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.
My book Making Sense of Psychiatric Diagnosis breaks down the different categories of DSM-5 diagnoses, explaining the diagnostic criteria and providing first-hand stories of the various illnesses. It’s available on the MH@H Store, as well as Amazon and other online retailers.