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Miss Diagnosed

–In Honor of Mental Health Awareness Month

I am not a mental health professional.  This is simply my experience.

What is it this time?  Maybe it’s F41.1 – Generalized anxiety disorder or F43.23 – Anxiety disorder and depressed mood or perhaps one of the following:

F50.00   Anorexia nervosa, unspecified

F43.10 – Post-traumatic stress disorder, unspecified

Let’s see, throughout the years, my various behavioral health insurance carriers received claims for:

  • 90791 Psychiatric/psychological diagnostic interview without medical services
  • 90837 Individual Psychotherapy

In addition, a myriad of billing codes coinciding with residential treatment for disordered eating. Of course, all of these ICD-10 Codes for Behavioral Health all begin with the letter F as in

F*cked-up

Failure

Fix me

Fragile

Fractured

Fragmented

Father Issues

Feed me

The list of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications prescribed throughout the years jumbled together could make an amazing word search puzzle:

Prozacwellbutrintrazadoneeffexorlexproluvoxpaxilzoloftviibryd

What word did you find first?  The first word I see is “well” and this I wasn’t according to all of those F-ing codes.

For most of my life, I felt as if I were shattered pieces of broken glass held together by glue that never dried, a sort of Humpty Dumpty.  I felt disintegrated, pieces of myself were constantly falling off.  I sometimes picked up these broken pieces and attempted to stick them back on to the wet glue of me and watch them inevitably fall off again leaving a trail of shards in brokenness.  There was this mind and this body and I could never see myself as the sum of all those parts, never mind anything to do with my perpetually emotionally stabbed and broken heart.

I existed through the lens of gray and if you bothered to ask me what I truly wanted for my life, after I yelled at you, “I wish I was dead”, “I want a lobotomy”  or “NUUUUTHIIIIING,” I might be able to utter a tear-filled plea, “I just want a sense of peace.” Living inside this head was a torture of endless looping thoughts and self-hatred. Like many women, my suffering manifested itself through my relationship with my body that transcended self-hatred into self-destruction.

There’s no need to go into any more detail about what it was like.  What I do want to offer is that there is hope. No one ever told me I had a choice about the thoughts in my head.  Instead, I was just a bunch of ICD-10 codes along with copays and prescriptions to fill.

I lived in desperation the next pill would cure me

the next therapist would fix me,

Jesus would save me,

affirmations would transform me

I didn’t know the cure for my suffering wasn’t out there.  I didn’t know that I wasn’t broken.  I didn’t know that this one breath would save my life.

In retrospect, I don’t believe there was ever any sort of chemical imbalance.  From an early age, for many reasons, I developed a conditioned physiological response to react to every thought as if it was the truth without any sort of a pause button between the thought and the reaction.  For me, each emotion was all there was at the time of feeling it, it engrossed me, encompassed me, became who I was at that given moment.  I was racked with guilt, remorse, fear, and regret.  I numbed in every which way I could.  I was suffering.  I didn’t know I wasn’t stuck and I didn’t know I had a choice.  I went for zero to crisis in seconds. I grew out many of the self-damaging behaviors but the emotional imbalance, rapid and ruminating thoughts only seemed to accelerate.  More prescriptions, more therapy more F codes… The hope for me came a few years ago in the form of a mindfulness-based stress reduction program.  Not long after, no more F codes, no more prescriptions. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction’s potential health benefits, as tested in scientific studies include:

  • Pain Relief
  • Stress Reduction
  • Improved Sleep
  • Depression Relapse Prevention
  • Cognitive Improvement

I have continued and deepened my mindfulness practice over the years and I know for me, because of this life-giving, transformative practice, my default state is joy.  I am able to hold space for my emotions without becoming them.  I am able to observe my thoughts with curiosity and interest without reacting to them except on rare occasions.  To this day, I often have disparaging thoughts about my body image and yet I am now able to practice self-compassion, and accept myself with kindness and let go even if I have to mindfully practice this a hundred times a day.  I know that everything is impermanent. I can sense into deep appreciation and love for myself and have an ever-expanding heart of compassion for others.  I know I am whole.

