Into the system…

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Posts Tagged ‘success

Social Work & Work Social…

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My social worker / care co-ordinator came to see me for the very last time on Wednesday. I wasn’t expecting to see her again at all, but she had some paperwork to give me. It was nice to get the call on Tuesday to say she was going to be popping over. I am sad to see her go. She was far better than my previous worker, J and she did restore my faith a little that there was a point in the CMHT. I am not quite sure how it is going to work without a social worker, but my psych is going to act as care co-ordinator, so it should be okay.

On Thursday I braved the work social. I wasn’t sure about going and got quite nervous about this. It was suggested I went along as a way of getting back in touch with work in an informal way. Sort of dipping my toe in. I was worried what I would say to people. I was worried what people would think and I was quite concerned about the fact I’m still on sick leave, yet I’m well enough to go out and get drunk. Would anyone understand that?

When I arrived, virtually no one was there, so I could get talking to a couple of people and break myself in gently. The person who was assigned as a sort-of mentor was there too, so she could kinda look after me. There wasn’t a big turnout at all really, so that helped as I guess I wasn’t going to burn too many bridges if I made a pigs ear of things. I didn’t really know what to say, but I ended up just being honest about being on sick leave. When we were talking about projects, when we joined and who else we knew, it would have been pretty hard to lie. I didn’t have a project and hadn’t done for almost 2 years – in which time my old project has become obsolete. I joined 3 years ago, in which time I should have been promoted. All the people I knew are now consultants or above or have left the company, so people would wonder why I didn’t know anyone else. I didn’t specify why I’d been off though. I thought about it, but it was easier to just say I’d been off for two years and that I’d spent some of the time in hospital.

In the end I coped, but I felt a little weird about it all. I kinda felt like I didn’t fit in any more. In some ways it was fine. I am still a young graduate, with the skills and knowledge to do the job and the aspirations to do well, get promoted etc. I am no different to the rest of them in that respect. I think I can still do the job, but I am not so sure about the company culture now. I used to love it, but the work hard, play hard thing may be a challenge, because I can’t really do either. To do so, would be risking further illness. Socials are built around drinking and late nights, neither of which are a great idea – alcohol is a depressant and I need routine and sleep. Success is built around how many hours you put in, never saying no, high standards and perfectionism – I guess the same is true for many jobs, but there is a huge amount of competition and one-up-man-ship. There is a constant need to prove yourself to be better than the next person. I can’t push myself to breaking point again. I have to hold back, as hard as I am going to find that. With work encouraging me to actively not hold back, that may be difficult to control. I think occupational health and HR will have a close eye on me and will do what they can to protect me from that, but I am not sure I want to be in that position. I don’t want to be left behind. It feels hard enough as it is.

At one point, one of the girls mentioned someone she had met in the company who had been an Analyst for 5 years and she was basically insulting this guy for the amount of time he had been at level. When she said this, everyone except me laughed. She suggested that he had some form of learning difficulties, which meant he didn’t get given enough responsibility to be promoted. Although this may be true, it was meant to be an insult, suggesting he was a massive failure and terribly flawed. Are people going to be saying the same things behind my back? At the end of the summer I will be entering my fourth year as an analyst. Most people are promoted in 2-3 years and many have been promoted again within 5 years total, so I’m a long way behind already. It is highly unlikely I will get promoted in the next year or so as I will not not be working full hours or full responsibilities for a long time. So I am going to become this guy – an analyst for 5 years or more and ridiculed because of it. I am scared of this.

A lot of the time I wonder if it would be easier to start again completely. A new job and a new life. My old life has left me behind and things have changed so much they will never be the same again. I am scared of going back and trying to fit in. I don’t quite know if I will fit any more. I am scared of explaining what has happened in the past two years. I want to erase the past two years, so I can just start again where I left off. I want to catch up with everyone else and I know that is impossible.

There are advantages to staying put though. My company have looked after me and I feel I owe them some loyalty for that. They are going to be flexible with my return to work and will continue to look out for me. I don’t have to learn a new job and at least I already know what to do. The company’s expectations of me have been lowered, so there is no pressure to live up to anything. I don’t need to perform at my best. I can go at 90% and hopefully that will be enough for now.

