There was a lot that changed in my life when I was first diagnosed with anything. The first time I was diagnosed was my first hospitalization. That was the first time I was medicated for anything, too. I was only SIXteen. I was told I had social anxiety, OCD, and major depressive disorder. I was put on Lexapro, Klonopin, and a mood stabilizer. After being discharged from hospitalization, my outpatient psychiatrist would then keep upping my Lexapro, keep me on Klonopin, and change me from one mood stabilizer to the next. Then I was hospitalized again, with the same psychiatrist. This time is when I then was put on Lithium, still on the Klonopin daily, and Effexor. My diagnosis was now not clear and was more complex. He and the therapist thought I could have Borderline Personality Disorder, told me to look videos up and see if I feel like those videos. As a seventeen year old girl would, I felt connected to what was being said in those videos. I had mood swings. I had feelings of rage and irritability. But I was also a teenage girl with raging hormones and hidden anorexia. After I went home and came back the next day, he let me know he wasn’t thinking borderline anymore, I was now Bipolar. Again, I left the hospital and stayed with my outpatient psychiatrist and therapist. Being only newly turned eighteen now, I was told many times that I could not be officially diagnosed (whatever that means) because I was still too young. You have to be at least eighteen in order to “officially” diagnose someone with Bipolar Disorder. But that all changed the next year. The summer going into college, I was “officially” diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I was on Lithium for four years.
I have been on Klonopin since I was sixteen, I am now twenty-one. My freshman year of college I was treated for Bipolar Disorder everyday. I was seeing a therapist twice a week and my psychiatrist every four weeks. Then quarantine hit. Like most people, life became even more hard. This was the summer I started having these outbursts, where out of nowhere, I was over stimulated, panicking, and angry. The only way I ever could describe it to anyone was that it felt like I was seeing through my eyes but not there- feeling the need to jump out of my skin. I was told this was what my “manic” looked like. I went back to school in the fall where I was then put on Ritalin, now thinking this factor may be caused by ADD. (Even though you should not be prescribed uppers when Bipolar.) This mixture of medications then made me so beyond antsy it triggered a three month long manic episode where I was dissociating for most of the time. After being taken off that, I started the process of getting off Lithium.
This past year I switched to a new facility for therapy and psychiatry. During this time, I started having brutal night terrors. Living now with my boyfriend, he would wake up telling me that I was screaming in my sleep all night. The night terrors increasingly got worse throughout this past winter. I was put on Guanfacine and Mirtazipine for sleep. Every morning I wake up shivering and sweating at the same time, feeling miserable to the point I would wake up feeling suicidal. I started EDRM therapy, which we thought would surface what was happening in those night terrors. But nothing would clearly come up. By my second semester of college I was riddled with anxiety at all times. I told my doctors it felt like I was back in my high school self, where going simply outside feels so scary. My outbursts were now a weekly occurrence. And with every one, they got worse. I felt nothing but fear, and there was no way of explaining it to anyone. All I knew was that I felt crazy, so it must be true.
I am now twenty-one years old. My most recent therapy session was not normal. My parents were having a session with my doctors. My psychiatrist let them know that he really does not see me as Bipolar. That all of this time, my symptoms were caused from a benzodiazepine addiction. After almost 5 years of being prescribed two milligrams of Klonopin daily, I learned that is the entire reason I am dealing with anything more than anxiety, depression, and anorexia.
I was never Bipolar, I was drugged up so much to the point in which my body physically could not fight any stressors coming my way. It was actually damaging my brain.
Honestly, this happening to me just amplifies Unlabeled’s mission. When being told that their daughter was misdiagnosed, my psychiatrist told my parents that sadly, psychiatrists within the adolescent hospitalizations give out benzodiapines like candy. The same goes for diagnosis of bipolar disorder. As soon as they hear “mood swings” come out of a child’s mouth, they would rather label, medicate, and make children numb. Figuring that the next psychiatrist will be the person to wean this child off this medication, they give it to them, so it immediately fixes the problem. I specifically asked two different psychiatrists to take me off of my Klonopin, and both said I needed it. Now I am here, years later, being the person having to save myself again. I am now just starting the process of getting off of this medication. This can take me months to two years. This should not be happening. My whole point is that not even the people who are in the field to help us truly care about us enough to actually get to the root of the reason my life is not worth living.
There needs to be change. No child should be sent away when suicidal, “troubled teens” should be “teens who need better homes”, and psychiatrists should listen to what their patients say no matter what label is in their mind. I should not have to suffer from an addiction to medicine I was prescribed. But until the whole mental health system changes, we have to keep the conversation going.