I have learned that this one truth, pain is inevitable, suffering is optional

Shattered shards, broken glass
Kicked in heart, fell on ass

Pieces of myself, I once knew
Corners broken, held by glue

Done dying
The glue is drying

(From my poem, The Glue is Drying, 2013)

Perhaps there is something I’ve shared here that you can relate to or provides a spark of hope.  If so, please reach out to me.  I promise to have a call with you, to hold space for you, to be a resource for you.

May you be free from inner and outer harm

May you sense into your own wellspring of hope, healing, and wholeness

May you live with ease

May you dwell in the awareness and truth of love

I hesitated to make the request for BIZCATALYST 360° to publish this piece as if showing up at an often stigmatized level of vulnerability will somehow diminish my value as a capable professional, however; my compassion for the suffering of others won out in an instant.

I am committed to the continuous study and practice of mindfulness and have dedicated my career as a speaker and workshop facilitator extending an inclusive and accessible invitation to explore this transformative practice.

Shelley Brown
Shelley Brownhttps://roimindfulness.com/
I’m Shelley Brown, A "Type A" Meditator. I spent 25 years in corporate sales, climbing the ladder and making great money, all while stress slowly consumed me. Then, after a particularly difficult time, I decided it was enough. So I learned how to address my stress. Then, I became better at my job AND my life. Today I teach sales leaders and their teams how to mitigate stress so they can be human beings at work and win more deals. And, BONUS! I help teams cultivate a sales culture that drives continual success. I’m not your typical corporate mindfulness trainer. In fact, I’m probably a lot like you.

11 COMMENTS

  1. Powerful, honest, and very real essay that offers much hope for many people, Shelley. I celebrate your willingness and courage to lift the veil, to uncork the bottle, unscrew the cap on the topics of both mental/emotional health and mindfulness. When we can have honest and open discussions about both the suffering and the pathways to healings/transformations we become beacons of light for many others. While I remain in the dark of any diagnosis-even after I was hospitalized-, in hindsight, I know I suffered from PTSD and persistent traumatic stress. I deeply appreciate all you have shared, the creative-so YOU way in which you’ve shared your story complete with your fabulous collages. Everyone deserves the opportunity to experience themselves as Whole-in mind, body, heart, and soul. Thank you for this profound and impactful essay, Shelley. Thank you for being YOU!!

  2. Hi Shelley,

    As usual, you provide us with a captivating story, this time up close and personal. I will tell you as someone who has had a successful psychotherapy practice for many years; one of the things I abhor is the focus on pathology not on strengths. Although I am imperfect and have made my mistakes, never have I viewed my clients through the lens of fitting a particular diagnostic criteria. Do I have to diagnose? Yes, but I give the most benign. Therapists need to look at their own ”you know what” in order to understand what it is like to sit on the other side. Many of us do, but some never have and if they do very little. Without getting into the specifics, recently a client of mine had a brother who was put into extended care. He was feeling better at one point and wanted to work. All of the professionals involved said no, he will falter. I supported my client who supported her brother. We agreed this was the young man’s strength. Her brother stood his ground, and he became gainfully employed without retribution. I could give you other examples. The bottom line is that psychotherapy is a soft science which some cringe when I say that, but even if it wasn’t, the science is never settled. Good for you do finding what works best, and look at the gifts you continue to offer. Thank you for exemplifying the tenacity of the human spirit.

    I look forward to your next offering.💖

  3. Shelley soul sister, after reading this masterpiece while being still at bed (I loved all the previous essays btw), my admiration for the person you are has been multiplied by 10 🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩🤩

    Do you think this could work for a covert narcissist who is obviously in denial? Sending much love and many hugs to your direction !

    • Hmmm…perhaps we should discuss said covert narcissist ❤️ Your words pop through the page and envelop me with the love, kindness and warm humor you embody! Thank you my sweet friend.

      May the mutual admiration reach out from the page to warmly embrace your beautiful heart!

  4. Thank you Shelley! Well said! Too many years feeling like a guinea pig….lost in experimental abyss.. this resonates. But now I know too I can use a filter in my percolating mind…I would say more but I’m going to bed now…just saw this and had to read. Glad I did too 👏🏻🙏

    • Paula, I hope you slept well. Yes, feeling like a guinea pig or a statistic is so soul sucking. I love the notion of the filter for your percolating mind and not just because coffee is one of my top 5 favorite things in life. Grateful for your sentiments.

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