Sharing something I’ve been keeping a secret, why I’ve kept it a secret, and where I am now.
Ok, we’re doing this. Let’s just rip the band aid off I guess…
July of 2020 I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. There I said it, the hard part is over. According to that first therapist, “You’ve had it undiagnosed for quite some time, but it was probably triggered by an extreme life event.” Um duh, I’m living through an unprecedented global pandemic.
My hypomania had been pretty bad by this time, but I didn’t think anything of it or know that I was in the middle of an episode. The self medicated Zzzquil I had been taking for the last 4years had finally stopped working and I wasn’t sleeping. Like at all. However, I was doing a great job at masking it and instead woke up in the wee hours of the night to clean or let my creative juices flow.
I knew (and know) the perception and stigma that goes along with being bipolar – crazy, unhinge, erratic. I was terrified to tell anyone. So I scheduled a second assessment to prove that first therapist wrong.
Then my mom died. And I went into an internal spiral and hypomania that lasted months. I somehow convinced myself that my mom’s death was a sign, I didn’t need therapy and I wasn’t “crazy.” Instead, I lived in a perpetual state of mad by sitting in my irritability and anger.
The last half of 2020 was a struggle. A struggle to put on my mask and smile, to function on all cylinders, to just want to live. Then 2021 rolled around and I was tired and felt like if I didn’t fight for my mental well-being, I was going to loose everything. So in January of 2021, when I finally forced myself and got back into therapy, I was told that the deep, dark despair I was living in for the past few months was a bipolar depressive episode. Go figure.
Still, after getting that second assessment and confirming the bipolar 2 diagnosis I seconded guessed myself (and still do). Was I exaggerating my symptoms? Was it all in my head? I couldn’t be bipolar, there was no way – I didn’t experience bouts of extreme highs or deep lows (the usual “signs”). But didn’t I? At this point to me, those super high highs and dark lows were a personality trait. Had it been there all along living dormant?
After a few month of therapy I’ve come to the realization that not every bipolar experience is the same. Not every episode or person living with bipolar is portrayed as it is in tv and movies. But I internalized what the media showed of those with bipolar disorder or mood disorders in general. And I let those depictions make me live in fear and shame. So I kept it quite.
I’m on medication now. And while there are more good days than bad, there are still really hard, in the trenches days. Life isn’t perfect and meds aren’t an instant fixed. Me and my psychiatrist are still figuring out the right meds and dosages, but I think we’re getting there. I’m doing therapy to help me cope with episodes – how to find my triggers, how to determine when I’m in the middle of one – basically things to help me get through it.
Having this added bit of “spice” will be something to navigate. But I’m willing to figure it out and that’s pretty big for me. I’m not pushing this back and living life as if I’m not struggling.
I’m hoping that by sharing my story I’m helping at least one person feel less alone. I’m hoping my journey explains to people how I’m wired, not wrong but differently. For so long I held on to this side of myself, scared to share it and be judged or labeled or unwanted. But I’m learning to accept it as just another part of who I am. It doesn’t have to define me but it is part of me and that’s okay.
So yeah, that’s what I’ve been holding on to for the last year and half. And saying it out loud already feels major and lifts a weight off my shoulders.