I number of weeks ago I wrote the blog post, ‘The Time My World Stopped But Hope Keeps Me Going.’ It was up there with being my toughest post to write over the past five years, equivalent to the one I wrote about my first miscarriage.
But when I wrote that first post about my mental illness, I did have hope that soon, I’d have answers, a new focus and something to look forward to.
Leading up to my psychiatrist visit
Let’s rewind back a week or so.
I knew my long-awaited visit to the psychiatrist was approaching. I’d been waiting for so long. I’d seen my GP, I’d had numerous visits to a psychologist, I’d seen another psychiatrist who just didn’t make sense to me, it had been months and I still had no answers. I’d been in limbo.
In the lead-up to my psychiatrist visit, I repeated things I’d say over and over in my head. I’d repeated my story over and over again to multiple people already. I feared that I’d tell my story and my experience to this psychiatrist and she’d tell me there was absolutely nothing wrong and I’d just have to ‘suck it up’. I was worried I’d forget to tell her key things that have happened in my life.
The day came and, thank gosh, I felt at ease with the psychiatrist instantly, unlike the previous one I had seen. She guided me, it made it so much easier and my inner script that had been repeating in my mind.
Before I knew it, I was in tears. Talking about my plight, actually, just being able to talk to someone who understood exactly how I felt and what I’d been going through, was emotional. The reality of what I’ve been going through and for how long, has been emotional. The impact I’ve had on my family has been emotional.
I explained to the psychiatrist my thoughts of wanting to flee my life so that I wasn’t a burden, my thoughts of self-harm and the time I got so close to it. The fact that the same thoughts, the same scenario, repeat in my head. It was overwhelming.
The psychiatrist continued to ask questions about the present and we delved right back into the past. This has been going on for years and I’ve just lived with it, it’s just been ‘me’.
And then she said it.
‘Eva, it sounds like you have Bipolar.’
It had been mentioned by my psychologist, I knew it was a possibility, but a lot of me thought that perhaps, I was just over exaggerating and making things too big a deal.
But, now as I write this, it’s like the missing puzzle piece has been placed and connected. I have been diagnosed with Bipolar II. It’s overwhelming, but it’s an answer and boy, does the last 20 years of my life now make a whole lot of sense.
My entire adult life
For my entire adult life, I’m 35, I’ve lived with things that didn’t make sense, things I thought I just had to ‘deal with’ and ‘get over’. But now I know, it was something much deeper.
For years I’ve been misdiagnosed as having depression and anxiety because that’s the part of bipolar II that you normally seek help for. It’s the hypomania episodes that go unnoticed because they’re like being on a high and you just think, ‘ah, this feels good, I don’t want it to stop,’ when in actual fact, it’s hiding something a lot more serious.
Moving forward and ignoring the stigma
So now, my challenge is my new medication and the blood tests involved. It’s also accepting my diagnosis and that I’ll have this for life. The great thing is that with medication and support, it is manageable.
I have to admit, I do fear the stigma around bipolar. Before bipolar was even considered by my specialists, I didn’t know much about it and, to be honest, when I thought of Bipolar, I related it to someone being a bit ‘crazy’ and of ‘two minds’. I’ve heard it time and time again, ‘Oh, they’re Bipolar’. Now I know, it’s so far from the truth.
I have Bipolar, I’m not Bipolar. I have the disorder, I am not the disorder.
I now understand that Bipolar is like someone having Diabetes I, for example. They have to manage their diet and take insulin injections. It’s no different to me. I have to manage the things I do, manage my triggers and take my medication.
I do wonder what life would have been like if I was diagnosed with bipolar 10 years ago, but I’m here now with a diagnosis and a whole life to live. Although I’ve only just started my new medication, I’m really excited to experience what it’s like to feel normal. I’m excited to experience 100% of myself enjoying life.