Am I Going Insane?
November 26, 2012 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Considering seeing a psychiatrist for a personality disorder evaluation. Should I go now or wait for some time to pass? Details inside

Hello, MeFites!
I'm currently 17, nearing 18, and I'm about to graduate highschool with both an AA degree as well as a high school diploma (perks of dual credit highschools :D ), meaning that I'm legally a minor. Despite being what people call "smart", I've actually been through a lot of crap. Sorry for the resulting wall of text, but a short summary is at the very bottom.

Where to start with this, I do not know, so I guess I'll start with family.
I have 3 other siblings, all younger than me. I'm the oldest, and my parents had me when they were in high school, so you could say that I was unplanned (but not unwanted!). Because I was born so early, my parents had to dedicate most of their time working and spent little time with me. Skip several years into the future, dad and mom make decent money now, but the health insurance comes from mom's workplace. I'm a very solitary person, and tend to keep to myself, though I am not shy; I like to have fun every once in a while :D. Often my solitary and private life causes me to create harmless lies that keep me more interesting than I really am.

Moving on to romance:
I was in a relationship with this girl I really liked, and she had borderline personality disorder, making it hard for her to be with me. Her mom was a psychologist, and she eventually moved to a different state in the attempts to access better treatment for her disorder. We kept in touch for a long time, and suddenly she stopped. I got a written letter for her, which ended up being a suicide note. Not going to delve deep into this, since it brings up a lot of stuff, but the letter specifically stated that treatment wasn't helping and that our separation made things worse. After this I suffered "hidden depression", as in during daytime I would be mostly fine, having fun and everything, dealing with death pretty well (I have a unique perspective on life), but at night, I would be utterly alone and would sometimes cry myself to sleep. It was just the lack of affection that got to me (parents didn't do much to help as they thought I had gotten through with it). As time passed, I managed to grieve successfully, and I no longer cry myself to sleep except on those days where I am truly experiencing sadness. I'd had a lot of other relationships to attempt to replace the emptiness I felt sometimes, but they rarely lasted past a month due to my awkwardness and my tendency to try and "replace" my first. I'm working on removing this habit, and it's working.

Moving on to the reason why I am considering going to get help:
Recently the past year or so, I've been really emotionally weird. I don't know how to explain it. I don't get angry, and I'm often understanding. People have told me that I have a very hard outer shell, which is true to an extent. However, sometimes when someone annoys me, I explode. Like a burst of anger. I don't know why. I'm not bottling anything up, I just do. I think that there's some sort of feeling that is being triggered that results in this, but I'm not sure. And right after the burst I feel happy as hell. It's gotten so bad that I once flipped a table at someone at the mall for something so trivial (he played a harmless prank by moving my drink around) and I also threw a cue ball at someone (he and I are good friends now, don't worry). So I get angry sometimes, but at stupid stuff. The thoughts are scary though. Like these thoughts are thoughts of an apathetic homicidal man. Thankfully, I haven't hurt anyone too bad that they required medical help.

I don't just get angry, I also experience a severe mood swing every now and then. I wake up feeling fine and happy, and as the day progresses, I suddenly turn solemn and start to think depressingly. I can feel the heaviness in my chest at this point, and as I'm contemplating my future death and suicide in regards to different cultures, I suddenly perk up and I'm laughing again. I know teens get mood swings, but is something like this normal?

I've also cut myself for several reasons, and sometimes I just do for no reason. Sometimes I cut when I have this depressed feeling, other times I cut to try and increase my tolerance to the pain, and other times I find myself already done with the process with no idea why I did it. Depression is one thing, but self-injury? Scary stuff.

I want to visit a psychiatrist, as I believe that I'm trying to emulate my first girlfriend's life the way she lived it as well as live my own life. But I also believe that I managed to develop some sort of disorder (I'm hoping not) due to the circumstances that I experienced. My parents come from a culture where mental disorders are looked down upon, so when I talk to them they always think that I'm just going through a "phase", which has its limits in my opinion. Due to this reason, I'm kind of unwilling to see a psychiatrist now (since I'm a minor, and parents still hold some rights over me). Money isn't an issue since I've been keeping a bank account and working to fill it up (parents know of my decision to want to become financially responsible and independent).

I want to see a psychiatrist because I believe that I have a problem with me. Why? Because:
1. My first GF committed suicide after suffering from BPD, causing me to grieve for quite a while.
2. I get angry outbursts at rare occasions over stupid things, and immediately become happy in literally five minutes or less.
3. I used to become really depressed at night, though this is no longer a problem.
4. I sometimes get these major mood swings that turn me from happy to sad to happy that last from ten minutes to several hours.
5. I have problems, but I am trying to determine whether I should go now as a minor or wait a few months so that I can no longer be a minor (but I'd have to pay for this myself).
6. My parents don't offer much psychological help. I feel like an alien talking to them and I don't have that father-son/mother-son bond that other people seem to have. I hardly talk to them, and they hardly talk to me.
7. I am a very social person, but I can suffer from nervousness in social settings by myself, i.e. when friends are around, party comes to me, but when nobody is around, I become very anxious and nervous.

