Today I have the privilege of sharing the story of Annalise’s personal struggles with multiple mental illness diagnoses. Her story is a familiar one because she is one of many who was given an initial diagnosis that was later refined because of ongoing symptoms.
I think it’s important to know that mental illness is not a static condition that you identify, treat and eliminate. Mental illness takes on a life of its own, and many times navigating the winding road of symptoms leads to multiple diagnoses. The multiple diagnoses can create a more complete picture of a person’s mental health concerns, so they can have a multifaceted treatment plan tailored to fit their needs.
So, without further ado, let’s meet Annalise, and look at the world of living with multiple mental illness diagnoses through her eyes.
Hi, my name is Annalise, and I am so many things! I am a mother to two kiddos and engaged to their dad. I work in an OB-GYN office during the 9 to 5 shift, then I come home and work on my mental health blog.
I consider myself a writer and an advocate for all things mental health and personal development. My passion comes from my own life experiences with multiple mental illness diagnoses including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. I’m not ashamed to talk about my mental illnesses because I know I am not alone!
I knew I had a problem that needed professional help when I could no longer fake my moods. At my job, they knew me as the happy, funny, and talkative person who got along with everyone.
When I began dealing with depression, I could hide my struggles very well, but once the façade was impossible to keep up, I knew I needed help. My symptoms were very prominent and increasingly difficult to deal with as time went on.
I was teary-eyed all the time, and I specifically remember the time when I had to work extra hard to hold it together. It was a little after 6 a.m., and I was getting clothes out for my resident’s day.
I stood in the closet near tears because I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be home in bed, hiding from the world. This wasn’t a case of “Oh, I don’t want to work today.” This was something much deeper and harder than that. This was a case of “I don’t want to be here at ALL.”
Seeking Professional Help
I lived my life like this for a year-and-a-half before I sought help. Once the façade wore off, and the tears kept rolling down, I asked one of the girls at work who she saw for her primary doctor, and I decided her recommendation would be a good fit for me.
I remember how nervous I was going to the appointment. Knowing I had depression and anxiety differed vastly from actually talking about it.
My new doctor diagnosed me with depression and anxiety that day. I cried in that office while telling her I wanted to end things and wished for the pain to go away. She gave me the biggest hug and prescribed me the medication I still take today.
My reaction to my diagnosis was relief. I already knew I struggled, but to finally open up about it and receive help was like taking the world off my shoulders.
She started me on a low dose of an antidepressant medication and recommended following up in a few weeks to see how the medication was affecting me. We increased the dosage after our second visit to help with the anxiety I was feeling.
The Missing Puzzle Piece
Fast forward to 2020, and I was doing great with my antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication. However, I knew something else was off. I noticed that I was so inconsistent with my moods, and I had a hard time making decisions and finishing things.
I mentioned this to my therapist, and she recommended I see a psychiatrist. I answered a strong yes to each question on a bipolar questionnaire, and that was my official diagnosis.
There were questions about impulsiveness and mood regularity. Each affirmative answer made more and more sense to me and made me feel whole. The entire diagnosis was mind-blowing to me.
I thought I had a mild case of attention deficit disorder (ADD), not an actual mood disorder. But it made SO much sense! A one-hour session and bipolar disorder diagnosis provided the missing puzzle pieces of my life.
I went to work after my appointment and called my fiancé when I got there. I needed to be still for when I told him the news. While on the phone with him, I cried so hard, but I wasn’t crying tears of sadness. I was crying tears of RELIEF. I was so relieved that receiving one diagnosis made my entire life come full circle.
Annalise’s Treatment Plan
Today my treatment plan for my multiple diagnoses includes three different medications that I take every morning: an antidepressant, an anti-anxiety medication, and an antipsychotic medication. I also go to therapy once every two to three weeks, and I really enjoy it.
I consider my blog part of my treatment plan because writing about mental health has become very therapeutic for me in the last seven months.
Annalise’s Life Today
As transparent and as strong as I appear regarding my mental health, I find it awfully hard to live with mental illness. It consumes my entire being, and I often must check myself and my mental state. There are days where I want to stay in bed all day because getting up seems so hard and useless.
My behavior always has me worried because I dislike the manic episodes that come with having bipolar disorder. What if I act too hyper and make rash decisions again? It worries me a lot, and I spend a lot of time self-reflecting.
But I have my good days too, when I feel more in control of what is going on inside my head. It was actually after a couple weeks of taking antipsychotic medication that I started my blog. The side effect of insomnia turned out to be a blessing!
What You Should Know
When it comes to people being aware of mental illness, I need them to know one thing and one thing only: Do not let a smile fool you. A smile is a trick to fool the world into thinking we are okay, but deep down we are struggling HARD.
Please do not assign special meaning to a smile. I’ve had someone dismiss my depression diagnosis because I am a person who smiles a lot. That still bothers me.
I also want people to know we are not faking it. We are not being dramatic or lazy. We are not full of excuses to get out of doing things. We are fighting REAL illnesses that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
What I love about Annalise’s story is her honesty about the day-to-day struggles of living with mental illness, especially when you have multiple diagnoses. Although being medicine compliant is crucial, taking three pills every day doesn’t erase the invisible struggle of mental illness.
Even with the right medication and therapies in place, there are still days when mental illness wins, and you want to crawl back into your bed and cover your head with the blankets.
The good news is that with the proper treatment for mental illness, there are more good days than bad, and you can learn coping mechanisms that create a better quality of life.
For more information on anxiety disorders, read the National Institute of Mental Health’s helpful article.
For more information on depression, read the National Institute of Mental Health’s helpful article.
For more information on bipolar disorder, read the National Institute of Mental Health’s informative article.
Check out my comprehensive blog post about bipolar disorder and the blog posts I have written about many of the symptoms of bipolar disorder, including mania, depression, intrusive thoughts, and psychosis.
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