The Doctor Said… (My New Not-so-wanted Saga): Misdiagnosis

By Nancy Virden (c)2023

The Doctor Said (My New Not-so-wanted Saga): Introduction

Confusion. That is probably the state in which I would describe myself now. There is peace and joy but there is also uncertainty and indecision. Procrastination would rule the day if I let it.

You see, a few months ago, a psychiatrist said my symptoms were a sign of Bipolar Disorder. My first reaction was doubt and anger. I felt betrayed by therapists and doctors I have met over the past thirty years. Why hadn’t anyone told me this?

It has been a long trek since first seeking professional help for a low mood and uncharacteristic behavior. I was twenty-seven, severely suicidal, had just moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and had suffered in the move the loss of what I thought was my life purpose. My vision was impaired by some mysterious situation doctors could not figure out. (My favorite guess was, “It’s always been this way, you are just noticing it now.”) My marriage was lonely, and relations with my parents were continuously painful as they had been since childhood. Then I found out I was pregnant with my first child.

I wasn’t sure I was ready for a baby although I wanted my child. Jonathan was the highlight of a very rough year. I began to see a psychologist for depression and refused offers of medication (a mistake on my part). Eventually, an eye doctor said to get a cat scan. Following years of no answers and worsening vision, doctors discovered a giant aneurysm behind my left eye. Childbirth and brain surgery later (yes in that order), I was still struggling with major depression.

Fast forward seventeen years. I had not seen a psychiatrist or therapist in all that time. Severe depression and suicidal thoughts came around again following my husband saying he didn’t love me and hadn’t for ten years. By now I had two children ages 16 and 13. The negative and cognitive distortions of depression told me my kids didn’t need me anymore.

A psychiatrist who had not spoken with me guess-diagnosed borderline personality disorder (BPD). A second psychiatrist ordered medication. As I pursued therapeutic help again, carrying the incorrect label of a disorder that few understood, I was treated poorly. One therapist was so very rude I left, no doubt confirming in her mind her mistaken expectations.

Seven years later, a doctor who knew me well said I definitely do not have BPD. I appreciate him clearing that up, but it wasn’t followed by any other clarity except for the agreement that I was majorly depressed. Having moved to the Philadelphia area, still in a murky marriage, leaving my support system far behind, I had attempted suicide in a big way and he and other kind folks were worried. I was introduced to more appropriate medications and five years of rather intense therapy.

I have been living in joy and peace. Back in Ohio, divorced, and now in my sixties, I wonder how a misdiagnosis could have changed the trajectory of my mental health. Would it have made a difference if anyone had recognized bipolar long ago?

There are variants to bipolar disorder and my case is a milder type. The psychiatrist who said I have it also said it takes ten years on average to diagnose because it mirrors other difficulties. “On average” means many of us must wait long periods for a correct diagnosis and treatment.

I’m not angry (or feeling betrayed) so much anymore. What matters now is learning about the disorder and receiving the right treatment. As my understanding grows, I see explanations for some of those uncharacteristic behaviors of my past. It actually relieves me of some guilt and shame.

Confusion is because it is all new to me. A recent physical health report has me nervous too as I wait for a final diagnosis and plan of action.

If you read this blog, you know I believe that God is supreme over all, is good, and can be trusted. I’ve never claimed to be fully relieved of difficult emotions. My faith informs me to keep walking, to not succumb to procrastination or run away and hide despite how tempting. God is with me and will love me through whatever comes.


Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 73:26

My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.

If you are feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, in the U.S. call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988, or for a list of international suicide hotlines, go here.

If you are suicidal with a plan, immediately call 911 in the U.S. or go to your nearest emergency room. In the EU call 112. (For other international emergency numbers, go here ). Hope and help are yours!

Always the Fight Ministries (ATFM) has been displaying compassion for those fighting mental illness, addiction, or abuse since 2012. Nancy is the founder and voice of ATFM and openly shares her emotional resurrection from despair. NOTE: Nancy is not a doctor or a mental health professional, and speaks only from personal experience and observations. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental or behavioral health care.


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