So, MeFites, your opinions are welcome, as well as your concerns. Any questions that you think will help me make the decision of when and should I go get help can be asked here.

*Note: A lot of older folks say that teens go through a "teen phase", and I certainly agree that this happens to people, but I also question if all of this is in my head, and that I'm going through the phase now, since I am very young. I'm very mature though for my age, as per the opinions of many people I collaborate with.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have any reason you wouldn't get treatment? You yourself say you are suffering, so why wait getting the help you need? If your parents are not supportive of helping you find treatment, maybe start by talking to a counselor at your school.

But being aware that you are exhibiting unheathly behaviors and feelings is the first step, so you are on your way to getting better. Good luck.
posted by greta simone at 5:43 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

GO. This is not normal "teen phase" stuff. You're parents aren't being helpful, and honestly, some of that's pretty heavy stuff for anyone, let alone someone young. Why wait any longer? The sooner you go, the sooner you'll start to feel BETTER. =) Good luck!
posted by jrobin276 at 5:44 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

do your parents know that you're cutting yourself? if not, tell them, and show them the evidence if they don't believe you. as a former cutter who wasn't really sure whether she was depressed or not and whether there was a problem not, there was and there is.

good for you for asking for help from us. but i agree with greta simone, if your parents won't help, talk to a counselor at school or another adult you trust. yes, counseling -- now -- would be a very good idea.
posted by woodvine at 5:44 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

And no, you aren't 'insane'. You're just having to deal with painful and unfamiliar things right now and you need to find a good support system.
posted by greta simone at 5:44 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]

Also, could you message a mod with your location so we could offer you some local resources? And a throwaway email could be helpful if anyone wants to share information privately.
posted by greta simone at 5:47 PM on November 26, 2012

It is very wise of you to seek a meeting with a psychiatrist (or therapist). Mood swings are very common in teenagers, but the anger outbursts and self-injury that you describe are not typical. Please talk to an adult in your life - your parents, a trusted teacher, a counselor at school, a religious leader - there are probably many resources. I agree that if you update with your (general) location, we can probably find some resources for you.

This is not all in your head, and you should not wait until you turn 18. If you can't figure out how to see a psychiatrist / therapist, try to go see your doctor and explain everything to your doctor - he or she should be able to refer you to a psychiatrist.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:55 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Things like self-injury and suicidal ideation and mood swings and depression and anxiety are pretty severe symptoms that indicate (to me) that the challenges in your life are threatening to exceed your coping resources. The situation is far beyond what most people would consider normal or functioning. Your life may be at risk if things continue this way or get worse. Please seek help.

Losing a loved one to suicide is a major trauma and it can have lasting effects, in the same way that getting hit by a car may leave you with lingering injuries. Neglect in childhood, or whatever else you may have suffered, leaves wounds as well. Such injuries are not 'just a phase', and while they may heal very very slowly on their own, they may also get worse, and in the mean time you're in severe pain, and no-one should look down on you for seeking help in the healing process. Your parents deserve a shake for ignoring the obvious signs that you're in pain. Does anyone know how you're feeling, and how bad things have gotten? Has anyone told you lately how sorry they are for the pain you're suffering, and how much they care about you? You need support, and you're not getting it.

I expect that as a minor you will need a parent or guardian to consent to treatment, so they will know you're in therapy. It's your call whether to wait or not, but I agree with insectosaurus that you should not be afraid to reach out to other resources immediately. It may take a while to find the right therapist -- you might like to visit a few until you find someone you click with -- and they might not want to start treatment until after the Christmas holidays so as to avoid a gap in the early weeks -- in which case it makes sense to get the ball rolling now.
posted by anybodys at 6:04 PM on November 26, 2012

Let me also recommend as a resource for peer support. Though the primary function of the board is sexuality and sexual health education, there are specific subforums on the message board where people help each other cope with other life challenges.

If your mum (as the primary insured) doesn't authorize billing for your treatment, there remain the options of finding providers who offer sliding-scale fees. If your school has a school psychologist, they may have ideas about resources for you.

I am so sorry for the loss of your girlfriend. My condolences to you.

If you are at all interested in reading psychological theory on the impact childhood trauma, neglect, and even well-intentioned but suboptimal parenting can have, may I recommend the works of Alice Miller? The Drama of the Gifted Child might be a place to start.
posted by Sidhedevil at 6:34 PM on November 26, 2012

I too want to let you know that much of what you might refer to as "personality disorder" behaviors are just reactions to circumstances you're system is unable to cope with. In general,even in cases of biological illness, the system has usually faced an unusual condition that knocked it of course rather than the system just -spontaneously- deciding to be ill.

You're still just a human being-- who deserves support and there are many things that might help with all of this. I would go now to a therapist. You will feel scared at first talking about all this but if you can find someone you trust, you can begin putting together a plan with a professional to get the kinds of support you need to repair your health and work through some of the issues you're coping with.

