Since my diagnosis a few months ago I have gone through a variety of different emotions but found there to be little support available to me during this time, to the point that I referred myself to see a counsellor to work through it all. So how does it feel to be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder?
- Validating. Finally, an answer! A reason for the depression that comes on without reason and disappears suddenly without a trace. A reason for your euphoric energetic episodes where everything felt amazing and suddenly it all came crashing down around you. Being diagnosed gives you answers to questions you most likely have been asking for a while to have made it all the way to see a Psychiatrist.
- Confusing and Overwhelming. You have so many questions, so much to learn about Bipolar Disorder and what lies ahead of you and this can be overwhelming. You can begin to question your identity, do I really like this thing or is it mania? Am I truly a happy energetic person or a calm relaxed one? Can I really be both? The list goes on and on and during my pre-diagnosis I felt so many questions I faced an identity crisis, questioning my entire being, who was I, what do I like, what do I think, what do I believe in. These things for me seem to change with the shift in moods, I do things I otherwise wouldn’t and it is hard to accept elements of yourself that you do not recognise or want to accept at all.
- Obsession. It is common to become completely immersed and obsessed with constant bouts of research through journals, YouTube, books etc. to learn as much and immerse yourself as much as possible in the understanding and validation that comes from this knowledge. For me this was certainly the case, I watched videos over and over on YouTube, bought every book I could find and spent years of my life prior to diagnosis researching bipolar disorder online.
- Questioning. At some point during your post diagnosis life you will question if you truly have bipolar disorder, especially as you begin treatment and the symptoms lessen. You begin to think maybe you made it all up, maybe the psychiatrist was wrong. I can assure you that if you have a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder that this is extremely common to experience.
- Rebellion! As you become more and more stable through treatment or good fortune, you will begin to have rebellious tendencies. For me I missed the euphoria and energy associated with mania to the point where I didn’t consider the negatives and decided to come off medication for a couple of weeks which triggered some questionable behaviour and psychotic symptoms. I also felt like my emotions were being lessened (obviously) but I missed them, I feel the world so strongly through Bipolar and this has given me qualities I don’t want to lose from myself and I am afraid that I will lose these elements of my personality without experiencing these emotions.
- Frustration. At some point probably early on but not always you will likely feel extremely frustrated. Perhaps they tried a medication that just hasn’t worked, or perhaps your treatment was working and suddenly stopped causing you to feel like you’re starting all over again. Unfortunately finding the balance takes time and as your brain changes over time the treatment needed can change, this is the reality of the disorder and it is incredibly frustrating. However when you do finally become stable (and accept it, which I’ll get to) you will be glad you stuck with it.
- Experimentation. You start to find different things that work for you, different mixtures of medication, methods of stress relief such as exercise, diet, and sleep hygiene. You will begin to experiment with all aspects of your life to see how positively and negatively these things affect your condition to hopefully find the best lifestyle for you, something I am working on.
- Acceptance. Finally, through the frustration, rebellion and confusion you will finally reach a stage where you feel stable, happy but not too happy, and you will genuinely want to stay there. This will have positive influences on your life, relationships, work, health etc. and provided you maintain the positive lifestyle you have found and continue to conform to treatment this will be entirely possible to maintain with tweaks along the road.