Starting again obviously has its pitfalls as well. I couldn’t start a new job. I would work too hard trying to keep my head above water, trying to be perfect, trying to impress. I would have to meet new people, with all this history and baggage behind me to try and explain or ignore. I’d have to learn how to do a new job too – new skills, tasks, routines. I am not sure I am up to learning much at the moment. My thinking still isn’t as sharp as it used to be. My memory is crap, my concentration isn’t brilliant. I would end up burning out in no time and I’d be back where I was before. More time on sick leave and another attempt to return to work. No one in their right mind would employ me now anyway, so it is not an option anyway, but I just wish that going back would be easier.

I am starting to realise that although my mood has picked up now and I feel relatively stable, there is still a very long way to go before I can say I am recovered. The future is scary. I have a lot of things ahead that will try and trip me up and I’m a little scared about embarking on this part of the journey. I don’t want to slide back down the hill, but the baggage I’ve got to carry along the way is going to make it pretty tough going.

I feel like I’m kinda rooted to the spot for now, looking up at this big hill with a feeling of trepidation. I’m also being held back by occupational health and my doctors, so I can’t even just take a big breath and have a run at it. All I can do is keep plodding though and hope that one day I’ll be able to get there.

In other news – I’m off to Glastonbury on Tuesday night, so I probably won’t blog again, even though I have two other posts in draft. They can wait though. See you all in a week or so.

p.s. I’ve updated the My Story page again. Can’t believe it didn’t even cover my admission back in January. A lot has happened in 6 months.

Diagnonsense…

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This post is inevitably going to be very long. I have been thinking about what to say for days now and I just haven’t been able to force myself to do it. I need to write though as I must get this straight in my head.

I seem to have writers block. I sit down here with the intention of writing and making sense of everything and I can’t do it. I try to put all of these thoughts down onto the screen and I can’t. There are too many conflicting worries. Too many fears. I know what I have to say, but I am scared. I am scared of writing for making it real.

As you may have read, there was talk about changing my diagnosis when I was first admitted. I was a little surprised and worried about this to say the least. It was hard enough getting a firm diagnosis the first time, let alone having to go through it again. I had accepted the Bipolar II diagnosis and was felt it was accurate. I’ve not found any other diagnosis that describes my experience as well, although I do accept there are so many overlaps between psychiatric diagnoses that it is possible to get things wrong or mixed up.

I am uncomfortable with the idea that Dr M seemed to decide I didn’t have Bipolar Disorder in about 10 minutes. She referred me to Dr S, who is a consultant psychiatrist specialising in psychotherapy. She’s involved with the EDT team that I have been waiting on since last year.

Dr S assessed me over two, hour long appointments. Dr M wanted someone with a therapeutic background to assess me and provide input on my diagnosis. Dr M was obviously considering a personality disorder, although amazingly it seems not the one I thought she was (BPD). I am starting to wonder though how much Dr M influenced Dr S’s assessment.

Dr S asked me about all sorts of stuff. We did the usual history thing and she dug deeper on some things. She asked me a lot about my mood. One thing I was uncomfortable with was the constant assertion that my experience of high moods, could just me not recognising normal moods because I spend so much time depressed. I don’t agree with this. It is not normal to be working 16 hours a day, hardly sleeping yet not tired at all, running around your office doing a million and one things, laughing and talking constantly and generally not being able to concentrate on anything.

At the end of our second session, she told me what she thought. She agreed that I had “some form of mood disorder” but wouldn’t commit to anything. She told me that she was leaning towards recurrent or chronic depression rather than Bipolar II disorder, but wouldn’t dismiss that completely. She also mentioned “personality traits” (mainly perfectionism and high standards) that she said perhaps made me more susceptible to mood episodes, but she also said she didn’t think there was enough to suggest a full personality disorder diagnosis.

So what did Dr M think? I tried to find out, but she kept avoiding the subject. With regards to mood, she did mention dysthymia at one point, but surely by definition dysthymia would never be severe enough for hospitalisation? There were times when she even questioned whether or not I was, or had ever been depressed, which seemed bizarre.

When asked about the personality side of things she said she  “didn’t want to open any boxes that can’t be closed”, implying that it could be dangerous to give a diagnosis without being certain. She said there were personality traits which she was concerned about, particularly focussing on “high standards”, but she didn’t feel any were severe enough to consider a full PD diagnosis. She would also tell me that labels weren’t important and that we should focus on trying to “change the way I see the world”.

