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What Do I Have?

by Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

It’s probably wise to start with my child hood traumatic events since they most likely are the reason for my problems. I grew up the disappointing son of a Harvard divinity graduate mother and MIT entrepeneur-award-winning graduate father (who by the way, I could never fullfill the expectations of) and became the firstborn son of an extremely overprotective family. I grew up taking the brunt of many things: the heavy expectations to succeed, my fathers verbal and physical abuse (I remember only bits and pieces of just a small percentage), the troublesome spot as the family scapegoat, and the extreme overprotective handholding that kept me from leaving the house almost entirely until i was around 15. That all started to loosen up around then, but while my younger brothers got that slack, i was sent to an array of residential treatment centers. The reasons for getting sent away were vague and/or exaggerated accounts of radical behavior, but none the less i spent two and a half years as a private funded resident of two level 14 lockdowns, a group home, and a wilderness program, before finally graduating high school. In that time, my small amount of anxiety related problems have grown to an array of a lot of obsessive thoughts, panic and anxiety attacks, severe detatchment/derealization/depersonalization (I currently have not felt an emotion other than an occasional anxiousness for 3 weeks straight), agitation when the topic of my past treatment or other psychological aspects of my past comes up, and other symptoms like insomnia, headaches, weakness, tremors, dizzyness and more. I have been on lithium for 8 years and concerta and risperadol for around a few months and i doubt any of them are helping. I can already reasonably diagnose myself with panic disorder/agoraphobia but I am still in question about whether I fit into a diagnosis like acute stress disorder or PTSD. I have previously been diagnosed with depression, manic depression, agitated-manic bipolar, ADHD, aspergers, and probably a few more, but i am sure all of that has to do with the confusion in my own mind conveyed wrong to the therapists, and I hope to define a clear diagnosis once and for all. Thank you for listening to my painful speech, please help me piece together this puzzle.

It is difficult to give you a diagnosis. It is possible that you have PTSD. PTSD generally occurs after a trauma. Your negative experiences with mental health facilities have caused you great distress and may explain some of your symptoms.

In addition to PTSD you may also have a general anxiety disorder. Again it is difficult for me to know with certainty what your diagnosis is. The best way to know your specific diagnosis is to have a complete psychiatric evaluation. Even then it may be difficult to gain a specific diagnosis, at least in part because you are taking multiple medications. Medication, for some individuals, blunts their emotions and sometimes makes it difficult for them to feel. Medication may also explain why you feel a sense of detachment/derealization/depersonalization.

It must have been difficult for you to have experienced what you have. You may not have any specific diagnoses. You may simply be reacting to your difficult life experiences. You began your letter by describing yourself as the scapegoat in your family. You believe that you have disappointed your parents. I get the sense that you “never felt good enough.” The negative feelings you have about yourself most likely contribute to your everyday suffering. Therapy could assist you in sorting out your feelings as well as to help you examine the truth about your place in the family. You may feel as though you failed your parents but that may not be the case. Just because we feel that something is true does not mean that it is. The way you feel about yourself and your place in the family is something that should be examined objectively.

You’ve been sent to various facilities by your family. Maybe the problem isn’t you per se. Maybe it’s the family who needs to learn a new style of interaction. Family therapy may be helpful with this.

If you’re willing you should also consider individual therapy, in addition to family therapy. You may have had individual therapy in the past and it may or may not have been helpful. Even if you have had prior individual counseling I still believe it could help you now, especially if you had a very good therapist.

I’m sorry that I cannot offer you any definitive answers. It is always difficult to give a diagnosis over the Internet. I hope you’re able to find help so you can finally put together the “missing pieces” of your life’s puzzle. Don’t give up. Here is a link to a website you can review and find local therapists. Thank you for writing.

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