As long as I can remember I have been terrified of becoming ‘like my mother’, or at least becoming like the terrifying part of my mother.
Possible, probable, Borderline Personality Disorder.
I remember so vividly spending school bus rides sitting alone starring out the window, wondering if I might also be being chased by the FBI or why Conrad Black was in cahoots with my dad. Seems ridiculous in retrospect, but to a 5 year old it was paralyzing. So I avoided seeing a psychiatrist for years. I refused to take the chance I might be told that I was like my mother. Ignorance, in my case, was bliss. Or I tried to convince myself that it was.
Two years into the process of having Bean assessed for ADHD, which turned out to reveal a diagnosis of Asperger’s (and ADHD and GAD) I was struck by how many similarities I had as a child to Bean. I wondered if I too might have a version of AS, perhaps High Functioning Asperger’s? This seemed a reasonable explanation for my quirks, and my outburst, and my cutting. In truth I did internally often struggle with looking strangers in the eye. Phone conversations and physical contact with anyone, stranger or not, were awkward at best. And although to an outsiders point of view I could not be less of an “Aspergian” > the information I knew about Asperger’s pulled at my curiousity, especially because girls with AS present their Asperger’s very differently than their male counterparts. I had to know if my suspicions were valid. At the risk of finally also discovering whether or not I was like my mother in that ‘terrifying’ way or not I finally went in for an assessment.
In the Summer of my 33rd year Dr. #1 diagnosed me with ADHD, General Anxiety Disorder, [a very unsure diagnosis of High Functioning Asperger’s based on the “proof” I brought in] and Borderline Personality Disorder. I had no idea what BPD was so I decided to ignore that one and concentrate on the Aspeger’s diagnosis that I was really there to get.
There. To. Get.
I wanted to pursue the AS diagnosis further, especially as Dr. #1 seemed to have his hand forced a bit by me when I fed him the info about why I was sure I had it. I requested a second assessment be done with an expert on Asperger’s. Dr #1 conceded.
In the Fall of my 33rd year I was re-diagnosed by Dr JJJ with high functioning Asperger’s Syndrome and Bipolar 2 Disorder as well as traits of ADHD.
The new Psychiatrist, Dr JJJ, listened to me carefully about the similarities between Bean and I. About my rigid need for routines and my insatiable appetite for control. While I spoke, I starred at my feet. I couldn’t stop my right foot from shaking, nor could I simply place my hands calmly on my lap. Instead I stuffed my hands together between my crossed legs. I talked about how I often think people should see things my way, think like me, and how frustrated I always get when they don’t. Especially people who are closest to me.
While I spoke I periodically glanced around the room. A tiny wooden plaque with an engravement read something to the effect of: “Expert on Schizophrenia“.
Shit, really, eh?
I explained how hard it is to understand that my Hub might not agree with me, or comprehend things the way I do and how angry and frustrated that makes me.
In the end the “symptoms” that I did reveal to Dr JJJ (needs for routine and control, discomfort in social situations, never having a best friend) just barely slid me by for the result of a diagnosis of “High Functioning Asperger’s”.
This didn’t sit well with me, this second diagnosis by Dr. JJJ. I knew little to nothing about BPD because it scared me to learn anything at all about it – but I knew deep down that it held a huge, if not instrumental part of the puzzle for me. I knew that there must be some connection between the ASD diagnosis and the BPD one. I couldn’t get past the fact that Dr JJJ’s diagnosis of me having Bipolar 2 was mainly due to the fact that I was chatty and my nails were painted red. A red flag for me after a psychiatrist, seeing Bean, decided off the cuff to informally diagnose Bear (who was 2 years old at the time) with ADHD. I repeat, He. Was. Two.
I shit you not.
Dr. JJJ even put that in his formal diagnosis letter! “wore red”. Seriously.
I couldn’t really take this guy seriously.
