Author: Ellie Chiorino
In this article, to celebrate World Bipolar Day, my deepest hope is to make you feel less alone if you were ever misdiagnosed and/or have encountered an incapable psychiatric provider along the way. I see you. I hear you. Your experience is valid. And this is mine.
The first time I entered a psychiatrist’s office I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder right away, after just a few questions, and put on an SSRI antidepressant which immediately sent me straight to mania. My then psychiatrist didn’t realize. She just switched antidepressants.
My life proceeded to go down the drain. Throughout the next two years, I was in and out of the A&E, where all they did was putting me on a benzodiazepine drip and then sending me home. The IVs helped take the edge off, but I was completely out of my mind.
In 2017, my psychiatrist diagnosed me with Bipolar II. She said she’d just realized. What haunts me to this day is that, after getting out of there with a prescription for not only one but two antidepressants, some benzos, and no mood stabiliser at all, I still didn’t occur to me that I ought to find a new psychiatrist. Just imagine—you go and tell your psychiatrist that you’re suicidal and she goes ‘Oh no lovely, why are you thinking like that?’ She really told me that, more than once.
The problem was that I was completely uneducated. I really, actually thought that was normal. When I finally started reading about Bipolar, I realized. I’d attempted suicide a few weeks before starting to educate myself. I rang another hospital, and switched providers.
I developed a strong and powerful emotional bond with my new psychiatrist. I felt heard. I finally felt I was on the right path. I was put on Lithium and my life got slightly better.
But. Yes, there’s a but. Every single year from 2017 to 2021 I’d relapse in February and I’d end up inpatient in March-April. Every. Single. Year.
I loved my psychiatrist, but she was a student—I was her first patient after she got out of med school. She didn’t know how to handle Lithium levels. She didn’t know how to keep a medication treatment plan without constantly making changes to it. And that reflected on my stability and quality of life, which was, at that point, fully dictated by my illness. I not only had Bipolar—Bipolar had me.
In 2018 I was admitted to a Psychiatric Rehab facility two hours away from home. I got out of there with a Borderline Personality Disorder (Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder) diagnosis. And it destroyed me. My family started seeing a consultant who had extreme prejudices towards BPD/EUPD and fed them lies and misconceptions. Everything I did from that moment on was because I had BPD. I’m hypersensitive, always have been—of course, you have BPD. I feel strong emotions—of course, you have BPD. I am impulsive—of course, you have BPD.
The point is, I was never tested for BPD. Not by the team at the Rehab, and not by my psychiatrist after I got out of there. If they had bothered to test me, they’d have realised I didn’t meet the DSM-V criteria for BPD. I never have and I never will, because—plot twist—I don’t have it.
BPD became my primary diagnosis. My psychiatrist talked me into getting psychotherapy/talk therapy, which has never worked for me. What does work for me is CBT, but I’d only find a therapist who specialized in CBT in late 2021, through a popular app which offers therapy.
Then, suddenly, my psychiatrist referred me to another hospital and left. Not only was I heartbroken, but the care I received there was appalling. I was told that, quoting literally, ‘I had no hope left because I’d tried every medication’.
After yet another admission where I was gaslighted, laughed at, ignored and teased at the point that I was diagnosed with ‘Histrionic Personality Disorder’ I’d almost lost all hope. Maybe that doctor was right, maybe I was an hopeless case.
Today is Day 304 of my real recovery. 304 days ago, I met the doctor who saved my life, just a few days after getting discharged from that hell-hole. A friend of my parents’ gave me his name and number.
Both personality disorder diagnoses were thrown into the bin—and what a relief. I got diagnosed with Bipolar I and Panic Disorder. I was put on a treatment plan which has only undergone minor changes in almost one year.
I’m in grad school.
I was out of hospital on St. Patrick’s Day.
I’m going to celebrate World Bipolar Day out of hospital.
I’m actually, happily living.
There is hope.
Don’t ever allow anyone to make you think there isn’t.
And please, please, don’t make the same mistake as me—educate yourself. Read about Bipolar Disorder. Read about how it’s treated. It really can make a difference.