I too recommend scarleteen, getting some peer support to talk about what you're going through, in addition to working with a professional, will help you stay connected and understand yourself a little better. Some people do have very severe reactions to trauma. Often people refer to that meaning the person is "ill". I personally think in cases of extremely messed up stuff, it's just that the stuff that happened was really wack and some people are not designed to withstand war or sexual abuse or tragic death. It's nothing to be ashamed of, anymore than not being skilled at math or good at sports. But it DOES mean you have to find out how to get the support you need to stay safe toward yourself and others.
posted by xarnop at 7:22 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

Even if it were a "phase", wouldn't you rather have support and treatment that made that "phase" easier to live through? I mean, why NOT get help? If you are worried about your parents not understanding - frame it as not having gotten over your girlfriend's suicide and needing therapy to help sort your feelings about that out, i.e. don't mention "disorders" especially since you really can't and shouldn't try to self-diagnose with that sort of thing. I cannot imagine a parent who would not understand that their child needed psychological help to deal with a suicide.
posted by lollusc at 7:27 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you should see a therapist now. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter if you have diagnosable mental illness or not--you are having trouble and it needs your attention.

If your parents will not get on board, talk to your school counselor. They will have resources for you, and may even be able to help you talk to your parents about it.

Good luck. Please take care of yourself.
posted by elizeh at 7:35 PM on November 26, 2012

You sound like a really bright young person with a lot of insight. I don't know that you have a personality disorder, but I think you have correctly identified that something is not right and you need help getting through it. Late teens and early twenties are when a lot of mental illness really starts to surface, and it is all treatable in the hands of competent professionals.
You can learn coping mechanisms and get help dealing with all this, you just have to seek it out. Your school counseling centre is a good place to start, and you probably don't need your parents' consent to go there. Best of luck.
posted by whalebreath at 8:14 PM on November 26, 2012

Agreed that 1) this is not normal teen behavior (I've worked with teens for years aside from having been one myself many moons ago) 2) this is understandable what you've been through and 3) it's not something that anyone can handle alone, regardless of age. You're acting out in ways that could injure both others and are *definitely* hurting yourself. Please, please seek help ASAP because you deserve to not hurt in ways that make cutting seem like a good idea. You are worth feeling better than this. The sooner you do it, the easier your life will be when you're older. Call a help line if you feel the urge to cut or harm yourself in other ways tonight.

FWIW, whenever you think you could use help or a professional perspective on something, you're probably right and should do so ASAP before you talk yourself out of it [not that I know from personal experience or anything ;) ]. Best to you. Be kind to yourself.
posted by smirkette at 8:29 PM on November 26, 2012

For what it's worth, I had some similar experiences as a teenager. I thought the world would end when my parents found out. Weirdly, it didn't. I also convinced myself that the psychiatrist was going to give me shock therapy - that didn't happen either. What did happen was I went to therapy for a while and took antidepressants. You'll get through this. Hang in there. People want to help you - just ask!
posted by kat518 at 9:17 PM on November 26, 2012

The truth here is probably a little of both - you will outgrow some of this, and some is too beyond normal to avoid getting professional help. Hopefully it's comforting to know that time will fix some of this no matter what you do, but the sooner you do it the sooner things will suck less, and I will repeat what smirkette said:

The sooner you do it, the easier your life will be when you're older.

Really. Any investment now will make your 20s so much smoother.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:04 PM on November 26, 2012

Even if you don't have a personality disorder (which I don't think you do but IANAP), you sound like you want to delve into the source of your behaviour and change it to be less harmful. That's reason enough to see a therapist/psychiatrist/psychologist. Best of luck!
posted by buteo at 10:11 PM on November 26, 2012

Considering seeing a psychiatrist for a personality disorder evaluation. Should I go now or wait for some time to pass?

The following sentence alone is way more than enough for you to go to the doctor as soon as you possibly can:

It's gotten so bad that I once flipped a table at someone at the mall for something so trivial (he played a harmless prank by moving my drink around) and I also threw a cue ball at someone (he and I are good friends now, don't worry).

It is not okay in any way to keep doing this and not be trying your very best to seek help for it. You need to go to the doctor immediately and start finding ways now to get better. It does not make it any better at all that the person you hit with a cue ball is good friends with you now, please do not take that as a sign that it is okay to keep acting like this and delay serious efforts to get help.

What is going to happen when you accidentally hurt someone very seriously or maybe even kill someone? There is a really good chance you could end up in prison for a very long time, doing this. Go to the doctor and start working on ways to get better ASAP.

Do not decide ahead of time what your diagnosis (if any) is or should be, just go and be forthright and go in with an open mind. You have my best wishes and concern, and I wish all good things for you.
posted by cairdeas at 11:14 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]

My first GF committed suicide after suffering from BPD, causing me to grieve for quite a while.

This alone is reason enough to seek help. I lost a family member to suicide when I was 33 and I was a freaking mess for about a year. I can't imagine handling that at your age. All the other items you listed just compound the urgency. You don't have to have some sort of diagnosed disorder to get help.
posted by desjardins at 10:38 AM on November 27, 2012

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