I have so much psychobabble language ingrained in my mind and internalized in my gut. What do I call these symptoms and states? It has been 366 days since that last doctor’s appointment. I went in for a consultation only to hear a professional tell me lie after lie about the mechanisms and treatments of mood and anxiety disorders. I left in tears, in disappointment, and with clarity: I am leaving the paradigm.
That’s how I’ve considered it in my head in the last 12 months: I’m leaving the paradigm. Do I have a history of severe mental illness? By anyone’s view–in any framework– yes. Do I have some ongoing struggles with emotional regulation, reactivity, and fears of abandonment? Yes. Do I have a trauma history? It’s complicated–but yes. Do I struggle with anxiety? Yes– sometimes to a debilitating degree. Have I experienced states of altered consciousness? Yes.
I left the paradigm of psychiatry. I did not tell anyone, at first; it was a highly personal decision. After a few months, the truth worked its way out to my family. They remained curious to my decision, and I shared with them the resources I had been gathering, the information I had been learning, my intuition that I was, at least for right now, doing what was best for me. My family agreed and I have their full support to proceed with self-care without psychotropic medication.
So I began to focus on learning myself: What are my cycles of energy? How do these cycles present during a day, a week, a month, a season? What are my sleep patterns? How do my hormonal cycles impact my mood and energy? What events and situations seem to trigger the most severe of anxiety storms? Where in my body do I sense the energy?
I have tracked these cycles for over a year on a little calendar. It is informative and has helped me learn to regulate myself a bit more. Still, I have trouble sensing the difference between emotional and physical states. And often, my desire for specificity and certainty is hindered by my confusion over how to describe how I feel.
I crave precise language to express what’s going on. Usually, ‘high energy’ or ‘low energy’ or ‘dysregulated’ or ‘in a spinnny place [spinning my mental wheels]’ helps. Sometimes, ‘interpersonal anxiety’ or ‘self-esteem attack’ is helpful. ‘Tired’ is key– and knowing that ‘tired’ does not mean the same thing as ‘depressed’ even though fatigue and depression feel very similar. Then there’s ‘adrenaline rush’ and ‘excitement’ and ‘fear’ and sometimes– yes–sometimes ‘hypomnia’ seems appropriate.
And then I pause. Hypomania? Mania? Yes, I have had experiences that have been labeled as such in the past. I have had experiences and states of consciousness that can be described with the words ‘mania,’ ‘hallucination,’ ‘agitated depression,’ ‘mixed episode,’ and ‘bipolar disorder.’ I felt stuck in the pattern of pathologizing my emotions and energy, one of the many reasons I walked away from psychiatry and away from diagnostic labels.
I don’t need to know what to call it to know how to take care of myself.
But sometimes the lack of language is painful because I don’t know what to call what’s going on, and if I don’t know what to call it, then I can’t pin it down and attribute “it” to anything. If I don’t know what to call it, I must let go of perfectionism, let go of answer-seeking, and go with the flow of life. And accept that my energy flow is sometimes erratic and can become dangerous to my health.
Science does not hold all the answers — emotions and energy are not best described by western science. Human life is so much more than that. Psychiatry has it all wrong. And I’m not saying that there’s absolutely no role for psychiatry in treatment– and that my experiences should dictate other people’s– but what I am saying is that for me, at this moment, psychiatry caused more harm than good. Psychiatry cased trauma in my life. Psychiatry begets psychiatry is the iatrogenic mental illness sweeping our nation.
And at the same time… it’s after 4:30 in the morning, my mind is going too fast, I know I need to sleep but I’m having trouble doing so (and yes, turning on my computer to write is not in a sleep hygiene manual…). It’s after 4:30 in the morning and goddamn it insomnia.