A psychiatrist wanting to re-evaluate your mental health diagnosis can be daunting. Sarah Bailey explores the prospect of a changed diagnosis.
After my primary support nurse retired many years ago, I tried to manage my mental health outside the healthcare system. In other words, I attempted to cope with my mental health issues alone. That changed when my dog Sally passed away as everything started going downhill.
Around the same time, I moved house and started going to a different mental health centre. I saw a new doctor who spoke to me about trying different types of therapy. It was an informal meeting, and it wasn’t followed up for many months to come.
As it turned out, my follow-up appointment was with a doctor who knew me. We'd met before during my time in the day hospital system, and they were one of my previous psychiatrists. We were both quite surprised!
It was at this point that it got interesting.
The doctor couldn't access my old notes as they were all handwritten. So, while he recognised me, he had no access to my diagnosis and previous treatments. In light of this, he suggested that it would be an excellent time to reassess my diagnosis. After all, it was quite possible that my condition had changed with the passing of so many years. Or, I might now have another mental health condition alongside those already diagnosed.
I was never privy to how my original diagnosis was decided. In fact, it took a lot of begging from my side to even be told what it was. The idea that I could receive a completely different diagnosis never crossed my mind.
Since then, the thought that I might have a different mental health condition has left me in limbo. While waiting for an answer, I'm working through this uncertain situation's good and bad points.
A re-diagnosis: the good
It’s often said that it’s best to start with the good news. I have found several things to be optimistic about with my re-diagnosis process.
As I said before, I was never privy to how my diagnosis was decided, but this time I feel much more like part of the process. The fact that I was told I was being re-diagnosed made me feel involved.
I was also given a questionnaire to fill out in my own words, explaining how I find life and the world around me. I find it hard to speak aloud about what is happening inside, so this process suited me more than talking.
The questionnaire allowed me to go back to my childhood and talk about what I remember from that time. It included everything from believing my peers implanted things in my brain to read my mind to a bullying teacher who targeted me due to my dyslexia. Her behaviour had the knock-on effect of allowing my peers to feel they could treat me in similar ways.
Working on my re-diagnosis with the doctors, I saw how much these events affected my mental health.
Most importantly, the outcome will give me a more precise overview of my mental health. I'm looking forward to accessing the proper services, therapy and medication to help me manage my condition.
The middle ground
Certain parts of the re-diagnosis process have been both positive and negative. For example, even though I understand the reason, I'm uncomfortable with them asking my family about me without my presence.
I know this will help them better understand me and my situation. Still, I admit the thought of people "talking about me behind my back" triggers my anxiety. I guess that is one of the downsides of the condition, though. You can try and reason with it as much as possible, but that doesn’t make it go away. It’s just something I must learn to live with.
And, finally, the bad
The hardest part of this process is the idea that my diagnosis could have been wrong all these years.
If I am diagnosed with something different, does that make me someone else?
Of course, the answer is no – I am still Sarah. My original diagnosis was treatable. That doesn't mean that I never suffered from it, but more that I learned to manage it. Thankfully, I no longer display the symptoms or fully fit the criteria.
I still have issues with my identity. There is a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that asks: "But who are you if they change your diagnosis? Who have you been all those years?”
While a re-diagnosis may cast uncertainty on my past and future, it's beneficial. Everyone evolves, and as we change, our needs change.
Once the process is complete, I will have more insight into my condition, allowing me to get the help I need. This is something I need to hold onto through this process. This process is not designed to erase my past but to help me grow. Please keep this in mind if you're going through a similar situation now.
NPS-IE-NP-00640 November 2022