The importance of early psychological disorder diagnosis is extremely evident in Tamra’s beautifully written blog-post, This is Me, – which must be read in its entirety – in which she provides a lucid biographical outline of her journey from childhood with anxiety and type 1 diabetes to middle-age and living mostly house-bound, suffering a variety of serious health problems.
Tamra’s case, albeit anecdotal, of multi-morbidity, long undiagnosed, suggests that early psycho-therapeutic attention is vital, especially, in such cases of concurrent conditions. Her type 1 diabetes diagnosis helped to obstruct her family’s attention to her psychological difficulties and also became another to ‘reason’ to hate herself for ‘inadequacy’ or ‘inferiority’ and engage in a lifelong pattern of self-harm and, later, self-medication. From this, as Tamra outlines, her health deteriorates, step-by-step, exacerbated by moments of misfortune.
“I come from a family thick with type 1 diabetics. There are six of us that I know of, my father, an aunt, one of my brothers, two cousins, and myself. Type 1 diabetes does have a hereditary link, but not always, and it is extremely rare for it to be so prominent in one family as it is in mine. I was diagnosed at age eight. I felt frightened, I knew what this disease is, I knew how dangerous it is, I knew I would forever have to take shots, prick my fingers, eat carefully, and would probably lose a leg, go blind, and die young. It was the mid 1980’s and these were the possibilities at that time.”
At the age of eleven, she lost her father, as a result of a stroke caused by complications from his type 1 diabetes. Tamra’s rage and self-harm only increased, as she paid little or no regard to her body and condition, “always running sky high blood sugars.”
She began to skip classes and then whole school days as she developed agoraphobia symptoms alongside her social anxiety. Her problems went unrecognised, even by herself. Though she graduated, she went on to suffer similarly in college and in the workplace: “I went through part time minimum wage jobs like a person with a cold goes through tissue. As soon as the anxiety of responsibility mixed with the anxiety of social environments and the outside world got too much, I would up and quit, take some time to recoup and then find a new job.”
Marriage and friends would bring new stresses and risk, alongside benefits. In her 30’s she describes using social drinking and smoking to suppress her pain and fear. A series of serious health crises followed. She underwent triple-bypass heart surgery necessitated by damage caused by her poorly managed diabetic condition and exacerbated by consumption of alcohol and her smoking. She then had multiple eye surgeries and would go on to suffer from hypothyroidism.
At this belated stage, however, her social anxiety and agoraphobia were diagnosed and she started medication and therapy. However, the impact of hypothyroidism and accompanying problems with obesity interrupted her treatments, as did a bereavement and serious accident.
Currently, she describes herself as being mostly house-bound, suffering insomnia and hypersomnia as well as some dysfunction with conscious awareness: “My dreams are so vivid (nothing new there, they always have been) I sometimes think they are real, and my reality feels like a dream. I also have trouble with my memory sometimes.”
It is notable that Tamra describes her brother’s childhood response to her father’s death as to become “militaristic” about taking care of his blood sugar levels – the opposite of her heightened reckless and, even, self-harming response. One can speculate whether the diagnosis of social anxiety and agoraphobia, as a child – even if subsequent treatment had zero effect on symptoms – would have reduced negative judgement of her by others and by herself, by explaining her behaviours and difference, and, whether the pattern of self-harming could have been diverted.
Image by Anna Vanes
To read Tamra’s full blog-post at her site, tamrakgarcia.wordpress.com, click below.