I knew something wasn’t right with my mental well-being, so once I was strong enough to get help, I just want to be believed.Tweet
Way back when my PTSD battle began, I understandably was struggling. I felt lost because I had no idea what the future looked like. In fact, I still don’t. I was caught up in a point of transition, as dark as a moonless night. Not only was I filled with a feeling of hopelessness, but I was also terrified that no one would care. Sad really, because I just want to be believed. I did back then, and I still do, want to be believed now.
But how? What I found so scary at the time was the way psychiatric disorders are diagnosed. Unlike many physical ailments, which are diagnosed with MRI’s, PET scans, etc., mental illness is diagnosed by observation, its diagnostic criteria mostly coming from the diagnostics and statistics manual – also known as the DSM-5.
Contained within its pages are typical symptoms that define the perimeters of a psychiatric condition.
Read: Emergency Service PTSD.
For instance, post-traumatic stress disorder has its own set of symptoms that one must meet in order to be diagnosed with it. Some of these symptoms include:
- Nightmares and flashbacks.
- Intrusive memories you can’t rid yourself of.
- Experiencing emotional and physical distress after something reminds you of your traumas.
For a complete list of PTSD symptoms: diagnostic criteria for PTSD
While I was absolutely convinced that my years as a firefighter had taken an enormous toll on my health, I knew that diagnosis by observation is, at the end of the day, an opinion. Despite having complete confidence in the mental-health professionals I was sitting across from, I was, rightfully, so worried. I mean, my entire life was in the balance, and it was left in the hands of what they were seeing.
I was understandably, worried. I just wanted to be believed; in fact, it was essential for my survival. Although it is left for the eyes of the professionals to determine my mental health, I continually asked myself, “How can we make sure we don’t miss the truth?” In other words, articulating what’s going on inside can be a daunting thing to get out into the open.
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In my case, I had a tough time because: I could not recall the incident in its entirety; I was anxious at a level eight, and I was disassociating at the same time. In my view, my symptoms did a wonderful job at running interference.
In my case, this muddied the waters and made it more difficult for an accurate assessment. I think of it like when you are on a cell phone and the call starts to break up; because of it, you get only pieces of the story.
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While this approach to diagnosing someone can have some pretty serious repercussions – especially if misdiagnosed – it’s important to understand that our mental health professionals are competent, very well- trained – and in my experience most of our awesome psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors, therapist etc. do it because they have a passion to make a real difference.
Therefore, I want to make clear, that it’s not about them, but rather, it’s about the fear of having someone make decisions based on what someone, someone with a mental-health condition, tells them. I just want to be believed because so many people have told me to “Suck it up.” This, of course, is merely one of many things I have heard over the years, so why wouldn’t I fear not being believed? I mean, by the time I sat across from a clinician, I was primed to expect not being believed. Sad really…
Have you had a similar experience? Let us know in the comments below. Or on our Facebook page Facebook – The Road To Mental Wellness