I’m sitting in a room surrounded by women. Women relaying instances in which they have shouted back at or lashed out at their family or friends. “I know I shouldn’t have” one of them said “but he went for me and I just hit him”. We all um and are and the group leader suggests analysing how this woman had reached the point of ‘hitting’. I’m thinking isn’t this self defence? Even if not, is this not just masculine behaviour within a female. Women are expected to have infinite patience and not be hot headed or physical, yet we don’t all live up to that expectation. And here we are receiving ‘therapy’ for behaviours which would be viewed as completely non-problematic in a man.
The more the sessions went on the more sure I became that I do not have Borderline Personality Disorder. I had very little in common with the other women in the room. I ticked very few of the symptoms. I have lost a lot of faith in psychiatrists after receiving a new diagnoses from each professional I saw yet I had pursued these group sessions as a last ditch attempt to alleviate my recurrent depression and anxiety. The class had been suggested to me by my male care coordinator. The third week in I gave up and asked for a new care coordinator. I was told I still did not have a proper diagnosis and that I should attend a psychological examination.
The letter came finally came through and to my disappointment I had been allocated an appointment with a psychiatrist who I had seen a few years ago and found to be extremely patronising. I considered trying to ask for a different psychiatrist but having already requested a new care coordinator I didn’t want to be too demanding.
Eventually the appointment came. At first the session was OK, we exchanged pleasantries and then he began running through the history of my mental health. I had previously opened up to a member of the mental health team about the altercation at the Anarchist Bookfair. The doctor asked me about this. I mumbled something about my concerns over transing of children and male rapists entering female prisons under the guise of transgenderism. Anyway I must admit I did not explain it in the most comprehensive way, he’s a psychiatrist I’m sure he has a fully formed view on gender identity and in any case this is a psychological assessment not a political debate. He interrupted me mid-sentence and said “Well I can hardly follow what you are saying, it’s hardly surprising that people who are sensitive to this issue would be offended!”. He just sounded like a TRA, implying that words can justify violence.
We discussed the death of my friend to which he asked “What attracted you to Dan? Do you think you are drawn to being friendly with vulnerable people?” Jesus, now even this was my fault was it?
After all of this he asks “Have you ever experienced sexual abuse?” I paused.
“I have… but so have loads of women.”
“No they haven’t!”
“Yes they have”
“It isn’t normal”
“It happens all the time”
I suppose we agreed to disagree, I couldn’t be bothered to bring up the #metoo movement!
He went on to ask if I’d experienced childhood abuse. Other than being brought up as a catholic (which is pretty disturbing) I’ve not experienced childhood trauma. I know this psychiatrist dude is catholic from previous conversations so I avoided mentioning that.
“No” I replied.
He gave me look of disbelief. I know exactly why he wanted to uncover some childhood abuse. He was hoping to find a cause for my imaginary personality disorder.
We discussed my present work, my preference for working in NGOs and my commitment to volunteering and campaigning.
So with only a few minutes left he concluded that I probably do have borderline personality disorder. I explained to him that I don’t actually have many of the symptoms.
“OK” he said. “Perhaps you just have some unhelpful personality traits.”
Aside from the fact that the term Personality Disorder comes across as insulting – You’re not ill, its just your defective personality – it struck me that it was strange this diagnoses was made by two men and refuted by a number of women. Is that because of male ignorance on how widespread sexual abuse is? Speaking your own mind, drinking and recreational drug use are generally accepted, and somewhat encouraged in males, yet are indicative of a personality disorder in females. As I left the room couldn’t help feeling as if I had just been diagnosed with hysteria by a Victorian doctor.