new place, there’s a limited amount of data available every month and it has to be shared by six of us. This project has been causing me a lot of distress lately. To say I’ve been dreading it would be an understatement.

This quote came into my mind again yesterday, and I knew what I had to do. I was nervous telling him I couldn’t do it anymore. I also told him that I’m going through a really hard time and I have so many other things on my plate at this time, and am already overwhelmed. That I need to be kind to myself now too. It took a whole minute for him to tell me he never wants to hear from me again. Thanks, and fuck you too.

I’ve never been good at handling stress. I get overwhelmed easily, and it used to result in panic attacks. I’ve since learned how to stop it turning into a full blown one. But a lot of it was my own fault. Always taking on too much. Never wanting to disappoint or offend anyone. Never standing up for myself and taking people’s crap. In all the jobs I had, I spent many moments in the bathroom hitting the walls or cutting myself where no one could see. Then walking out, the picture of calm and control. There was only one job where I allowed myself to express my frustration and anger. My boss and I would often have screaming matches with one another, swearing included, which would end with him going into his office and slamming the door. I’ve never been able to fight with anyone like that, not even with my ex. But I felt comfortable letting this man have it. Everyone else in the company was terrified of him. But the bastard loved me. Would always bring me chocolates or flowers afterward or the next day. Ah, the good ol’ days. 😛

I recently became obsessed with Jennifer Lawrence. It was her performance in “Silver Linings Playbook” that really got my attention. I watched it a couple weeks ago with my family. They thought she was crazy… I was fascinated and loved her character. Who I’m pretty sure has BPD by the way. Anyone else happen to think so?

Just as a side note: That scene in the restaurant was epic. I played it back a few times when everyone else had gone to bed. It made me feel so satisfied. What can I say? I’m messed up.

Anyway, in one scene, Tiffany (Portrayed by Jennifer) tells Bradley Cooper’s character, Pat:

I do this time after time after time, I do all this shit for other people, and then I wake up and I’m empty. I have nothing. I always get myself into these fucking situations. I give everything to other people and nobody ever… I don’t get what I want okay?

Those words really hit me hard. A lot of us are in the habit of doing things for others, even at the expense of our own needs and desires.

Being good to ourselves also means taking care of our own needs. It’s okay to ask for what you want. This concept is something I struggle with. I’ve realized that a few times in my life I’ve offered others hugs simply because I wanted or needed one. Manipulation much? I send my apologies out into the universe to those people, wherever they may be. The other day I followed the example of Tiffany (who asked Pat to help her with her dance), and told a friend that I need a hug. And you know what? She was more than happy to give it to me. It was terrifying to ask, but I felt good afterward. Proud of myself for a change. We need to be proud of every step we take in a positive direction. No matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

It makes me feel good doing things for others, as I’m sure it does for you too. But sometimes there are things you don’t want to do, aren’t comfortable doing, or that go against your values or beliefs. We need to learn to say “no” and become comfortable in doing so. I don’t like hurting or offending people. But I think I need to learn to balance being kind and good to others and myself at the same time. This won’t always be possible of course, but I’m sure most situations will enable me to do just that.

I’m currently reading a book, ‘Coping With BPD’.  After this experience with my “friend” I was trying to get the situation off my mind and decided to read a little. I opened up to the next chapter in that book. Surprise… The title? ‘Saying No’. Funny how these things happen, isn’t it? I read about the FAST skill of DBT. FAST is an acronym for:
F – (be) Fair
A – (no) Apologies
S – Stick to values
T
– (be) Truthful
They don’t go into too much detail in the book about it, so I found this article that explains it really well. Will definitely need to practice this skill.

People won’t always treat you well. But whenever you remember, and whenever you can, treat yourself well. You deserve to be good to yourself. You’re worth it. The saying “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” is true. But you know what’s also true for those of us in the habit of always putting others first?

“Do unto yourself as you do unto others.”