Are you glad to have a diagnosis, to be “labeled”? I ask this because one of the reasons they give for not saying my son is bipolar is because they believe it could be a bad thing to “label” a kid at such a young age. They say the label alone could be a negative thing for him. I wonder if this is really true since he knows he has a problem, I don’t think not giving it a name is hiding anything from him. What are your thoughts on this?
I’m not sure if glad is the right word to use here; but I am thankful and relieved to have the diagnosis. With it, people know that I have an illness, and even if ignorance is still heavy within this world, most people are willing to listen. That wasn’t so when we didn’t have a label. Back then, teachers labeled me as spoiled, bratty, a sore loser, attention-seeker, lazy, unmotivated, and a “problem”. Every time my parents were brought to a meeting, they heard the same thing: she’s smart; but lazy. I was screamed at, sent into the hallway, lectured (frequently), and embarrassed in front of the entire class. They teachers thought nothing of screaming and scolding me right there and then, when everybody was watching. Not that everybody hadn’t already shaped their own judgments of me – whiner, weird, annoying, crazy, strange – this just showed them the teacher agreed. With nothing to say back to them, I believed everything they said. At recess, I would sit in the corner meditating (my dad had noticed I had anxiety, and taught me how), trying to escape everyone else; trying to escape my own mind. I thought I was a bad kid, and I would never be able to do “good”. Many times, I was talked to by teachers about embarrassing things, such as hygiene and weight – all of which mortified me. I hated myself, and back then, it seemed everybody else did, too.
Eventually, a true mental health concern was suggested, and I was brought to guidance. I remember that as my teacher was bringing me to her office, I was terrified I had done something horribly wrong. My mind raced to find something I had done that day; but came up helplessly blank. Heart pounding, I walked to that office. As they sat me down, the guidance counselor explained that I wasn’t it trouble; but that they were concerned about me. It was weird listening to them speak, because I had always felt this way – always felt this bad. At the time, they linked it to my friend’s murder earlier that year, which had certainly contributed to my decline; but it was not the cause of everything, and even I knew that. Still, I talked to her about some of what was going on, and I remember feeling better. For a few hours, I went around saying that this had been my happiest day in a very long time because of that guidance counselor. Of course, something triggered me later and I melted down; however, that was when everyone realized that there was a concern here.
Diagnosis, as I wrote about in a previous post, was long. The doctors used vague terms – things such as anxiety, mood instability, sensitivity, adjustment disorders, psychosis, and a lot of of NOS or “wait and see”. It frustrated me even then. Despite my age, I knew the doctors were being non-specific, skirting around the truth. Here they were, telling me there was something wrong with my brain, and they couldn’t even tell me what? While it made me feel relieved that I had a disease, instead of just inherit “badness”, I still felt like people shrugged these diagnoses off as nothing. I know my teachers did. Eventually, I was admitted to the hospital for the first time, which is where the diagnoses finally came. Being the computer and internet geek I was, I went on the computer and looked it up. Finally, I felt that something actually described what was going on. Finally, whens somebody asked what I had, I could say a real, DSM-4 diagnoses, and (most) they wouldn’t question I was sick. I had a real illness; I wasn’t a bad kid; and there were doctors that said so.
I’m sure it’s quite different for everyone; but I know that, for me, I would never take back knowing what I have. Even though my self-esteem gets really low sometimes, my parents don’t think it’s misbehaving anymore. I’m not a bad kid anymore.