I have always said that I've been living my life in 0s and 1s. That was long before I realized I was bipolar and borderline. Since I turned 16, it has been challenging for me to isolate any pure happiness periods in my life. But even when I sought expert help, we got most of it wrong and misdiagnosed.
A Cry for Help
In 2014 however, I realized that the 0s had occupied the majority of my life to the point where I was non-functional for the most part. At the time, I felt utter loneliness and emptiness, spending most of my time sleeping and refusing to go out unless other people dragged me out of my place. The idea of going out made me sleepy. My thoughts were messy and gloomy, and it was tough for me to concentrate on anything. At the time, I had been single for two years after my first relationship ended. My only romantic interaction with women was through my digital presence and an FWB relationship to make things worse. My friends' and colleagues' interactions were very erratic, and I would very quickly lash out at people.
At some point, I realized I had to seek help as I watched a close friend of mine suffering from depression get better.
The First Sessions and Diagnoses
On my first visit to the psychiatrist, I was in a weirdly energetic and agitated mood. My past was the central theme as I mostly vented out about my parents and my first intimate relationship. This only lasted for one session, and from then on, we focused on my anxieties, and pretty soon, I started taking antidepressants. The initial diagnosis was that I was suffering from depression and several fears. Unfortunately, depression is not always a standalone condition but an indication of something worse.
Misdiagnosis: Omitted Clear Symptoms
We omitted my desperation to have a romantic relationship of some sort and be around people all the time to feel good. I never wanted to be alone. Consequently, I would spend an extreme amount of time looking for someone online. Online was my only option as I got more and more depressed and desperate and avoided real life.
Secondly, the splitting in my first relationship between unreasonable idolization and quite reasonable but extreme hate.
Thirdly, the constant change of opinions about what I wanted to do to feel fulfilled while eventually pursuing these goals led to no improvements in my self-image.
Also, I spent almost a full year planning on committing suicide after breaking up for the first time, an idea I thankfully did not pursue eventually.
Finally, my constant mood swings and my lashing out whenever I felt diminished or ignored by people I cared about (or anyone at times). My anger could be entirely out of proportion, and I had already experienced violent episodes towards the people closest to me.
At the time, I was oblivious to my impulsive behavior, such as spending sprees for gadgets or spending extreme amounts of money on mobile games. Additionally, I tended towards unsafe choices about sex, among other things. I thought that was just the norm for me. I thought it was me.
While psychotherapy helped me overcome several anxieties and the antidepressants helped me feel more energetic, I now think I only made baby steps towards my self-improvement and avoided past mistakes.
After a series of unstable long-distance relationships that left me entirely helpless, I decided to visit another psychiatrist in 2017. That was the first time that bipolar disorder came into play. However, I was still on antidepressants – on and off – and I stopped visiting my new psychiatrist pretty fast. Consistency and devotion to the process are essential to get the answers you are looking for.
In total, I would say I did at least 30 psychotherapy sessions between 2014 and 2016. The goal was mainly to treat what we considered to be unipolar depression and anxieties at the time. What I have taken away from this is that psychiatrists can be very reluctant to make a diagnosis. They fear that it may “stigmatize” the patient. This behavior sometimes leads them to interpret a personality disorder's apparent symptoms as something else, a consequence rather than a symptom. As a patient, I would much rather prefer to have the right diagnosis and seek proper treatment. I don't want to blame my therapist, but I wish I were knowledgeable enough to assess the process at the time.
The Patient's Role
Consequently, the other aspect of this problem has to do with self-awareness and education. A chronic personality disorder can distort one's view of themselves. Patients eventually come to terms with aspects of the disorder being their own rational decisions and habits.
Distinguishing between the two is essential. Not to avoid responsibility, but to prevent the constant guilt and shame caused by dwelling on our behavior. Unfortunately, sometimes other people consider this a case of making excuses for your behavior to avoid finding solutions. I still find it hard to explain the difference to others without sounding dismissive. Mental illness is part of who we are, but it does not define us. Τhe “why” is as important as the “what.” I would omit essential details about how I felt and behaved. Unfortunately, I considered them a part of me and irrelevant.
Lack of Education
Most people, including patients, are uneducated on the subject of mental illness. This needs to be changed for us to understand ourselves better and for others to understand us. This a general problem that modern society needs to solve for many minorities. But it's hard to tell if and when we will reach that point.
For the patients themselves, though, there needs to be an excellent motivating factor and encouragement for self-education. This should not be confused with making your diagnosis. But you need to know at least what years of research have been established. It clears a path towards what you are looking for in your behavior as an observer of yourself. After all, getting the right diagnosis depends on what the patient decides to share, too, regardless of the therapist's skills.
In hindsight, I wish I had found that motivating factor and received that encouragement from my therapists before 2020. Luckily, my current self does not dwell much on past mistakes and the time wasted.