After all, it wasn’t too long ago that *they* (professionals in the field of psychiatry) misdiagnosed Asperger’s as Schizophrenia! I am not kidding.
Furthermore, I really didn’t want to be diagnosed with Asperger’s simply because I thought I had it. Simply because I wanted to have it. I felt strongly that although my arguements were compelling to prove the case that I did have ASD, I also felt that I was manipulating the Psychiatrists I had been seeing to think I did too. I needed to be sure that I was right. I needed to know if I really did have Bipolar 2 or maybe ASD (if in fact that was the case), or BPD or GAD…or anything!
I made the decision to go back and see Dr. #1. He had been the only person, thus far, who had appeared to be truly honest and invested in my well being. The very first time – before Dr. JJJ had ever seen me, Dr.#1 had prescribed me Zoloft at night and Wellbutrin in the morning to ease my anxiety. It worked, but then it started to stop working, or at least it wasn’t working as well. What he also prescribed me to do was to see a therapist, exercise and take time to myself, to eat better and not to smoke. Unfortunately I never did any of those things. In fact as soon as the meds started to stop working I became stressed and started eating more fast foods and smoking more often. I never saw a therapist because I couldn’t find one on OHIP. And exercise? Well that’s hard for everybody, right? When Dr JJJ told me that the Zoloft wasn’t working because I actually had Bipolar 2, I believed him without taking into account that I had never implemented any of the other necessary natural therapies to my life that would also help me ease my anxiety. So I stopped taking Zoloft as Dr. JJJ suggested I should. That was a mistake.
Firstly I should never have stopped. Secondly I had no idea how to wean myself off of it.
Thinking that would be easy since I never considered myself “addicted” I decided to quit cold turkey. Ever see someone go through withdrawal symptoms on tv or in a movie? Yup, that was me. Ok, so maybe not that bad – and I certainly wasn’t drooling. But it was pretty bad, including – but not limited to – hot flashes, cold sweats, nausea, panic, disorientation and emotional breakdowns. So I started taking it again, but half the dose. I wasn’t having cold sweats or feeling nauseous anymore but I was THE biggest asshole anyone had ever met. More than that I didn’t want to be touched, by anyone, including my kids. I didn’t want to be around anyone. I was so angry. I wasn’t myself. Although I could see it all much like Scrooge watching himself as a child with the ghost of Christmas past, I couldn’t change it. I couldn’t stop. Hub didn’t know what to do. He shielded the children from my nastiness, he put himself in the front lines to take all the abuse. I lasted two weeks this way and then called for an appointment to see Dr #1.
Dr. #1 explained that if I had Bipolar 2 I would have a very noticeable and manic reaction when I returned on to the Zoloft after being off of it and that my intense reaction when I was off it was a result of not weaning myself off it correctly. He told me that I do not have Bipolar 2. He also explained that what I had was a nervous breakdown triggered not only by my life stressers but also and especially because of quitting my meds cold turkey.
I inhaled. I exhaled.
I was starting to feel confident that I was finally being diagnosed correctly. What he said made sense from a scientific point of view. If I had Bipolar 2 my body chemicals would have reacted differently with the medication – this is a fact. This was something I could hold on to and understand. He also told me that *I do* have Borderline Personality Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, and, yes, I do still have ADHD. But did I have Asperger’s? I needed to know.
We went through the criteria, and the print outs, and the differences between ASD in men and women. I tried to make sure I was being honest to my full extent about my symptoms and lack there of. The problem was, was I being honest with myself?
Yes, I sometimes feel stressed and anxious and uncomfortable when out in social situations but I am capable of retaining my composure, being extroverted and yes, even looking others in the eye. Till I get home, at which time I turn into the Incredible Hulk. That is to say, I am often incredibly irate and easily triggered into an adult temper tantrum (especially if there is a sudden change in routine, which is a common occurrence since the 5 individuals I live with, if you can believe it, who do not follow my exact instructions!). It is at the moment I enter my home and am with my most cherished loved ones, the people I feel safest with, that I no longer am able to keep my anxiety at bay. I was emotionally unstable. I had sensory issues. My anxiety would fly through the roof. It wasn’t always this way, but after my period of severe withdrawal I broke a little. Actually I broke a lot. All I wanted to do was be alone. My family members were suffering because of it; I was too. It is this very reason, the way I was feeling and acting that pushed me to pursue an assessment, a diagnosis even.
