Personality disorder or an excuse?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’ve lived the majority of my life completely in doubt of these “chemical imbalances” and what-not. Complete denial of the sheer possibility medicine or therapy is the solution to ones own problems. Always believed it was all about will power, and control. Never did I look at myself though.
Not long ago, I watched a movie called Boy Interrupted. A story more meaningful to me, than most, following the life of a boy named Evan Perry. A boy who killed himself at the age of 15. A boy who I relate to in every single way.
From the age of 7, as that is the earliest I can remember, I experienced a heightened sense of emotion. A feeling of unique intelligence far beyond my years. What some people refer to as an “old soul”, perhaps. My feelings though, easily controlled my life, and of course, with such extremes, stability has always been a very hard thing to stay in reach of.
Never met my Father. Mother had me at a young age. Was more of a sister to me, than a Mother. She met a man, who she started dating. Moved in with his Mother, who now I refer to as my Grandmother, at the age of 2. They never married, but I refer to him as my Father. Alas, he was never a Father to me. Only punished me. I was never beaten, or treated badly. Punished unfairly many times, though, something that I only believe made me stronger and more respectful.
My childhood involved much bullying. Constantly was picked on by my older cousin and his friends. These things hardened me, and gave me a short fuse with things as I reached an older age.
It is my believe that none of this is the source of any problem I have. I’ve accepted these things as a problem of the past. Things that I’ve accepted, and moved past. No longer anything I really fret over.
After discovering Evan Perry, I decided to do research on Bipolar II disorder, which he was diagnosed with.
Much of my life has revolved around “relationships”. I have attachment issues. Or quite possibly, simply related to this emotional intensity I seem to have going on, causing me to feel an intense feeling of attachment and/or love towards someone I care about.
I am a very caring person, and always put forth as much effort as possible to help people. I have always been willing to give my life for another person. On the contrary however, I generally flip everything upside down, deciding I no longer care about anything. In my reading of Bipolar II Disorder, I’ve read that people wish said disorder, have a tendency to partake in risky behaviors without regard of consequence. Many times I sit at home talking to my Grandmother who I love dearly. I have very deep intellectual conversation with her. And when she says something I dislike, I decide to demean her. When she makes me angry, I decide to get more angry than necessary. I challenge her when she tells me not to act a certain way. I throw things, hit things, and break things. I do this, and I realize that I am doing it for no reason. I do it simply because I do not care about anything.
Then, other times. In what I believe they call hypomania, I am in a very good mood. I walk around confidently with high energy.
Many times, I over-react, and a sudden thought in my head flips that mood to a complete mental breakdown, where I go over-board. Sometimes, I just cry. Sometimes I pour my heart out to someone I barely know. Sometimes I do dangerous things like jumping off of a balcony, or laying in the middle of a high way. Sometimes, I drink a large amount of alcohol so that I am more likely to succeed in doing something stupid to myself.
I oft come to the conclusion that I do not care about myself at all. Many times I become so disappointed in the world, as far as friends and family, that I feel like there’s nothing holding me here.
Outside of reasoning for depression, I generally feel no reason to be depressed, though I still am. When I have a reason, it generally seems to be more of an excuse in reality, so I don’t feel as stupid. Really, I just feel like there is no point in life. I have no motivation in life to do anything. I have fear of failing, fear of succeeding. Fear of trusting people, and fear of not trusting them. I end up confused whether or not I am a good person, or bad person. If I am myself, unique at all, or if I am just a crazy person with some delusional mental disorder.
I feel that if I am on medication, my mind will simply be sedated enough to tone down my personality. I’ll sit there knowing that anything I feel is being artificially induced so that I do not kill myself. These things only seem to make suicide seem like a much better option.
On the note of suicide, I have been suicidal since this all started at the age of 7. I’ve never feared anything dangerous, as I accept the worst thing that can happen to me; death.
In fact, I welcomed it. I’ve attempted so many times, it seems more like a joke to me in the fact that I’m still alive through failed attempts, and attempts I just didn’t follow through with.
This does not mean I want to live, as I truly do not. Life to me is not worth living, and the way I see the world, it is not appealing by nature. I simply do not want to hurt those that guilt trip me into holding on to life for their sake.
At this very moment, I am stuck between two options, that I seem to have two very different views on. One is to seek help, and relinquish all knowledge I believe I have, and all morality and values I have. Everything I hold pride in, and how much I have always despised the weakness of human minds, to where they need to be medicated simply to make you feel differently.
This, will strip away all my humanity. I will be miserable.
However, I will be alive. And I will succumb to all that I am against.
On the other hand, I follow my dream. I’ve researched the lethal dosage of many things in the past, thinking it would be the easiest way out. I’m faced with that decision of whether or not I can do that to those that say they care. Is it time to be selfish and help myself out, or is it time to force myself to live through life miserably?

Am I sick in the head? Am I crazy? Or will you comfort me by telling me how many other people feel this same way and how I am normal? Am I actually crazy, or are these disorders but an excuse to make people feel differently about their feelings and actions?

A: Thank you for writing. You’ve been going around in circles in your head for much too long. I’m sure it’s exhausting and draining. I hope I can help you out a bit.

It’s true that some people claim mental illness as an excuse for ducking the challenges of life. It’s true that some people would rather be medicated than learn to manage their feelings or their thoughts. It’s also true that some people would rather take a pill than do the much harder work of self-exploration and self-determination. That being said, it’s also true that biochemical and neurological disorders are real things. Modern technology is showing us how the human brain can be buffeted about by both internal and external stressors. The result can be things like depression, bipolar disorders, anxiety, etc. When this is the case, medicine and talk therapy can settle things down enough to improve a person’s quality of life.

Your letter poses questions as if things are either one way or another. You suggest that seeking help is the opposite to your values and morality; that it’s either medicine or humanity. Faced with that as the choice, I wouldn’t want to explore possible solutions for pain either. Fortunately, it’s quite possible to reduce internal pain without sacrificing one’s uniqueness or one’s values.

I would ask you to consider that a lot of your opinions were formed when you were quite young and when you didn’t have access to information that may have led to other conclusions. You are finally old enough and educated enough to do the research and to understand the complexity of the human mind. Further, at 19, your brain is going through a major period of growth and refinement. Your letter reflects your growing appreciation for possibilities. Hanging on to old ideas just because you have always had them is disrespectful to your own maturing mind.

I suggest you take yourself to a psychologist for an evaluation and conversation. If it feels too hard to lay out all of your issues, just bring your letter along. You have nothing to lose except a few hours of your time. Talking to a psychologist doesn’t commit you to anything. Even if medication is recommended, you don’t have to try it. Even if you do try it, you don’t have to stay on it if you don’t like the results. You are a smart guy. You aren’t going to be talked into anything. But because you are a smart guy, you deserve to get as much information as you can before making decisions.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 May 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Personality disorder or an excuse?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/05/21/personality-disorder-or-an-excuse/