Post 12 – Psychiatric Appointment #1

Or should I say, detailed evaluation and categorisation of defective subject. I was under severe scrutiny the moment I walked in the door. A young doctor, bespectacled and curly haired, a know-it-all expression and one of the best in his field, stood before me. I could feel his wiseass eyes on me, searching for clues to pin me down into his neat little tables. Do you always talk this fast?’; ‘did you sleep much this night?’; ‘you are fidgeting and gesticulating a lot’; ‘you seem nervous’. If thoughts were concrete, I’m pretty sure letters of the word HYPOMANIC would be spilling out of his ears.

‘Just like I find it pathetic when people fanatically hold on to their close-minded beliefs, religions and ideals, I find it ridiculous and arrogant when pioneers of a discipline that is still widely uncertain and unexplored, ostensibly portray themselves as prophets of absolute truths.’

If you ask me what purpose this meeting has had in my quest to self-understanding, the answer is, quite frankly, none. All it did was render my parents’ wallet significantly lighter and re-evoke the image of the drone-like, capitalist society slave me: you know, the one I’m trying so hard to be rid off. How important, I ask myself again and again, are diagnostic words such as ‘dissociative state’ and ‘dysthymic’ in helping people get better? Very much so, my smarty pants new doctor friend would say. Fundamental, even, in objectively mapping out what is malfunctioning within people who are mentally unstable.

From a patient and socially interested human being’s perspective, I have three words to say to this: OBJECTIVE MY ASS. There is no such thing as an exclusively objective trait when contrasting individual personalities. What I would have very much liked to ask the doctor today is: how exactly do you know that talking fast is such an evident symptom of mania? You met me for the first time ten minutes ago: is it absurd to think that it may just be part of my personality? Perhaps, seen as we have only one, rather expensive hour together and I have much to say, I would rather not talk slowly for the sole purpose of avoiding your presumptuous judgements.

The evaluative methods you used on me today were so predictable that I, who have never been to medical school or studied psychiatry, knew what the next question was going to be before you even opened your mouth. Not to mention how insulting I found it that you felt entitled to feed me information such as ‘bipolar disorder is a disease which has biological roots’ with such absolute certainty, as if you had the key to understanding all the mysteries of the universe. I myself believe that genetics plays a part in many psychiatric conditions, but if science hasn’t been able to prove it with certainty, who are you to proclaim it with such conviction?

I understand the importance of diagnostic tools in psychiatry, and I am well aware that there is a significant recurrence of particular traits in psychiatric conditions. What I do not understand is the absolute faith that is given to categorisation when dealing with patients, or more generally, with people. It is not just presumptuous, it is downright illogical. Just because someone is diagnosed bipolar and happens to be talking fast, does not directly imply that they are in a hypomanic phase.

There is a fine line between using diagnostic criteria to better understand and deal with individual difficulties, and using said criteria to create a whole new individual on which you can work according to your booklet of conserved knowledge. It is the same reasoning for which, although microeconomic models are used to simplify and understand consumer behaviour, it doesn’t necessarily mean that when applied real life, they lead to accurate results. Reality is more complex than theoretical models. People, social interactions, emotional activity and brain function, which even neuroscience is at its early steps in understanding, are especially more complex.

I am not an expert in the field, although I have done significant personal research regarding the causes of mental illness and the nature-nurture argument. I am however a critical mind who is particularly susceptible when it comes to generalisations and carelessness. And just like I find it pathetic when people fanatically hold on to their close-minded beliefs, religions and ideals, I find it ridiculous and arrogant when pioneers of a discipline that is still widely uncertain and unexplored, ostensibly portray themselves as prophets of absolute truths.

Post #1 – Berlin and Violins

The tube felt like an old abandoned hospital, that chilled and grey afternoon in Berlin, and me and my friend were vibrating with the promise of youth and the residue of unknown places, friendly faces and chemical elation. The little old woman in the bright pink raincoat stopped us dead in our tracks. She was crouched in a corner, her face barely visible beneath the few strands of scruffy grey hair and my breath caught at the surreal notes coming from a little battered up violin in her rusty hands. It overwhelmed me how something so unconcernedly and obnoxiously ugly could bring tears to my eyes and shakes to my chest.

I looked around in that moment, at the people walking briskly by, busy and absorbed in their duties and endeavors, not a single eye blinking in our direction. It was our secret, the pink little lady’s and mine, and in that minute I felt as if we were floating in some cosmic web of truth, which only we understood: all was perfect. An attractive, well-groomed man in his late twenties bumped into me then, a brief apologetic expression on his face and then back to his fast pace and his fast day.

The bliss abruptly gave way to resentment and I pitied him, I pitied humanity, for being so incapable of distraction. Incapable of stumbling upon the beauty and the detail that filled my days with joy. The way the sunlight warms your face on a breezy spring afternoon, a friendly face on your daily commute, a complimentary glance, a sentence in a book that makes you feel less alien to the world. All these viscerally important things seemed so trivial to all the bodies rushing past. My hands tickled with excitement and I was catapulted back into their world: I was completely lost.

That day in Berlin I realized that, regardless of my violent moods and temperaments, of my many disappointments and unsuccessful endeavors and of the constant and invasive confusion in my mind, my life held infinite value. In that brief sequence of events I discovered in myself, and in my ability to perceive all that surrounds me, what will always be my utmost reason to live and thrive in this world.

As mentioned in the ‘about’ section of my website, I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type I, after years of struggling with severe shifts in mood, insomnia, anxiety and psychosis. As a result, I am currently taking a year off my academic career, in a quest to find some balance in the murky warzone that is my mind.

I am starting this blog as a record of this yearly adventure, in order to document the lessons I will hopefully learn through psychotherapy and personal exploration. I have decided to share my thoughts as practice in confessional literature and in the hope that someone may find my words insightful and inspirational in undertaking their own road to self-fulfillment.

This web-site however, is not a handbook on how to cope with a disease: it is an expression of my growth as a human being, and my various attempts to thrive in who I am, and what I have to offer the world. I perceive myself as an occasionally organized chaos of ideas, emotions, moods and beliefs, which may have traits in common with the symptoms of manic-depression, but are also entirely my own and distinct from everyone else, whether they be diagnosed with a psychiatric condition or not.

Some of these sections have been written in moments of profound mania and frenzy, some are creative and some are boring, some are dull and others rather clever. It’s all in here for you to delve into if you please: a partial recording of my ups and downs, my booms and busts, my rational reasoning and my occasional insanity.