Sketchy Diagnosis

Labels are useful. To a point. I’ve struggled to get a “proper” diagnosis, and I’ve worn a few. I’ve even been denied the right to one.

What do I mean by that? In short: my behavior was abhorrent enough to be told I couldn’t hide behind the excuse of Bipolar, and I was instead labelled histrionic, possibly borderline and just generally childish.

I won’t deny my episodes were so random and strange it was nigh on impossible to pin me down to something absolute. What was once depression and psychosis later became possible Bipolar I with generalized anxiety, then later schizoaffective disorder, with a mania component. And this was after a nice detour past borderline personality, which was only decided within a week-long admission and subsequently thrown out, because no one is diagnosed with this after one week of observation. I’ve even had the possibility of Bipolar II floated past me. Almost all the colors of the horrible rainbow we call mental illness. Not a pretty picture.

I’m also a chronic insomniac and a stress junkie. This can add up to all manner of outcomes, but for me, if this is the norm for too long, I end up having a psychotic break.

So, when you’re scratching your head, digging around and desperate for a diagnosis, sometimes you’re better off forgetting about it and focusing on the task at hand, which is dealing with it. I’ve been on a well-known antipsychotic, Seroquel, for maybe a decade. I feel like I’m on the right dose, I’ve stayed out of a facility for about four years, the odd brush with a random episode occurring now and then. But I’ve had to be realistic and stop pretending I’m an unbreakable machine. I can’t work full-time, I can’t stop taking my meds and I can’t afford to spend inordinate amounts of time in a high-stress situation.

People think I’m out of the woods and in a sense I am, but in reality, I’m about two missed doses of medication away from losing it. I track the edge of the woods some days. And even when I am medicated, I can still have fits of anxiety or depression that warrant a day of immobility and self-preservation. I’m cruellest to myself though I’ve toughened up a lot to get here. I’ve stopped compromising my health and I’m better off for it, I’m better equipped to deal with it. I’ve been praised for having a succinct understanding of myself, even without a formal diagnosis. I have a more understanding physician who takes my illness seriously and has given me access to better treatment. I don’t feel like I’m fighting a losing battle. I’ve fought it through COVID, I’ll fight it through whatever else lies ahead.

So, if you’re struggling with your health in any capacity and don’t have a name for it, don’t panic. I have a firmer diagnosis, Bipolar Disorder. I’ve had to explain the difference between a psychotic person and a psychopath. I’ve had to educate myself and others, including my own family. And yes, I’m still bitter about my mislabeling as much as I am bitter about being forcibly detained and denied discharge only to be told I’m being a child. But I’ve put a lot of work into beating my condition, and this is all without the aid of a label.

Look after yourself. Don’t discredit your condition, regardless of what it is. And don’t feel you have to lie to anyone about how you feel. Sometimes it’s better to say, “I’ve been better.” You’d be surprised how many people are thinking the same, even if they’re not, by definition, mentally ill.


Lyn Hamlett is a long-term writer of various genres, including drama and horror. Left to with very little to do growing up in the small coastal town of Australind, she began writing at eleven, scribbling many stories and sneakily writing in the back of her notebooks in school. Admonished by her teachers for daydreaming in class, she vowed to prove this would one day pay off by becoming a published author.