Experts – who needs them?

We’ve witnessed in the political landscape the lack of credibility ‘experts’ have these days. With Brexit they were deemed unnecessary and we all know we’re living through the Trump Administration’s ‘post-truth’ and ‘alternative facts’ era. Feeling has, in many cases, become more important than actual fact.

The same can be argued about mental health, although for completely different reasons. Because we lack the ability to have our conditions diagnosed through a range of diagnostic tests, I often have felt quite hit and miss with regards a) identifying what I’ve got and b) how the feck I’m supposed to learn how to live with it all. Depending on the clinician (all excellent can I just say from my own experience) I’ve been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), General Anxiety Disorder, Postnatal Depression, Bipolar Disorder and PTSD. 4 years ago I received a concrete diagnosis of Bipolar 1 and only 18 months ago I received a concrete PTSD diagnosis, alongside the Bipolar.

And still at every meeting I’m questioned over whether I have bipolar or BPD. It gets exhausting. I have regular cycles of mania and depression and sure I may have BPD traits but it is the bipolar that gets me. It just goes to show how, from definite diagnoses by two psychologists and three psychiatrists can be so different. Sure as hell doesn’t help me with the paranoia – like are you sure you know what you are doing/is there really something up with me/oh dear lord I just figured out this condition now you’re telling me it could be something else…

Over the  years since my pregnancy my knowledge of my condition has grown. I’ve experienced the crushing darkness of postnatal depression, the despair and horror of not being able to hold my own baby. I’ve experienced the psychosis of both Bipolar and PTSD, imagining huge green globs of mould floating in the air because of the damp conditions we were living in, and my daughter suffocating as a result – not to mention the regular suicidal images that permanently would repeat in my lowest moments.

Now I’ve also learnt about burnout, which I am currently off sick for. Did you know that the symptoms combine with Bipolar and PTSD to make you absolutely off your rocker? I  was hallucinating at train stations of being hit at high speed by one so that it could all just END. Burnout aggravated my friendly gremlins that I live with every day, and made things 100 times worse.

I am in therapy again specifically for burnout with a therapist who I don’t think has graduated yet. I think my psychologist (who has graduated) is doing her level best to keep me off work for as long as possible i.e. till my contract expires in June and I can go onto benefits again. It’s soul-destroyingly crushing to admit I can’t work any more but that’s another blogpost. The thing is, I don’t get signed off work by my own doctors. Here I have to go through something called the ARBOdienst in Dutch, which is essentially occupational health, and they make the decision about what I do.

So I have my psychiatrist, my psychologist, my therapist, my ARBO doctor and I just found out today that that occupational health doctor may be changing. (Needless to say, immediate freak-out.) I’m not complaining about the level of care I receive here, by the way, which is fantastic, but just – how many times do I have to go through piles of paperwork and people to tell them I’m sick? How many experts do you need to see that I clearly can’t function in a roomful of people? Am I the expert, to tell them what I have – over and over again?

Again, I’m not complaining, just having a whinge at the amount of bureaucracy. At least I get to see qualified doctors. In the UK a friend of mine just had to go to court to plead his case that PTSD was, indeed, worthy of being on benefits for after a penpusher at an outsourced Department for Work and Pensions, with about as much qualification to make a decision as my Jack Russell, decided that he was well enough to work. I mean, come one, that’s someone full-on writing alternative facts!

Post-truth society again, eh? Wonderful thing.

It’s interesting, watching the clash of fact vs delusional thinking in some countries that’s going on in the world. Perhaps we’ll see the redefining of the word ‘expert’ at some point?