I’m doing a thing with Rethink tomorrow in which I talk about what it was like to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder almost…shit, 5 years ago. I know how I felt (incredulous, scared, confused, why-am-I-in-bloody-hospital) but how did you feel when you first got your diagnosis of bipolar disorder or otherwise?
(My diagnosis at the time was bipolar I disorder, which I remember thinking, “That sounds like a film. BIPOLAR I: THE ATTACK”. Not unlike, “BIPOLAR II: THE REVENGE”. Or, “CYCLOTHYMIA: THIS TIME IT’S…SORRY, WHAT WERE YOU SAYING? LOOK, I KNOW I WAS IN A GOOD MOOD YESTERDAY BUT TODAY, GO SCREW YOURSELF, YEAH? I’M GOING TO BED. FIRST, LET ME PICK UP THESE BISCUITS. YEAH, ALL OF THEM, SO WHAT? DO I JUDGE YOU? NO? WELL, SHUT UP THEN”.)
For me, it was a total kick in the balls. For everyone around me, it was a case of, “Oh, yeah, we knew that”. I’d been tentatively given that diagnosis before, but it’s changed, morphed and been so, “Eh?” over the years I hadn’t taken it seriously. Five years later, due to the changing and morphing, I still don’t take it seriously. What I did do was overidentify with it for a while (and then, four years later, distanced myself from entirely). I thought, “Oh god, this is the end of my life!” It was, in some ways. The end of a life I had known. I had to take…shit, four years?! out of life and then readjust. And recover, as now I am at the point where there’s not a sniff of mental illness about me, unless you looked really hard for it. I still have my tics and I still take medication. My life is different. I’m different. It’s part in growing up (a large part, I think). And part- well, it has to be.
The medication was the worst part of it. It was so frightening sounding, and the side effects were equally frightening. I struggled for years to take it, I resented that I had to.
In a way, I had expected too much from recovery. It has almost been lonelier than living with the actual illness had been. I expected that once I’d reached that point I’d open the front door and all the friends I’d known and loved and pissed off and frustrated and irritated over the years would be there brimming with forgiveness, ready to welcome me back into the world. It hasn’t been like that- it has been getting used to being this different, quieter, more careful person, and getting used to it on my own as I’m not the person those friends knew. For better or worse. There are things about me that don’t- cannot- exist anymore. The boundless energy, the sociability, the indiscretion, the emotionalness, the things I thought were part of me, were who I was, the things I realised that were practically parasitical. Those were things that DAMN! I would never have expected to happen.
There was relief, too, now tempered by not being sure (in that sense, I am jealous of people with a fairly concrete diagnosis). But I was undeniably relieved to know what ailed me, even if for 6 weeks after I fought with the home treatment team and said it was just depression and Lithium was kept in the top cupboard so my shortarse self couldn’t reach it. Christ. Five years ago. It may as well have been another life.
So, how about you?
Filed under: Bipolar Disorder