Dr #1 and I spoke in length about Asperger’s, but specifically about Asperger’s in women
. I showed him a couple of print outs I had from a site that was thorough in its detailed distinctions between AS in girls compared to AS in boys (www.help4aspergers.com
). I explained that one of the reasons I had been so sure of myself having Asperger’s (other than seeing so many similarities between Bean and myself) was because when I read the print outs – every one (but two) of the criteria applied to me, or at least I could relate. Though this may be true, we still had to agree that I did not have Asperger’s. My traits and symptoms did match up on paper to the criteria of Asperger’s in women, but I also matched up with the criteria of Borderline Personality Disorder. What’s more, the criteria for BPD was much more accurate in defining what I had been dealing with since adolescense. Often times many mental conditions have similar criteria and are sometimes hard to differentiate from one and other. In this case, my BPD and Bean’s Asperger’s looked a lot alike and my incorrect self assesment was innocent enough.
Bean, who is chatty and hyperactive and loud, was originally diagnosed at age 5 with ADHD (. Just ADHD. Not unusual for people (particularly girls) with Asperger’s as the symptoms are very similar). At age 8 she was re-diagnosed (some might say properly diagnosed – me > I would say that) with Asperger’s, GAD and ADHD. Also not unusual to be diagnosed at age 8 (unusual for girls, mind you, who are typically diagnosed in adulthood after a lifetime of struggle and confusion).
So I now know that I do not have ASD. Maybe more than believing I had AS, I wanted it to be so. I wanted to stand with Bean, united. So that I could say “me too” and take the spot light off her and on to me. So that I could get over any shame I might have and come to terms with something that is not in the least a “bad thing”. Not a “disorder”, not an “illness”, not a “disease”, but a way of being.
I’m taking it all in.
So here we are, a couple of months into our newfound knowledge about parts of ourselves that I suppose have always been there. At this point we are trying to sort out what all this means. I think to myself, If I suddenly discovered I was a diabetic, I would want to know, right? I would want to learn what that meant to me, what it meant to be a diabetic. I would want to start on a path of accessing resources, medication. I wouldn’t just dismiss it as a “part of me now” but would instead attempt to guide myself out of likely malefic situations. I would seek to protect myself and live as well as I could.
So Bean and I move forward with the diagnoses. Pulling with us the rest of the Fantastic Four and the Hub, whether they like it or not. We are aware that medication for Bean’s ADHD could conceivably help her to better concentrate at school and remove many of the current outburst she has daily from our lives. But we have decided not to medicate Bean. Hub and I have decided that we will try to work with therapy and peer groups before we resort to anything chemical. She is held well enough together at school and with others that we don’t feel she requires meds. The possible side effects such as insomnia and lack of appetite would be detrimental to Bean. She is *maybe* 50lbs soaking wet (age 8 remember) and has suffered “night terrors” since she was 4, with them only just starting to go away this year.
I’ll admit it, I’m still racking my brain at my diagnosis of BPD. I don’t know much about it except that I can be emotionally unstable and impulsive. That I have trouble with physical contact and that I may (or may not) have issues with control…
In the meantime, while I learn more about it I *am* medicating.
With the combined diagnosis of BPD, GAD, MDD and ADHD and at my age, after so many years I have just not developed the skill set to just “be cool” when someone changes my routine or threatens the things I find important to me. The hope is to find some therapy that will teach me those skills. Meanwhile, do not step into my boundary bubble please unless I gave birth to you.