11 October, 2010

Does diagnosis help?

Sometimes I wonder about labels for the abstract and the concrete.  This may seem a surreptitious way to give the appearance of being busy.  I know better than that.  What better way to look at Mental Health week than to pry into the world of labels.
Since my early teens I struggled yet coped in some shape or form to deal with anxiety, depression and the disassociation I all simutaneously felt often without cause.  Exams made me more anxious than usual, as did the Christmas period for understandable reasons.  There was the apperition of a pattern when really none existed.  How I survived I really can't say.  It certainly wasn't mind over matter or will power: survival was by mere chance, and eventually the odds stacked against me.
1st label: acute major depression.
A box of pills and she'll be right, mate.  See you later (ie not at all).
Later that life… I was back.
2nd label Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
And on we go. 3rd & 4th labels were Chronic Major Depression with Psychotic Features.
Right. So now you think "Uh-oh, that's all we need: a bloody psycho."   Psychosis is an unfairly loaded word.  Another will appear shortly, but for now let's deal with the 'p' word.  Psychosis merely means hallucinations and so forth are real.  That's it.  As much as I love Hitchcock films, real 'psychos' don't randomly murder people.  If really bad, a psychotic person is much, much more likely to hurt themselves rather than other people.
So this time I thought - when my thoughts were ordered - "No biggie, just another episode of depression and the auditory hallucinations (hearing voices) had the upper hand."   Yes, that was true, however the team stated from scratch.  From both my reporting and my history, some new things were discovered, resulting in a slightly different twist of diagnosis: Schizoaffective Disorder.
Okay, I'm now waving goodbye to all those who now believe I'm a whack job.  Who doesn't stigmatise schizophrenia? You don't?  I don't believe you: to my shame I still have a negative attitude to schizophrenics, and I bet I've met far more in my life than you'll ever knowingly meet.
That aside, I'm not a schizophrenic, I know all the jokes and it's an awful illness.  Look up  schizoaffective disorder by google, bing or wiki.  The point is in my case I've never had mania or hypermania, just "normal" and depressed. I have auditory hallucinations. I'm not generally paranoid. During depression I tend to be very suicidal and require hospitalisation.  Does this new diagnosis change anything?  Not really.  The only change is instead of taking a prescibed anti-psychotic when feeling overwhelmed, I take it twice daily with room to take a little more when I know I'm struggling to be coherrent or my brain is too noisy.  That's all.
The prognosis isn't too good.  For example I'm more likely to kill myself than die of natural causes, but - excuse the black humour - I can live with that.  If the current anti-psychotic loses efficacy, the alternative drugs aren't a barrel of laughs and I'm not sure I could  live with that.  But let's not cross bridges before the chickens have hatched or get splinters from fitting on the cents.
Diagnosis, like a label, does help.  Without them we don't know how to handle the contents let alone know what the contents are.  However context is just as important. 


  1. You've taught me so much - you're so very brave. I have much admiration for you.

    I'll try not to "fit on the cents" :) xx

  2. Thank you (Occupational Therapists plant then reinforece how we must acknowlege compliments).
    I've fat on the cents for years and look where I ended up. We aren't designed to be neutral :^) I am learning to enjoy my gaffs, gobbledegooks and spoonerisms this illness produces in me.
    Perhaps it's time to write a modern retake of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.