This is a guest post written by my younger sister, Tiffany, who has a diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type. Once a month, Tiffany documents a single day in her life. The purpose of these posts is to raise awareness of what it’s like to live with mental illness. I’m also hoping the posts will help readers recognize that we all have hopes, dreams, challenges and mountains to climb regardless of our mental health status. If you’d like to read the posts I’ve written about Tiffany’s journey and all the guest posts she’s shared on this blog, check out the mental health page. Without further ado, here’s Tiffany.
Two weeks ago, I traveled to a bigger city to have intense neuropsychological testing done. I had the same testing done nine years ago when I spent seven weeks in the state hospital after a prescription drug overdose. Doctors are going to compare past and present test results to see how my brain is functioning. This testing helps nail down my mental illness diagnosis and to get additional help in other areas if needed.
A neuropsychological evaluation is a comprehensive assessment of cognitive and behavioral functions using a set of standardized tests and procedures. A variety of mental functions are systematically tested. A neuropsychological evaluation is critical for understanding which brain functions are impaired and which remain intact.
My dad drove me to my appointment. He asked me if I was nervous about the testing, and I told him that I was more nervous about leaving the kids behind for the day. My dad and I talked about music and his time in the service. We seemed to have a very relaxing drive.
We arrived to the testing early. There was a Perkins nearby, so I decided to eat breakfast and drink some needed coffee. After that, my dad dropped me off at the testing site. I was early, so I went for a walk outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather. I felt free in that moment. I was in a bigger and new city. I went back in to prepare for the testing. I skimmed through a bit of a gossip magazine and waited for the doctor to call me back. My dad was eating at Red Lobster during this time.
The doctor called me back to his office and told me to make myself comfortable. I sat in a chair directly across from him. He asked me a series of questions. I was being analyzed. I asked him in the middle of the session if I could take a couple pictures for the blog post I was going to write. He told me no, these tests are confidential. If people were to see pictures, they may try to duplicate the testing or figure out answers prior to taking the test. He asked me a few questions and sent me out to the waiting area. I asked him how I did, with a smile, before leaving his office. I don’t remember his response? Being questioned made me kinda nervous.
A few minutes later, I was called back for more testing. I know that I excelled in certain areas because I felt as though I was playing a fun game. Other parts of the testing were very difficult. I felt frustrated and kind of sad.
After over an hour of testing, I needed a break. I told the lady who was testing me that I needed a five minute break. I may have taken longer? I went into the waiting area and was happy to see my dad sitting there. I told him how difficult the testing was. I was thinking of posting a status update on Facebook, but I did not feel the time was right. Why would people care anyways? So I proceeded to step outside, took a few deep breaths, closed my eyes and lifted my hands to the sky. I probably said a little prayer too. I raced back in because I told her five minutes, not fifteen. I was kinda excited to return to the testing because every new test was a surprise.
When I went back inside, testing continued for a couple hours. I am going to tell you vaguely about the testing without giving away details. The tester started by asking me general questions. Then I had to say words backwards and subtract backwards. She told me a list of words, and I was haunted by the list throughout the procedure. She kept telling me to say the words I remembered; I just heard a list of monotone sounds that I was not interested in, names of people who had no faces. Maybe if she would have let me look at the list, I would have done better remembering? I realized my short term memory lacks. We played a fun game where small keys fit into holes on a pegboard. I felt I mastered that, along with repeating visual images. Then came math. Even if I had a calculator, I would not have done well with that part. Sometimes I would just say, “Sorry, I’m done. I give up on that. I just cannot complete that part.” We ended the session with computer testing, which was around 350 questions.
The results from the testing should be back soon. I look forward to seeing the results. I am having the report sent to my psychiatrist who recommended the testing. I am also having a copy sent to me. My sister, who is a speech pathologist, is going to help me analyze the results. No matter what the results say about me, I am going to continue to live life and take care of business. Having a mental illness and possible cognitive impairments are just a part of me. They do not define who I am as a person.