I saw Dr N a couple of weeks ago and he said my diagnosis had been changed on the system. This sparked my curiosity because I couldn’t get Dr M to commit to anything. I asked him what it said and he looked it up. It just said “moderate depression” and “personality disorder”. Nothing more specific than that. I think we were both curious as to what PD, although I think he suspected borderline too. After all, he had even suggested it back when he first met me, but it hadn’t been mentioned again since.

I saw Dr M again last week. We got through pretty much the whole appointment before I eventually found an opportunity and the courage to ask about my diagnosis. She had to look back through my notes to find it, which is a little scary. You would have thought she’d know what diagnosis she had given me.

It states clearly:

  1. Moderate Depressive Episode
  2. F 60.8 Other Specific Personality Disorder.

I have issues with the first diagnosis, but didn’t express them because I was so surprised and concerned about the second point. I didn’t know what F60.8 actually said, so I asked her what PD she referred to and she mentioned Narcissistic, which I was surprised about. Of all the PDs I had considered she might give, it was not that one. I told her this and she just said that she “felt the signs were there” and that Dr S agreed with her. I told her what Dr S had said to me; that there were some unhelpful personality traits and that I accepted those, but also that either of us didn’t think any constituted a full personality disorder diagnosis. Dr M then tried to justify her decision by saying it was not the primary diagnosis, but that if she thought it was there it should be documented. Somehow she seems to have decided to open the box after all.

I wanted to question how helpful any personality disorder diagnosis would be, let alone an inaccurate one, considering there aren’t any specialist services or extra treatment available here, but we had already gone well over my time and I didn’t have the fight or words to argue.

I want to argue though. I want to fight. The more I have read and the more I think about it, the more unhappy I am about this diagnosis. It doesn’t seem accurate and really doesn’t seem helpful.

I am less concerned about the depressive episode diagnosis, although that has its problems, but the personality disorder diagnosis is really concerning me. I find myself offended and ashamed by it. No one wants to be considered self-serving, unempathetic and arrogant. I think the shame has actually been one of the barriers to posting about it. I don’t even want to put my name near the diagnosis I’m so unhappy about it. The fact it is written in my notes for posterity is disconcerting to say the least.

So what is wrong with this diagnosis?

Firstly “Moderate Depressive Episode”.

If you consider the ICD-10 explanation of this diagnosis, F32.1, you have to note that by referring to a depressive episode you are implying that it is the first episode of depression. For me this is far from the case and I don’t like that my diagnosis neglects to consider any past mood episodes. It is almost as if she doesn’t believe I have been depressed before.

I also question the severity, but I understand that this can be subjective. Many people would go off my BDI score, which is still above 40 (severe depression is considered 30+). I do have more than four of the ICD-10 listed symptoms, but I would also suggest that some of these symptoms are marked and distressing, making it severe. Actually attempting suicide would surely put the suicidal ideation into distressing territory? Worthlessness, guilt etc are all pretty marked too. The thing is I still function reasonably well so people can be forgiven for thinking I am better than I am. It also doesn’t matter. The treatment for a moderate episode varies little from a severe one and it doesn’t make much difference whether it is my first episode or 10th.

What about the lack of acknowledgement of hypomania or high mood? The treatment for Bipolar II Disorder is different to that of Major Depression. I have responded much better to the introduction of Lamotrigine as a mood stabiliser than I did to any antidepressant to date. What if they try to take me off this? Would I respond better to a different one and will they ever try it? Usually antidepressants make me agitated and unstable. I have been okay with the Reboxetine so far, but it doesn’t seem to have lifted my mood at all, so what will happen if they change it? What if I am given an antidepressant that sends me skyward? It worries me.

At the end of the day though I am depressed at the moment and that’s the important thing. It’s the other diagnosis I’m most concerned about.

So – F60.8 “Other Specific Personality Disorder” (Narcissistic).

The ICD-10 does not give individual diagnostic criteria for the disorders listed in this category, so I will assume that the DSM-IV criteria is what Dr M is referring to, after all she had a copy of the DSM on her desk when I saw her.

