The Dreaded DSM and CPSTD

According to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) when I describe my symptoms, it advises doctors, psychologists that I would most likely have borderline personality disorder sometimes Bipolar previously known as manic depressive. To me, it seems ridiculous, but it is what it is.

Even when I tell parts of my story, I say parts, because when I told the truth and all my story at 19 to a counselor her words are forever in my mind.

‘are you sure you are not exaggerating’.

Wow, I thought there IS something wrong with me, even the ‘psychologist’ who is trained to know who ‘crazy’ people are (my thoughts of psychology at 19) thinks I am lying about what happened to me. I know it’s intense, I see the reaction on people’s faces when I tell them some of the punishments, I would receive for being ‘naughty’.

I did not however expect this when I sort help from a professional. I remember having to pay $85.00 for that session an awful lot of money for someone earning $220 per week and I walked out of that room so incredibly sad and even more confused. I never went back. I did go back to my GP and he advised that I should go on anti-depressants so I agreed as I believed by then that I was in fact crazy and my family was right about me all along.

Not long after starting the anti-depressants at 19, I felt worse, even after the 6 weeks had passed, I felt horrible, tired, put on weight which triggers me in a way I need to be very aware of. My father’s words and treatment of my older sisters regarding their weight still haunts me to this day. On one occasion my father told my much older sister that she should go and vomit up her food as she was a fat slob who looks disgusting, that no man would ever want a fat slob of a woman like her. I was around 8 years old.

So, one Christmas when my sister did go and vomit up her food, we could hear her in the toilet and the response from my father was ‘good she did not need any of that food anyway, just look at the state of her’. No one else said anything, I felt sick, I wanted to help her, I wanted to say you look beautiful to me, I looked over at my stepmother who I called ‘Mum’ and she did nothing and said nothing.

‘only eat half ‘this stayed with me for many years and in a way still does. I no longer control what I eat to an unhealthy extent, but it took many years of healing to undo and it is still not undone and probably will never be. I am aware of it and remain aware of it.

I learned the hard way that anti-depressants do not mix with alcohol, my doctor was not overly caring and pushed a new anti-depressant for the 2000s Effexor. I was already isolated in my relationship as I would cling to my boyfriends and their families like a loyal little puppy dog. Binge drinking and anti-depressants do not mix. I had no real close friends as I had moved to over 16 different schools. Many friends but not any close friends that I could turn to for help.

I went out one night with my then-boyfriend, we were fighting as the many girls that would throw themselves at him from his school were out and they decided it would be fun to pick on the ‘new girl in town’ even though we weren’t in high school the mentality of mean girls had not changed much at this age either, I was used to those mean girls; I had come across many of them over my extensive school life. What I had trouble with was navigating these types of situations in relationships, he left me stranded in town, no phone to call anyone, and no way to get home.

I luckily found a couple of friends that I use to go to school with a few years earlier and we quickly chatted about how year 11 and 12 had been and how Queensland was and what it was like to be back in NSW, we continued drinking and I was not a big drinker. The night ended back at their house, we continued drinking and talking of our time together in year 10, they were now at university and living on campus, something I thought I was not good enough for nor deserved or could afford. They went to bed, I became very depressed and anxious, and I was so very drunk I found their phone tried calling my boyfriend to pick me up, no answer it was around 4 am by now, for whatever reason that night I decided to call my father and told him how sad I was and that I did not want to live anymore. His words to me………………………………….

‘I don’t have time for this, go to sleep’…. beep beep beep!

I remember walking to the kitchen in this foreign house and getting a knife out of the drawer I then walked to the front door and sat on the steps and looked at my wrists. Whilst I have vehemently denied ever having suicidal thoughts and still do; until this moment of writing, it down. I nearly did cut my wrists that night, you know what stopped me…………. making a mess. I did not want to make a mess in someone else’s house. I was still scared of getting into trouble for making a mess. My 40-year-old self can only remember this now and all I want to do is give that young woman such a big hug. So, I did not cut my wrists that night, what I did was put the knife back where I found it and proceeded to walk home.

So, there I was at 19, I stumbled through many more years before I ever attempted to reach out and get help again. What I did instead was what I did best, work. I worked and studied and worked and studied. The more I learned the more I was able to help myself. I had a keen interest in human behavior so I just kept studying it every second I got I would read self-help books, textbooks, and boom! then came the internet and I could read so much more.

When I finally started some psychology subjects, the dreaded DSM was introduced to me and what a shock it was to see what that psychologist I saw at 19 many years prior had come to make such poor assumptions about me and my history. How easy it is to tick boxes of symptoms and perceived displayed behaviors about people, I was genuinely disturbed by it, let alone when it came to the recommended medications to go with these mental illnesses. Hence why I will not and have not become a psychologist, I do feel it’s important to mention that I have met both professionally and personally many wonderful psychologists. Yet I prefer the broadness of Community Work, the framework and scope of practice is wider and broader.

I have spent most of my life being told I am crazy or have some sort of mental illness, whether it is from a GP who ticks boxes off on their anxiety and depression test to the psychologist who knows that I am averse to a ‘diagnosis’ but recommends an anti-psychotic medication to me anyway. Or, to the psychiatrist after one hour has diagnosed me with an eating disorder and possibly bipolar with a question mark next to it and sent me on my way with a script for a medication somewhere in between an anti-depressant and an anti-psychotic.

I always ask the question; why not prescribe yoga therapy, animal therapy, somatics, floating meditation, acupuncture, trauma-informed massage? The list is endless. For many people living with CPTSD their pain memories are in their body, there is an innate disconnection between the body’s messages to the brain and the brain’s messages to the body. Healing is possible holistically!

If I could re-write parts of the DSM, I certainly would have these in there, not to mention mentoring programs for people who have been raised in extremely traumatic environments. I only look back on my late teens and early 20s with genuine angst, if I had been offered someone to mentor me and help me with big decisions, someone to help me with university applications and subject choices, help me to understand what it is for someone to genuinely care for the outcomes of my life, things may have not needed to be so hard for so long. I may have learned how to relax before I was 40.

So, my words today are for anyone that is reading this and may still be in the midst of confusion and chaos, you have choices, you are worthy and do not give up no matter what your age, there is the possibility to relax and feel peace.

You can feel peaceful and live peacefully.



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