That one time I was misdiagnosed and never fully recovered
I haven’t written in a while. It not that I haven’t wanted to write, but I just haven’t had the motivation or the inspiration. I realized, maybe a little too late, that it wasn’t that I didn’t have the ability to write, but there was something really wrong with my brain. I’m on the road to recovery now, but I want to share the journey I’ve been on for the last 7 years.
Fall Semester 2013:
I began a job as a Resident Assistant for BYU’s Helaman Halls. I had declared a major (Pre-Acting) and I knew what I wanted to do with my life (actress/singer). This was my first time living on my own and I was excited! I had so much going for me and I was enjoying the college experience. I was excited about the chance to mentor 18 or so girls that were just starting their own college career.
That job required a class twice a week where we learned different strategies for working with our residents. We learned how to improve their experience, to keep them safe, and we learned how to be aware of their emotional wellbeing, so we could help them succeed and mediate their conflicts. The RAs were privileged enough to have a licensed therapist on-hand to help us know how to address our residents’ struggles, and cope with the strain those struggles put on us. Our Hall Advisors encouraged us to use the therapist often.
It was my own Hall Advisor who first noticed the signs of my anxiety. She urged me to go to the counselling center for my own benefit, but I didn’t listen until after my time as a Resident Assistant was over. I should have listened then.
Winter Semester 2014:
I had received my first ever C in a class, got incorrectly diagnosed with PCOS, started birth control for PCOS, gained 40lbs, broke down in front of classmates, cried with a professor while asking her if I could “make it” (she said it didn’t seem like I wanted it. She was right.), changed my major, and became slightly in-active in church. The day I was moving out of the dorms was the day that my grandmother tried to evict my parents from their own home.
Fall Semester 2014:
I decided I needed to do something about my acne. The birth control wasn’t working for my periods or for my acne and I was gaining more weight, even though my activity level was high. They put me on more hormones. Then they took me off of the birth control meds and off the hormones, and onto an antibiotic that had a bad side effect; my optic nerves became swollen and I couldn’t see. I started a position as a Teaching Assistant for Intro to Theatre. I enjoyed going to church again.
Winter Semester 2015:
Finally, I found a doctor who told me I didn’t have PCOS. She said that my irregular periods were likely from stress. She had me fill out a form, then talked to me about Anxiety. Then I started on a mild dose of antidepressants. I dropped classes after the withdraw deadline because I couldn’t keep up with my classes. I kept up with my T.A. duties, even though I couldn’t get paid because I wasn’t an active student. I didn’t want to let my students down. I was able to keep up with church callings.
Fall Semester 2015:
I came back after a summer, thinking I had been refreshed. I decided to not have a job during this year, because I’d be reporting for The Daily Universe. I had my first official panic attack and tried a different antidepressant. I gained more weight. I went to church every Sunday.
Winter Semester 2016:
I started struggling with anxiety more than I had before. I didn’t want to be around people very often and I had to force myself to go to church. Some Sundays I only went if my roommate was with me. I loved my congregation, but activity was draining. I was behind in my course work. I was officially diagnosed with Anxiety and Depression. I had some issues with my roommates that I didn’t handle appropriately.
Spring/ Summer Term 2016:
I had a very gracious mentor who allowed me to make up work I had missed. I didn’t have classes, but I had time in The Daily Universe newsroom. I had a fun job as a scheduling secretary for the Harris Fine Arts Building, but I left that job to work for the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences as a writer. I took a spontaneous road trip with my new coworkers whom I barely knew and it was the happiest I had been in a while. I still struggled with motivation. I got into a car accident and was diagnosed with PTSD. I was asked to leave my job with CPMS because they felt it was “too much” for me. I hit lows I didn’t know I had. I became inactive in church.
Fall Semester 2016 / Winter Semester 2017:
I have a memory gap. I know I died my hair black at the end of summer and that I had some good moments, but I don’t remember most of these semesters. I feel really weird about this.
Fall Semester 2017:
My last semester at BYU. I pushed myself to finish, barely graduating. My capstone project was supposed to be epic, but not an epic failure. I was diagnosed as Manic-Depressive and referred to a psychiatrist. By this time I had been on nearly every form of anti-depressant. No one explained what Manic-Depressive meant. I thought it was just Anxiety and Depression in a tidy hyphenated package. The psychiatrist put me on the highest dosage possible of an antidepressant and put me on numerous mood stabilizers until I was taking 5 different medications and drinking energy drinks daily because the medications made me more tired. The worst side effect I had was a false-positive for breast cancer.
I came home to live with my parents. I stopped all of the medications except the antidepressant. Eventually, I tapered myself off of it, since it wasn’t helping me. I had outbursts and panic attacks daily. By the end of 2018, I was back on another antidepressant. I was basically inactive in church, once again.
In January, I hit my heaviest weight. I weighed nearly 300lbs and I wasn’t getting enough help from the medication to warrant my increasing weight. Any good effects of the medication was negated by the crushing mental weight of my physical weight. I took myself off of the medication. By August, I started seeing weight loss for the first time since starting anxiety medication. I moved my church records to my parent’s ward so that I could go with my mom and not feel so alone or anxious.
Ah, finally, here we are in this year! (Are you still with me?) I was doing okay for a bit, but then this little thing called a pandemic hit. All of my anxieties were heightened. I finally decided to go through my boxes of paper from school. I found my medical records and I decided I needed to Google that little phrase. It turns out that Manic-Depressive is an old term for Bipolar Disorder.
It was like someone turned on the light in a dark corridor! The endless cries and prayers finally had an answer. All of my symptoms corresponded to the symptoms of Bipolar Disorder.
And this brings us to today. I found a psychiatrist who specializes in Bipolar Disorder. She told me we were going to start from scratch to figure out the best treatment plan for me. She listened when I told her my concerns about my weight and my concerns about the medications I had been on. She told me that none of my former doctors had given me the right types of medication.
So, here I sit, 3 weeks into taking medication that actually works. I can think clearly. I’m motivated, I’m happy, and I want to be around people! (Would this pandemic PLEASE end??) I’m not totally better and I still have a long road to go down, but I can see the road and I can see the destination. I have hope for the first time in a very long time. I feel the Holy Ghost more often. I don’t need caffeine every day. And I smile. A lot.
I’m on the path to recovery. I’m at the beginning of a long journey, but I’ve made it so far already.
I do have regrets about my college experience. I wish I didn’t have to live with letting down some of my favorite professors and mentors because I wasn’t taking care of my mental health like I so desperately needed. But I know that I can do better now. I can become the woman they saw in me. I still have the potential for greatness.
If you made it with me through the end of this long post, thank you. I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
Wowza. I can’t begin to imagine what you e been through in these past years.
I’m so glad that you found a psychiatrist who has been able to find some relief for you!
Thanks for sharing your story.
Savannah M. Hawkins
Thank you, Logan! I appreciate your kind comment.