When I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder I was absolutely devastated. I had spent years carefully watching my thoughts and moods, being sure to make note of anything strange. Mental inventories were conducted daily; “Are you just having a bad day or are you experiencing a depressive episode?” “Are you having difficulties sleeping because you drank caffeine too late in the day or are you experiencing a manic episode?” I knew the signs and symptoms of the two major mood disorders, Bipolar Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder and knew that if I noticed any of the signs or symptoms that I would need to seek help immediately.
However, once I noticed the signs of Bipolar Disorder in myself I panicked and created stories to answer the questions in my mental inventory. I let this go on for about four months before I let my illness transform me into someone I couldn’t recognize. I was irritable and everything seemed awful; even the activities that I used to enjoy were dull and unappealing. Thoughts about self-harm were constantly circulating in my head and I couldn’t sleep with any kind of normalcy. On a good night, I could get 3 to 4 hours of sleep. Being around me wasn’t pleasant either.
It finally took a close friend specifically asking me what was going on for me to seek help. (I thank this friend quite often for pushing me to seek help–but that is a story for another day and another post) I thought that I had done a good job hiding what I was going through, but clearly, I hadn’t.
Walking into the Student Health Center at my school the day I went to seek help was painful. Once I was taken back to the exam room, I started to panic. Luckily, the doctor who saw me was amazing and truly heard what I was saying and understood what I was going through. She recognized the same signs that I had noticed and immediately got me in to see the psychiatrist at the Health Center.
My psychiatrist helped ease my initial anxiety about my diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder and helped guide me on my path to acceptance and growth. Even though he did help to ease my anxiety a bit, I still felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with me. For months, I felt like I had “BIPOLAR” stamped on my forehead in big, bright red letters and that the entire world knew about my diagnosis.
It was hard to continue my day to day activities as a student, employee, daughter, friend, and girlfriend while I learned to live with my diagnosis. For a while I just went through the motions and did what I believed I should do to maintain a “normal” life. I wasn’t truly living during this time, I was only surviving. Slowly I began to feel like myself and realized that there was not anything fundamentally wrong with me.
A year and a half after my initial diagnosis, I am mentally healthier than I ever have been. Through the development of a more accepting mindset, I have been able to take what used to be a grey cloud and turn it into a bright spot in my life. Mood disorders are treatable and the key is finding the right treatment plan for yourself. For more information regarding mood disorders and other mental illnesses, please visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s website.
If you are comfortable sharing your story or thoughts, please do not hesitate to comment below!