I actually began thinking about this yesterday, after reading something by our newest blogger, James Claims. His post, Comorbid Migraines and Other Health Issues, as well as the comments it generated, started me writing in my head. Then I read another post by our ManicMuses, Abilify and Agoraphobia?, and since I couldn’t sleep for the thoughts doing a tumbling routine in my mind, I decided I should write it all out and share it with you (you’re welcome).
In James‘ post he mentioned migraines specifically. In ManicMuses‘ she spoke more about anxiety disorders. The comments on the former brought up the chicken and egg debate, what causes what. That’s a great deal of the reason I wanted to write this post, because while I cannot definitively tell you what brought about what in me, with two notable exceptions, I can tell you which came first, second, and so on. I think this is a great deal more than most people with comorbid psychiatric conditions can do.
As to comorbid, Merriam-Webster’s Medical Dictionary defines it as “existing simultaneously with and usually independently of another medical condition” (italics are mine). I emphasize this point because it fits me well, and also because the word is often understood incorrectly.
So a brief history of me. I would be the Alphabet Soup in the title of this post. First came the generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). I can tell you a specific primary cause for this one. When I was quite young and growing up in Pittsburgh, PA, my mother would often cry out melodramatically, “I’m going to jump off a bridge!” when my sister and I drove her crazy. Now, my mom and I have always been quite close, and growing up in the city with the greatest number of bridges in the world, this seemed like a real and valid threat. But considering my sister never developed a disorder because of this – well, maybe I was overstating things a bit by calling it a specific primary cause. But it certainly took a seed within me and gave it amazingly fertile conditions in which to bloom.
Childhood was also when an extremely mild case of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), sub-clinical but present, first showed itself. It got considerably worse later in life, but I’m attempting to keep things chronological.
And of course there were the headaches. Were they migraines back then? I can’t really tell you. My mother remembers (as I do) that I had terrible headaches even as a very small child, but generally the pediatrician does not diagnose migraines, not as such, in a four-year-old. They continued and were formally diagnosed as “common migraines” (I’ll spare you the details between common versus complex migraines) in my teen years. But they definitely established themselves long before I had any symptoms of manic-depression.
The manic-depression (for purposes of the Alphabet Soup reference, the clinical shorthand for bipolar disorder is BD) preceded my first episodes of panic disorder (PD) by months at most. I did not have signs of pediatric onset bipolar disorder, as so many people feel they did. That smacked me upside the head probably around 13, although I didn’t seek help or receive a formal diagnosis for more than a decade.
Impulse control disorder (ICD) flourished during that time, and I still don’t have a firm grip on that one. It has been well established that much of what I did impulsively was not a result of mania, and the behaviors certainly meet the criteria for ICD, though not the severe type that manifests as pyromania or kleptomania. Mostly I shopped. I still do.
The most recent lodger at the inn (or in the can) is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). I can tell you exactly what caused that. I was coerced and manipulated into electroconvulsive therapy when I was at my most weak and vulnerable. So while the manic-depression may have led to the PTSD – if I had never sought psychiatric help I never would have had my trust violated and abused in such a profound way (because that’s what caused the PTSD, the ECT just exacerbated it) – it was in a very roundabout fashion, and it certainly did not cause it.
It’s interesting to me, because one of the comments on James‘ post was from our own lovely Lulu, who asked me if I ever get sick of being labeled. Probably I used to, at first, but now I take the diagnostic labels for what they’re worth. They give me a direction for management of the various conditions. That’s all. They don’t stick to me, nor do they define me in any way.
I hope you all had a lovely meal at Ruby’s Diner. Specializing in psychological, psychiatric, and somatic disorders since. . . Oh no. You’re not getting my age from me. 😉
© Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
Yeah, I’m small potatoes compared to that.
I’ve mentioned my family. Yeah, you can see the all kinds of bad that come from that. Anyway, I find it incredibly odd that my brother, who has been diagnosed with autism, and me both hoard office suppiles. And we both keep a chronical of our lives in a way. His is just an abscure form of journaling.
Anyway, I think, for me, it was genetic on both sides of my family. Both the BP and GAD. One doctor asserted that the medications are the reasons for anxiety. My current doctor feels that by resolving the constant mood fluctuation, we unearthed the GAD.
I can remember being an anxious child. But I always thought it because my mother was neurotic and overprotective. When I turned 13 or 14, I became the girl without fear. I just let go of everything.
It’s pretty easy to let go when there was nothing of value to hang onto in the first place.
The anxiety didn’t start re-emerging in it’s fullest until I was pregnant with my son. “From today, until the end of time, you will be someone’s mother.” Heavy.
Really, I was born this way. It was the chicken who laid this egg that grew into another similar chicken who possibly laid another similar egg.
Whereas I have no history of any mood disorder on either side of my family, nor of anything else. We’ve looked and we’ve looked, and we don’t even have a great aunt who had “spells” or anything. And my nose proves to me that I was not adopted (other things prove that I was not the diaper service man’s baby).
An additional oddity is that I have no familial history of migraine that I am aware of, another condition that usually has a genetic link.
But, hey, I’ve been confounding doctors and therapists for years. Perhaps it’s time to have a word with the geneticists as well. 😉
Oh, and I forgot to mention. I always question doctors. Does having extreme anxiety attacks where I disassociate mean I have panic disorder? Yes, I have severe claustraphobia, but does having a phobia qualify? I just felt it was lacking and that he may have been getting slap happy with diagnosis. What’s next?
Just try not to associate so closely with the diagnosis. It’s a piece of the puzzle that forms the beautiful image which is Lulu, the difference being that with traditional jigsaw puzzles, all pieces are the same size, and the pieces that make up you – the being a mother piece dwarfs any diagnostic piece, for example.
Especially try to remember that what is written in the chart doesn’t matter, as long as the treatment is effective for you. And if there’s a “next,” you’ll deal with it next. Now you deal with now.
Oh, Ruby, you do so amuse me with your clever wordplay. 😉
I remember something else you used to do as a child, symptomatic of GAD. Do you remember your pillow, and all of the things you had stuffed in the case? Do you remember why, and the other details surrounding your sleeping habits?
Perhaps anxiety caused your initial insomniac tendencies, which then became so deeply embedded that they became part of your persona, as opposed to a disorder. I don’t know, I can’t seem to remember back that far. Ask your mom about the sleep thing. And tell her hi from me.