She said this. I thought to myself, "What?". I actually expected the professor to disagree with what she had said, but that did not happen. Now, I have some people who read this blog, and whose blogs I've read, who have diagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder, and who write about how they are dealing with it. The one blog in particular I am thinking of is written by a very strong person dedicated to getting better . If such people do not even f'ing know that they have the disorder, because their therapists and psychiatrists purposely HIDE that from them, then how the heck are they ever supposed to get any better?? And while I'm at it, I think there were people who cut and attempted suicide well before the existence of the internet, which we all know was only invented by Al Gore (yes, I am joking here) a few years ago.
So this brings me to an important point. Knowledge is, indeed, power. And having a name for your disorder matters. A lot. I know this because I spent seven years of my life living through psychosis without knowing at all that I was psychotic. I was never told. If I was told, I have no memory of it. I know that for the majority of those years, the reason I was never told during any of my hospital stays that I was psychotic was probably that nobody had figured it out. But during some of my hospital stays, when I was clearly, obviously very psychotic, there is no way in hell that they didn't figure it out. I recall very clearly screaming out loud to the voices I heard at the top of my lungs and hospital staff trying to calm me down, as I laid in a bed, kicking and screaming, "I AM NOT A PUPPET!!! I WILL NOT DO WHAT YOU SAY!!!". I do not recall anybody ever saying to me, "You are hearing voices right now." I do not recall them ever saying, "You are psychotic". I do not recall them ever saying, "We think you have Schizophrenia or Schizoaffective Disorder." Not until 2005.
Let me tell you what happened when they finally did tell me this, in 2005. It changed my entire existence. It gave me the knowledge that there was an actual name for what was so obviously wrong with my brain. It gave me the knowledge that I had a very legitimate disease, and that it was caused by brain chemicals. It gave me the knowledge that I was not just some crazy lunatic who was a lost cause. It gave me the knowledge that treatment was available, and that I could, in fact, get better.
There is a lot of power in a name. The first name that was close to being accurate for me was Paranoid Schizophrenia. I was told that I had that disorder in 2005. I was told this after I almost shot myself with a gun that I bought for the purpose of shooting myself. I was very, very, very psychotic at that time. I had been to this same hospital multiple times within the two years prior to being told I had Paranoid Schizophrenia. When I was told that I had this disorder, the doctor said, "I have met a man named John Nash. You remind me of him. I want you to watch this movie called A Beautiful Mind." Mind you, that was after I had already wrote on this very blog using the pseudonym "beautiful mind, complex life", because some part of me already identified with that man in that movie. I am not a genius. I will never have a Nobel Prize. But I do have something in common with John Nash, in that I walked around psychotic for years. I thought the CIA was after me, and I thought that I was a secret agent for the CIA too. I thought I was a Manchurian Candidate and had an implant inside my body. I believed these things for years. Yet, it took almost shooting myself in the head before anybody figured out what was going on and decided to share that information with me.
In that hospital, one of the patients was discharged, and she came back bearing gifts for me and some of the other inmates. One of my gifts was the book Surviving Schizophrenia, by Dr. E. Fuller Torrey. It wasn't like I could read that whole book from front to back, but I read as much as I could and I learned for the first time about this disease. I understood when I read those words: this is what is wrong with me. It has a name. Other people have it too. There are medications to treat it. I am not a lost cause.
Later, my diagnosis was changed to Schizoaffective Disorder, but since I strongly identify with the Schizophrenia symptoms (which are a part of Schizoaffective), I kept using the term Schizophrenia when I wrote on this blog for a few years, before I changed the name of the blog to indicate I had Schizoaffective Disorder. But the point of this is, I had to have the knowledge that there was a legitimate cause for my bizarre experiences in this world, and that the cause was not that I was Jesus Christ, or that I was Anne Frank, or that Armageddon was coming, or that I was a robot, or that I was L. Ron Hubbard (all of these being things I believed at various times). The cause was that I had a disease of the brain. With a name. And a doctor told me the name.
If nobody had ever told me that fact, do you know where I'd be right now? I'll tell you where I'd be: dead. Very definitely dead. I would never have managed to stay on medication if I had no idea that I actually needed the medication or any reason to believe that the medication could help me, which I would not have had if I had not known the name of the disease. I would have never gotten hopeful that I could improve, and that the medication could make me improve, if nobody had ever explained why. I would have never taken the medication, if nobody had ever had enough faith in my cognitive capacity to understand basic knowledge and logical facts, despite being floridly psychotic at the time, enough to tell me that there was a disease happening in my head, or enough respect for me to take the time to explain that disease.