The criteria for Narcissistic Personality Disorder is as follows:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

  1. has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)
  2. is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)
  4. requires excessive admiration
  5. has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations
  6. is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
  7. lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others
  8. is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her
  9. shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

It is also a requirement in the ICD-10 that any specific personality disorder diagnosis meets the general diagnostic criteria for personality disorders.

According to ICD-10, the diagnosis of a personality disorder must satisfy the following general criteria, in addition to the specific criteria listed under the specific personality disorder under consideration:

  1. There is evidence that the individual’s characteristic and enduring patterns of inner experience and behaviour as a whole deviate markedly from the culturally expected and accepted range (or “norm”). Such deviation must be manifest in more than one of the following areas:
    1. cognition (i.e., ways of perceiving and interpreting things, people, and events; forming attitudes and images of self and others);
    2. affectivity (range, intensity, and appropriateness of emotional arousal and response);
    3. control over impulses and gratification of needs;
    4. manner of relating to others and of handling interpersonal situations.
  2. The deviation must manifest itself pervasively as behaviour that is inflexible, maladaptive, or otherwise dysfunctional across a broad range of personal and social situations (i.e., not being limited to one specific “triggering” stimulus or situation).
  3. There is personal distress, or adverse impact on the social environment, or both, clearly attributable to the behaviour referred to in criterion 2.
  4. There must be evidence that the deviation is stable and of long duration, having its onset in late childhood or adolescence.
  5. The deviation cannot be explained as a manifestation or consequence of other adult mental disorders, although episodic or chronic conditions from sections F00-F59 or F70-F79 of this classification may coexist with, or be superimposed upon, the deviation.
  6. Organic brain disease, injury, or dysfunction must be excluded as the possible cause of the deviation. (If an organic causation is demonstrable, category F07.- should be used.)

I guess you can draw your own conclusions from reading the criteria and what you know of me from reading here. I guess others may have a different opinion of me, but I hope they can see that this is not what I am like.

I have decided to go through each point of the NPD criteria myself to see if I can work out what does and doesn’t fit.

1. Self Importance

has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

I really don’t think this is the case. I often downplay my achievements, because I can actually find it hard to admit them, even recognise them. I was bullied at school for being clever and a “swot”, so I am not really comfortable with admitting my successes to people. Yet when I’m assessed by mental health professionals I do of course have to talk about my achievements and talents, so I guess they can be forgiven for not realising this. It’s hard not to talk about these things when you are asked to give your life story. I have a good job, which I have been successful in, I got a 2.1 at university, I got 3 As at A Level, I got 11 GCSEs including 4A*s and 4As. These are facts though, not exaggerations.

I don’t believe I am superior, certainly not to anyone with equivalent achievements. Most of my colleagues at work have a similar background to me and I certainly don’t consider myself superior to them. Yes, my academic record is superior to someone who left school with 3 Cs at GCSE, but that doesn’t make me superior; just better at school.

I think this is hard when you have been generally successful. You can seem like you are bragging when you are not, it’s just the truth. I remember during the assessment with Dr S there was a lot of focus on my achievements and suggestions that considering my age I had done well. I generally agreed with her, but now I almost wonder if she was fishing for this.

2. Grandiose Fantasies

is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

I don’t even believe in unlimited success or ideal love so how I can be preoccupied by fantasies of these things, I don’t know. When Dr M and Dr S had been talking about high standards, they actually seem to mean in this sense, rather than the perfectionist sense, which I didn’t realise until this diagnosis was made. So I’ve been agreeing with them when I actually disagree. They seem to think I expect to be highly successful and powerful. I don’t. In the past I had been fairly ambitious, expecting to do well at school and going on to get a good job, but I don’t expect “unlimited success”. Anyone with a good academic record starting out on a career similar to mine has similar expectations. This is usually something to be considered positive and not out of the ordinary. Now of course I’m depressed and even the most simple tasks seem ambitious, which would suggest that these thoughts aren’t pervasive either, therefore not meeting the diagnostic criteria.

There was a short period fairly recently where I had thoughts of going into politics as I wanted to make a difference and there was a lot of focus on diversity in politics and increasing the number of women in parliament. I can be passionate about issues and want to do something about them. I guess I may have been fantasising a little at the time, but even still this is not an unrealistic ambition. I have been interested in politics for years and often considered it as a future career option, but not because I want to be all powerful.

