I go to the same conferences psychiatrists do. I read their journals. I read their books. The information I have received over the years has been invaluable. But the best source of information, by far, comes from you - patients and loved ones.
Two weeks ago, as a Question of the Week, I asked:
Were you misdiagnosed with depression or something else? How long did it take before you finally received the correct diagnosis?
Your answers - 18 to date and counting - should be required reading in every medical school and psychiatric residency program. Last week, I put together a sharepost on misdiagnosis based on the first eight responses. Consider this sharepost my second installment. The issues you raise and the wisdom you share are so vitally important that I will stay with this topic for as long as it takes.
What is coming in loud and clear is that a misdiagnosis of depression is all too common, with years on antidepressants that only worsen your unrecognized bipolar. Because we tend to seek help when we are depressed rather than manic, it is not surprising that we receive the wrong diagnosis at first instance. But then the problem is compounded by psychiatrists who refuse to listen. Bounce's response was particularly enlightening, so let's pursue her story at length. (Bounce gives no indication as to gender, so let's just go with "she.")
Bipolar and depression, she begins, "should be completely distinguishable to trained medical professionals. That the sufferer should be put in the roll of judge, jury and executioner of their own diagnosis and resulting medical evaluation and treatment, suggests a psychiatric system which is at best undereducated and unreliable, and at worst grossly negligent."
At age 16, Bounce was prescribed Prozac. "The way it was talked up," she writes, "it would not only cure my 'depression,' it would raise me from the dead if I happened to die while taking it." Once it was in her system, though, she started cycling. Then the panic attacks started. Complicating matters was she turned to alcohol and addiction. To quote Bounce at length:
Now, my major complaint with this whole debacle is not that I was incorrectly medicated, it is that I was incorrectly medicated because an entire comprehensive mental and physical inventory was never taken. AKA no one ever TALKED to me about what I was feeling and why I was feeling it. No one had mined my data for facts and established a clear pattern of my behavior. The first person who did that was me. ... They didn't do their job. Much like getting a bad mechanic job, my tranny dropped out on the freeway and my vehicle hit the wall going 75 - a complete loss.
We certainly wouldn't take our car back to a place that did a shoddy job that put us in danger. Unfortunately, as a child, or as any other section of the population that cannot otherwise advocate for themselves, we have few options, and in most cases aren't aware of the damage that is being done. It is hard enough to get outside oneself enough to be aware of the wreckage our lives have become, let alone express to others what is wrong, even as able-minded adults. On top of that, my experience has shown me that comprehensive, compassionate treatment can be hard to find, even in a decent sized city such as where I live.
Now, by being my own best advocate and doing the heartbreaking legwork of putting my care through a sort of trial and error testing ground until I found the right combination of facility and doctor (to say nothing of the times I've had to change insurance companies for jobs), I finally have a sense of stability. From beginning to the present, 14 years have elapsed. It is wonderful to be here, I just wish I could have been here sooner.
Please share your own story. You can offer your wisdom and insight in the comments below, or by going to my original Question of the Week, or to my follow-up Question of the Week.
Published On: October 24, 2009
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