Dual Diagnosis: What this term means to me

Some Definitions found online:
  1. condition of suffering from a mental illness and a co-morbid substance abuse problem. 
  2. the situation in which the same person suffers from more than one condition. But we could say that somebody who has the flu and at the same time suffers from gastroenteritis has “Dual diagnosis”.
  3. the situation in which somebody suffers from a mental disorder and is also dependent or addicted to some substance.
  4. A term that indicates the simultaneous presence of two independent medical disorders. Recently, within the fields of mental health, psychiatry, and addiction medicine, the term has been popularly used to describe the coexistence of a mental health disorder and AOD problems

We can all read countless “definitions” all day in hopes of finding the one that perfectly describes our individual struggles, but in the end there will never be 2 of us who have the EXACT SAME story. So I am here to share with you what the term dual Diagnosis means to ME… 
Prior to September of 2016 I had never heard the DD term ever in my life. It may just be 2 simple words but for me, it opened my eyes to so many things I’d never considered.

I was diagnosed with depression around age 13 & thus began my journey with psych meds, Celexa 20MG per day. It was around 1999 or 2000 when it became obvious that I was not suffering from the normal “teenage girl mood swings” what I was feeling was WAY worse, deeper, darker & more distant. The only thing that helped was being a full-blown stoner, I was guaranteed to be high any time of the day or night (RED FLAG #1 indicating addict).  


As you already know, if you’ve read my prior posts, I continued self-medicating through my teen years. The weed turned into coke, turned into ecstasy, turned into whip-its, turned into crank, turned into speed until FINALLY I met my nemisis, crystal methamphetamine (ice, glass, crystal, tweak, twack, etc) I was instantly  convinced it was the only medicine I’d ever need again… boy was I WRONG….


I completed my first 30 day in patient treatment program in 2005 at the age of 18 where I successfully parted ways with meth and I remained that way, to this very day. A few days out of rehab though, I realized I was substance free, for the first time since my early teens and I had no idea how bad my depression had gotten now I’m left stranded, facing it head on. So began my trials with lexapro, Effexor, buspbar, cymbalta and many others until finally finding relief in Zoloft.


I had started smoking weed again shortly after rehab, I mean I was only 18 & what did people expect? I wasn’t going to be 100% sober forever.  Around age 20 I was prescribed Vicodin for chronic migraines, at this time I had only taken pain meds a few times for dental work but never consistently, let alone been on a recurring monthly script. I’d say it took about 3 weeks for me to become “dependant” this is the word I used to justify to myself that I was not addicted.


At age 23 I received my initial bi-polar diagnosis & honestly it gave me a bit of relief, I finally had answers to why so many antidepressants didn’t work and why I constantly felt emotionally unstable. The new psych med cocktail seemed to help, but never as well as the Vicodin helped (RED FLAG #2 indicating addict). 


I took my meds as prescribed but I still avoided facing my mental illness, by once again self-medicating.

Eventually, at the age of 29, my mental health finally got the best of me. I was admitted to my first psych ward under intensive suicide watch or involuntary psychiatric hold. Although I was well aware of my illness, I never took it seriously & I NEVER expected to end up locked in a room, stripped of shoelaces, tank tops, toothbrushes, mirrors & belts. Shit, I was lucky enough to have 1 bed sheet (which came with extreme supervision).

This should have been a turning point for me, a wake up call if you will, but shortly after the 72 hour lock up the entire situation became a distant memory. I rationalized my pill popping, which had intensified dramatically by now & included Percocet, roxys and ridiculous amounts of adderall and/ or  vyvanse. Refusing to admit the pills were making things so much worse, I continued using pills as my coping mechanism, the worse my life got, the more I popped (RED FLAG #3 indicating addict) 


On September 2, 2016 my downward spiral came crashing down and again, I hit rock bottom. This time though, I hit it head on, like falling from the sky at full speed, I hit it HARD. I found myself driving around aimlessly, tears pouring down my face, completely alone & for the 3rd time, planning my suicide.
By the grace of God, something stopped me dead in my tracks that night. Falling through the door of my best friends apartment, begging for help. Desperately seeking freedom from my racing thoughts and tireless mind, done with the chase, done with the high, done with the come downs and done with the lifestyle, I made the decision to surrender.
It was my counselor in the treatment center who taught me about dual Diagnosis, she explained the way mental illness and addiction go hand in hand in these cases. She was the first one who told me that the reason we use is a desperate attempt to change the way we feel inside. Addicts are not born the cheerful, happy-go-lucky, Sesame Street type, so the moment drugs enter our system we finally feel what we had been searching for our whole lives & we will do ANYTHING to hold onto that feeling.

I now understood my addiction was not so much about the drugs or the lifestyle, it was simply the sense of freedom, belonging, the feeling of being “normal” that we got with the high. I had a totally new perspective about the last 17 years of my life which I spent doing any and EVERY thing in my power to fit in, or at least not to feel like such an outsider. Unfortunately this came at a severally hefty price. I lost friends, missed out on jobs & opportunities but most importantly I destroyed my relationship with my kids & for what? Because I HATED MYSELF, HATED EVERYTHING THAT I WAS & I wanted to disappear so badly that I hurt anyone who stood in my way.

To sum it up, the term Dual Diagnosis to me means this:

EXACTLY WHAT IT SAYS... I am someone who suffers from the disease of addiction AND the horrific diseases which leave me unaware of who I am from each day to the next, bi-polar & borderline personality disorder. However; I now thankfully have a MUCH better idea of why its been  impossible for me to make any good decisions in my life and today I 100% agree that IT IS NOT ALL OF MY FAULT. Having the chance to fully comprehend these facts gives me enough justification to begin forgiving myself & slowly letting go of the shame and guilt that’s been eating me alive for years. I am one of the few who was lucky enough to have the opportunity of being educated, on a medical level, as to how us addicts are hardwired…. I’ve watched too many lose everything, if not their lives, before having a chance to learn to heal.


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