Mental Health

Working On Us – Mental Illness Diagnosis

Image by Ulrike Leone from Pixabay 

Beckie from Beckie’s Mental Mess is starting a new weekly mental health prompt called Working On Us.  You can visit Beckie’s post to get all of the details plus the picture prompt for this week.

I’m going to do the written prompt:

When you first found out that you had a mental illness/disorder, what was your first reaction?  Explain, how this new revelation regarding your health affected you?

Content warning: talk of suicide attempts

This  was one way that being a mental health professional actually worked against me.  I knew the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder, and I had worked with many patients with depressive disorder.  I recognized that was what was happening to me, but at the same time I figured if I was able to provide care for patients with depression, surely I should be able to take care of myself.

My first contact with a psychiatrist was after my first suicide attempt.  I was on a medical ward getting IV N-acetylcysteine to counteract the acetaminophen part of my overdose, and I was seen by a psychiatrist from the consult liaison service.  I didn’t want to be admitted to the psych ward, and I was still sufficiently well enough to be able to lie.  I was discharged, and when I requested the discharge summary afterwards I learned that based on the lies I told I was diagnosed with adjustment disorder.

I had another suicide attempt two months later and it was at that point that I was given a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.  I have no memories at all from my first three weeks in hospital, most likely because I was just so sick, so I have no idea what it felt like to actually be told that was my diagnosis.

In terms of effect on me, learning my diagnosis probably had less of an impact than more generally becoming someone with a mental illness.  Since I already knew quite a bit about depression, there wasn’t a steep learning curve in that sense.  My diagnosis has definitely informed my continuing professional development choices, so I try to stay on top of the latest research both for my patients’ sake and my own.

If you’re interested in participating, visit Beckie’s post for details.

Straight talk on suicide: Reach out - graphic of a flaming phoenix

The straight talk on suicide page has info on suicidal thinking, crisis lines and safety planning, along with straight talk about suicide.

29 thoughts on “Working On Us – Mental Illness Diagnosis”

  1. Thanks for sharing. When does the sadness go away? Does it ever go away with MDD? I have been diagnosed with that too…. sort of.
    Maybe my sadness is a symptom of my anxiety. I want to feel better.

    1. My illness started off as episodic, so I’d have times in between where I’d be fully well. It’s become treatment resistant so remission doesn’t happen any more, but sadness hasn’t played a big role for me.

  2. I don’t remember my diagnoses either. When I was first ill, when I was 16, at some point I think I tentatively put the name of ‘depression’ to what I was feeling, but my GP insisted I was merely “emotionally low” which I think was a manoeuvre intended to avoid my asking for antidepressants.

    When the depression came back (if it ever really went away) a few years later, I think that again I put a name to it myself long before I overcame my fears of going back to the doctor and, again, I don’t really remember how the conversation with him went.

    I don’t remember how I got diagnosed with OCD either. I think I realised fairly early on what the issue was, probably because I’d had milder pure O OCD in the past. At some point I must have raised the issue with the psychiatrist, but I don’t remember how or what she said.

    And, of course, with autism the problem is that I haven’t been diagnosed and it’s a battle to get that done.

  3. Ashley, I first want to Thank you, for your support in sharing this post! I sincerely appreciate it!!!!

    I can’t even imagine being a health care provider and having to face others on a daily basis with their own depression and dealing with your own. That must have been so utterly difficult to face every day.
    I have followed you for so long now, but I have this question for you. Since the suicide attempts, do you still work in the same facility after your attempts? Or, did you have to be placed or, rather look for a new hospital in order to work at?

    1. Actually dealing with my patients’ mental health issues was never difficult.
      I’ve always managed to avoid being hospitalized where I worked.

  4. I’m so happy you’re still here Ashley!! You’re a wonderful attribute to our MH WP community 💚💚💚

  5. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to process what you’re being told when you have prior knowledge…it sounds like it wasn’t as bad of a learning curve but I’m sure coming to terms with it wasn’t easy. Thank you for sharing the experience – it’s unique from a lot of stories I’ve heard about people learning about their mental illness.

    1. I think one of the things that’s been hardest has been when there’s an explanation to be the complacent patient and do what I’m told. Because I know my stuff I call care providers out on their BS, and that has never gone over well.

      1. Honestly that’s how I would feel in that situation as well. It’s not your fault you have more knowledge than a patient without that background!

  6. Thank you for sharing yours. I get where you are coming from, thinking you would be able to take care of yourself, if able to take care of your patients. I can imagine that many professionals may think this, as well as other worries

      1. I agree, stigma does not help and when you have shared just how much stigma can be in your work place, it’s shocking, of all places.

  7. Thank you for sharing. I was young when I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I don’t remember much about it either. I have never attempted suicide but I did have thoughts about. I am happy that you are still here

  8. My hardest dx (I asked my psychologist not to put it on my records) is “personality disorder”.

    Way more stigmatising than my psychiatrist given social anxiety disorder and generalised anxiety disorder. I suspected MDD too but always presented too cheerfully (was literally told that) to be taken seriously by multiple doctors despite having many episodes of meeting criteria including suicidal ideation according to the PH 9 self report. Psychologist believed me but didn’t want to stick more labels on me, she believes in treating me as a person, not a bag of symptoms.

    1. It’s really unfortunate that there’s so much stigma around personality disorder. I’m glad that at least your psychologist is taking you seriously.

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