The Tipping Point (#3)

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If you read the last two posts, you’ll guess what’s coming.

He sees the light, magically understands how to permanently fix the problem and lives happily ever after?  Not exactly.

It took four years of misdiagnosis, medication and lots of therapy before I got to the point where the problem really, truly manifested itself.  You see, it’s easy for people with bipolar disorder to be misdiagnosed.  If the symptoms are severe enough, it can be a misdiagnosis of schizophrenia.  If you’re manifesting only symptoms of depression, then it’s depression.  If you’re hyper, it can be ADHD.  Those are just a few misdiagnoses.  There can be many depending on the level of symptoms and the accuracy and intuitive understanding of your therapist.  And it’s not necessarily anyone’s fault if you’re misdiagnosed – it often happens.

That’s what happened to me.

I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder in early 2008.  We treated with standard antidepressants and talk therapy.  It did help, very much so — up to a point.  Often what is viewed as depression is simply the tip of the iceberg; it takes six months to a year to determine if depression is really being treated correctly.  Well, sometimes more, sometimes less.  But if you’re taking antidepressants and it’s been a long time and you’re still exhibiting depression or signs of manic episodes, it’s time for reassessment by your doctor.

Between early 2008 and late 2012, I had been treated simply for depression but in September of 2012 things began to really worsen quite a bit.  I began to slide into the pit.  I could not think normally.  I was confused, filled with anxiety, irritable and was giving up on life completely,  This is when suicide was really in my head all the time — and I mean ALL the time.

Moment by moment the desire to end my life escalated.  The people around me became very confused by my behavior.  I was sliding off the deep end and I was powerless to do anything about it.  Therapy had stopped progressing completely.  I moved back to Connecticut and (being basically a good guy) as soon as I had medical assistance set up an appointment for psychological outpatient evaluation.

I went a couple of times.  We started the same regimen of drugs so that I would not lapse.  I went to see my psychiatrist only three times before the ‘intervention’ began.

Three people entered the office – my counselor, my psychiatrist and the lead psychiatrist in the outpatient facility.  What they said and did would change me in so many ways that it is impossible to measure.

They wanted me in the hospital ASAP.

At the time I resisted.  I could not go; my mother had sustained an injury, I had her car and needed to return it, I can’t go now, blah, blah, blah.  Anything to get out of that room and consider what to do next.  It felt like they were ganging up on me.  In fact, they were attempting to save my life.

This is what they saw:

I was leaning over the chair, completely hostile, unable to think; I expressed nothing but disbelief and irritation and could do nothing but agonize.  I could not really hear what they were saying because the diseased brain in my head would not allow it.

They gave me some documentation and asked me to go to the emergency room as soon as I could, and I agreed.  It was only when I got home, read the documents and actually thought about what it was they were trying to say that I took a look at my situation and said… YES.

It was that one word that set me on a path I never would have believed was possible.

In the middle of December, 2012, I went to the hospital emergency room, waited 8 hours and saw two people, only to be released with a note that said, ‘Go see your shrink’.  What a disappointment.  I thought they were going to admit me and figure out what was wrong.

It was two days afterward that I realized that in the documentation I was given at the outpatient clinic was a handwritten note from my counselor that said Partial Hospitalization Program and had a phone number as well.

I called them.  I let them know what I needed.  They were already awaiting my call; they’d been given a heads-up by my counselor and were expecting me.  They had me come in to see if I qualified for the program and to do an initial intake.

And that one discussion with the head of the PHP program would reset my trajectory away from pain and would change the way I saw myself and others.

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