I have had the odd grandiose moment when my mood has been high though and I have admitted this. Of course they question whether or not I’ve ever experienced hypomania, so will put this down to personality rather than symptoms of a mood disorder.

3. Special Status

believes that he or she is “special” and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

This is one that I guess I can identify with, although I am not sure it is correct. I do not believe I am special as such, but I guess I do feel more comfortable with people that have a similar background or interests to me. I think everyone does though to some degree and it is not like I will not associate myself with other people. I try to judge people on their merits and will talk to anyone.

I can see why they may think this is true though. During my assessment with Dr S she asked me about my regrets regarding me degree choice. She asked about how I chose my course and one of my considerations was choosing a respected university. This consideration was mainly to keep my career options open as opposed to anything else. There are plenty of graduate employers that only recruit from top universities. I guess this could be seen as wanting to be associated with “high-status institutions” though, so they may well use this as an example when diagnosing me.

4. Admiration

requires excessive admiration

Erm. I don’t know how to reply to this. I cannot deny I can have difficulty responding to criticism and that I like praise, which I guess may come under this category, but I don’t require or seek excessive admiration. If someone likes me that’s a bonus, but if they don’t then fine.

5. Entitlement

has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

A sense of entitlement? I expect fair and reasonable treatment, but I don’t expect favourable treatment over others. I am a strong believer in equality and a sense of entitlement would go directly against this.

I can at times be stubborn and this could be misconstrued as expecting compliance with my expectations. I will compromise, but I try to be assertive as well. I don’t see this as entitlement though. We are usually encouraged to be assertive when in therapy, so it would be wrong to judge this as being narcissistic.

6. Exploitative

is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

It is criteria like this that makes me so uncomfortable about this diagnosis. I don’t want to be considered self-serving. I don’t take advantage of others in order to get ahead and I find it horrible when people do. Some of examples given are things such as dressing provocatively to get your own way. Ignoring the fact that if I dressed provocatively people would run to the hills, I would never do this. I hate the idea on too many levels.

7. Lacking Empathy

lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

There are two sides to this for me. In many ways I am often considered too empathetic. I consider other people’s needs often to the detriment of my own. I was told off repeatedly by the therapists at The Priory for considering everyone else first, for listening to the others and offering them advice and support, but for not giving myself the opportunity to speak and receive that support back. I would like to think that I understand how others feel and that I am sensitive to their needs. I certainly try to be, so I am not unwilling.

Yet, I know occasionally my bloke finds I have a lack empathy towards him. He says I don’t realise how much the things I say and do hurt him or recognise how he is feeling. I think our relationship is an isolated case though, because there are many ways in which I act different with him than I do with others – lack of assertion is another.  I also don’t think depression helps matters much. I guess a suicide attempt could be seen as not taking other’s feelings into consideration, but if you knew how much I worried and obsessed over this beforehand you would realise it is not.

8. Envy

is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her

I think everyone gets jealous now and again. I can be envious of others that have recovered from illness, because I wonder why I have not. I can be envious when someone gets better grades than me at school. I can be envious when I see people having a great time when I am depressed. I wouldn’t say it is often though and certainly no worse than most.

I really don’t believe anyone is envious of me. There would be no reason to be. I’m depressed. My life sucks!

9. Arrogance

shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

I hope I don’t, but I guess at times I can be a bit of a snob and I’m guilty of generalisations. I am not exactly appreciative of chavs and I can sometimes be a bit rude towards people that watch rubbish on TV, but I’m not alone on this. I don’t think I’d go as far to say that this is a major problem or that I was particularly bad at it. I certainly know people who are worse than me!

_______________________

Anyway.  I’m going to post this now. It’s not really complete. There is plenty more I could say on the matter, but I’ve been at it for hours and if I don’t post it now it may be days before I do finish it. Maybe I will edit this post, or maybe I’ll add another. We shall see. This is well over 3500 words long now and I have spent quite a few hours on it.

Does anyone have any ideas of what to do next? I just feel a bit lost and trapped. I’m worried that if I question the diagnosis, it will come across as narcissistic! That is the biggest problem with personality disorders. Questioning it is just further evidence of the disorder and can all be seen as part of the problem.