Discussions By Condition: Medical Errors

BPD Not Diagnosed Until I Was 36....12 Years After Onset

Posted In: Medical Errors 1 Replies
  • Posted By: RonPrice
  • March 3, 2009
  • 00:57 PM

Since at least 1980 when my illness was given the label BPD, there has been a growing tendency in the mental health professions to interpret everyday emotional suffering and behaviour as a medical condition that can be treated with a particular drug. Hermeneutic phenomenology, a field within both philosophy and sociology, is uniquely suited to challenge the core assumptions of this particular form of the medicalization of BPD, among other psychiatric disorders. Hermeneutical phenomenology can function within psychiatry: (a) to expand psychiatry's narrow conception of the self as an enclosed, biological individual and (b) to assist psychiatry to recognize the ways in which our experience of things--including mental illness--is shaped by the socio-historical situation in which we grow. Informed by hermeneutic phenomenology psychiatry's first priority, so it could be argued, is to suspend the prejudices that come with being a medical doctor in order to hear what the patient is saying. To this end, psychiatry can begin to understand the patient not as a static, material body with a clearly defined brain dysfunction but as an unfolding, situated existence already involved in an irreducibly complex social world, an involvement that allows the patient to experience, feel, and make sense of their emotional suffering.

1.14.2 This increasingly close relationship between the pharmaceutical industry and the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and this sub-field of philosophy and sociology known as hermeneutic phenomenology offers the sufferers of BPD a potentially useful line of inquiry in the future, but it is not a line of inquiry that I investigate in this statement. For my story, my account and my analysis, I see these two directions of inquiry as tangential to the central thrust of both my story and its treatment both in the last and the future.
2. My Experience of Manic-Depression:
Phase One--The First 37 Years 1943 To 1980
(not a mis-diagnosis but a non-diagnosis and a complex diagnosis)

2.1 In the first 37 years of my life I had many episodes of various kinds of emotional imbalance or disorientation, themselves of varying lengths and intensities, ranging from a euphoric, impetuous, expansive or high mood to a depressed, grey, low energy or despondent mood. Indeed the range of mood in these 37 years was much more extreme, but the complete/extreme range was rarely experienced. In these years I learned various self-monitoring skills as well as some self-reinforcing tactics. Sometimes these symptoms affected my day-to-day life severely and negatively, sometimes positively and sometimes the affect was non-existent, insignificant and hardly noticeable.

2.2 After many experiences on the fringe of a normality that was my usual modus operandi or modus vivendi, as it is said in Latin , on the fringe of what I saw as my general everyday experience of life, an experience that is sometimes called the quotidian by writers, poets and novelists, I was diagnosed as a MD in May 1980. I was treated by a psychiatrist while in hospital. I had often been on the fringe of this disorder, as I say above, a borderline zone, a limen as some historians call it, a border territory, a zone between normality and various behavioural extremes and eccentricities from my birth in 1944 to 1980. But in 1980 the symptoms were extreme and required hospitalization. The treatment regime in 1980 was lithium carbonate, an antimanic medication for the treatment and prophylaxis of BPD. Lithium was the first really successful mood stabilizer used by doctors to treat MD, an illness that in the 1990s began to be called BPD. This medication cushioned the effects of extreme depression and hypomania and prevented their effects from striking at my life. The perils of BPD lie in what I did in the midst of hypomanic episodes to deal with: decreased need for sleep, decreased self-control, increased sexual desires, irritability, rage, risk-taking behaviours and, in my 1968 and 1979-80 episodes, schizo-affective or psychotic states; and in the midst of depression periods with moroseness, extreme melancholia and suicidal wishes.
2.3 My history to that point, to 1980, had been far from smooth and linear as my remarks above indicate. Those thirty-six years had often been bisected, polarised and traumatised. As I indicated above I have written a more detailed account of these years elsewhere but this outline, this brief sketch here, of particular episodes and the periods between episodes will suffice. My experience of these highly diverse emotional and psychological swings of mood in everyday experience away form the norm, from my norm, is only part of my story. But it is a crucial part. Everyone has their story for everyone experiences all sorts of abnormal eccentricities and health problems in life, some people of course more than others and some more traumatic and intense than others.
2.4 My account of the years from 1943 to 1980 followsat a later date). I try, in writing about and in summarizing these first 37 years of my life, not to overstate my case, nor to understate it, but give an account of those first 37 years which I refer to here in this general statement as phase one of my bi-polar life. In some ways the inclusion of the names of those doctors who treated me over the years in this first phase and in later phases would personalise this account, but names are not that important and to include them here in this narrative causes confidentiality problems and raises privacy issues for some readers and for people in my own past who might not want to be mentioned. This question of confidentiality and privacy is especially true at some internet sites where posts are rejected if names are included in any posting at the site concerned---and so I leave names out. Those whose names I could mention would not be troubled by their inclusion here, not now, not in 2008 after an extensive destigmatization of the disorder in recent years and after so much of my experience and so many of the people concerned are now, what you might call, ancient history.

2.5 1 I certainly appreciate the medical and clinical work of: (a) several of the doctors I went to in my childhood, adolescence and adulthood, (b) the psychiatrists who have treated me since June of 1968, nearly four decades ago and (c) many family members, friends, colleagues and associations, some known well and others hardly at all, who have helped me ride the waves when the disorder raised its head yet again along the way, the road of life.

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  • I shall post no more unless readers request more.-An Australian
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