A doctor told me the name. He told me to watch the movie. My mom brought A Beautiful Mind to the hospital, and I watched it. And I understood. This is what is going on with me, I thought. Yes, this is it. It is not that John Nash and I are both CIA operatives. It is that we both have a disease. And somebody brought me a book, and I read it, and I understood. There are other people with this disease. There are treatments for this disease. This disease is not a death sentence. I do not have to die. I can live now.
So, what's in a name? Life. Life is in a name. I firmly believe that anybody who is suffering from any kind of disease has every right to know the name of that disease, and to be educated on it, and to understand it. I firmly believe, also, that you cannot get better from something that you do not know even exists in the first place. I also believe, that I have gotten very much better indeed from the horrible, completely psychotic state I was in, back in 2005. The reason that happened is not just some miracle or coincidence. The reason that happened is that I knew what was wrong, and I knew what had to be done about it. I was then able to do what had to be done, which means things like going to see a psychiatrist regularly, keeping in touch with a case manager, visiting my pals at Walgreens pretty much every week for my prescription pick-ups, swallowing countless pills, going to the mental health center for injections every two weeks, and spending four years in therapy. If I hadn't done those things, like I said, I would not be here right now. Doing those things allowed me to also do the other things that have greatly improved my life, such as working a job consistently for years, going back to college and remaining there for years, socializing within activist groups, trying to keep my apartment clean (though this lapses at times), having a few friends or at least people who are close to being friends, and having a decent relationship with some of my family. I couldn't have happiness, or feel like I had improved, without having those aspects of my life. Also, I have had a roof over my head consistently for six years.
Before I knew I was sick with psychosis, I was misdiagnosed terribly with things like Bipolar Disorder and, worse, Dissociative Disorder(s), and PTSD, and even, by one idiotic doctor, Borderline Personality Disorder (he didn't know I thought I was a CIA agent, but he did know I cut myself, plus he was an idiot). I was in and out of hospitals. I lived in three homeless shelters in three different states and all sorts of other, very brief, substandard living situations. I had no money, no job, no ability to get a job or go to college, no friends except online, and no future. I constantly contemplated suicide much of the time. It is very bizarre, actually, that I didn't kill myself, but it wasn't for lack of trying. I tried numerous times. So that is where I was when I was not properly diagnosed, or, if I was ever properly diagnosed, was not told my actual diagnosis. And I have to believe that by the time I was talking about going to a concentration camp and screaming out loud to voices I heard, that somebody figured out I was psychotic in one of those hospitals. Which means that somebody knew, and never told me.
Seven years is a long time to be psychotic and have no idea what is actually wrong. I will never get those seven years back. That was my twenties. I lost most of my twenties to psychosis. They are gone now. I had a lot of horrible experiences that I would like to forget ever happened, because I was psychotic. I will never be able to actually forget those.
So, as you might imagine, I am very, very appreciative of the fact that I was finally told, in 2005, "you are psychotic". I had every right to know that. If somebody has cancer, or AIDS, or diabetes, or heart disease, and a doctor figures it out, they generally tell the person. If somebody has a mental illness, sometimes they don't. Perhaps they assume, like this therapist who spoke to my class today, that you will purposely go and acquire more symptoms of your disorder if you are told the name of your disorder. Perhaps they assume that you are too far gone to have any capacity for insight into the fact that you are psychotic, because they assume you are not intelligent enough to understand that you're psychotic while you still are psychotic. Which means they are wrong. I understand very well now, when I am experiencing psychosis. Understanding it doesn't mean it goes away, but it means, I take medications, and I go to my doctor and I say, "I am having negative and positive symptoms of psychosis right now, and I need my medication adjusted". And then he can adjust it. Which means I can live my life.
A couple weeks ago, a few minutes after I told my doctor about this experience sitting in a restaurant listening to people talking to me, when they were not actually talking to me at all, and sending them telepathic messages in response, which I know is a very abnormal thing to do, he said, "You seem to be hearing some things." Obviously, true! And thank you for respecting my intelligence enough to acknowledge this basic fact of my existence without assuming that I am too stupid to understand it!
So for any mental health professionals out there, please do not purposely hide the name of someone's disorder or disease from the person, because you could be taking away their ability to cope, manage their disorder or disease, and, thus, survive, by doing so. And that is a crime, in my opinion.
I am diagnosed with Schizoaffective Disorder, Bipolar Type.
And here is some information from this website :
DSM-IV Criteria for Schizoaffective Disorder