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Thank you for your diagnosis.
I have not been to a doctor for an official diagnosis yet, but feel that yours makes sense - I have a relative who has the symptoms of BD, and another who has Winter SAD (although I thought that BD involved long periods alternate of mania and depression, rather than emotional fluctuations throughout the day/week, as mine seems to).
I have been doing a bit of self-psychoanalysis, and have come up with a possible trigger: when I was fifteen (around the same time my low moods started), I lost something at school, and have regretted not going back to look for it ever since. I worry about this a lot when I am down, and feel that my guilt and anxiety about this could be why I feel so out of control, and why I constantly worry that I have dropped something and need to go back to ‘check’.
Recently, I have made some changes. I have resisted my OCD urges, and people have noticed that I perform them far less now. I have dug out a light box, and attempted to use it for the recommended time on several occasions – however, I felt that it had little to no effect, and as I struggle to find times in my irregular schedule to use it, I have put it aside for now. I have bought a book on BD, which I intend to read (although I have put off reading it, as I am worried that labelling myself with BD will mean that the diagnosis will start to consume my identity – I went through a stage shortly after diagnosis of blaming all my emotions on BD, which wasn’t healthy).
I have also got a part time job, which keeps me busy, although the hours are irregular which makes it hard for me to get into a routine. I have been socialising more with distant friends via text, and have been accomplishing personal goals. I am still living with my parents, but, up until now, I thought we were doing alright.
However, I have recently been having strange mood swings. These vary, but as an example: I wake up some mornings with my heart pounding, have breakfast and feel a lot more positive, then do something during the day which I regret, to which I react with huge amounts of anxiety and self-loathing, which then subside, usually within a few hours but sometimes not until the next day, leaving me relaxed again, before the cycle repeats. I also feel that my thoughts are sometimes going faster than I can rationalise them (I think this is called being ‘wired’, in BD speak), leaving me anxious afterwards as I feel that I could have dropped something or left something behind in this careless state, and have no memory of doing it. One time, I had left a neighbour’s house in a rush, and felt sure I had dropped something; so I got up at seven in the morning, and spent the next hour skulking around their yard in the dark with a torch, making sure. Not my proudest moment.
I have mainly been dealing with these feelings by exercising hard, eating less (to stop ‘fuelling’ them), and busying myself with tasks and work. These all have made me feel more in control, although I have lost a bit of weight and think the physical conditions I am putting myself under might even be making my anxiety levels a bit worse.
Also, when once I would have made decisions on the basis of how I ‘felt’ about each option (another OCD trait), I have recently been finding it very hard to come to a decision. I have little moments of panic, and spend ages flitting back and forth between two options, feeling in the moment that whatever decision I make will have huge consequences. Sometimes I panic because I have not performed an OCD behaviour, but I usually just ignore that. But when the decision has ‘real-life’ consequences, like whether to go to the library or the shops first or whether or not to leave something at home, I can spend up to ten minutes of panicked indecisiveness before I eventually pick an option. When I do this, I tend to power through the anxiety and regret which follows, and eventually feel ok. However, this has been affecting my family.
Last night, a stupid indecision about whether to take or leave a book when going to a restaurant with my family made us ten minutes late, stressed out my parents and ruined the evening. Afterwards, my mother gave me the same talk she had given me when I had been exhibiting OCD traits: basically, that I couldn’t possibly cope on my own and that I would have to either see a psychiatrist or take drugs. I did not tell her about your online diagnosis, for fear that it would just fuel her concerns and make her force me into a therapy that I am not ready for, but the whole ordeal made me feel trapped again, and as if all the progress I felt I had made had been for nothing.
I am currently evaluating my options, and am writing again to ask your advice.
Ideally, I would like to move away from anyone I could hurt, to explore and understand my ‘condition’ at my own pace, maintaining maximum control over my life. My family is more for an instant course of drugs and/or therapy. I understand this view; however, I feel that if I went through a process like CBT or drugs therapy to alter my personality simply to keep my parents happy, I would regret it. I do not feel that I know myself enough or have enough control over my life to freely consent to something like this.
At the end of the day, I am eighteen and know that it will be my own decision. But I would really like some professional, objective advice on: what my options are, any options I have overlooked, and whether my plan of moving out and going unmedicated while I learn about my new mindset is feasible, or just plain dangerous.
Thanking you in advance, H.