The Legacy of a Label

On my sick note is scrawled, “BIPOLAR DISORDER”. The medication I’m prescribed is for bipolar disorder.  And yet I still struggle to say, “I have bipolar disorder”.

In 2007, I said it a lot.  Newly diagnosed and in that unavoidable, “overidentification” phase (which you may after, or instead of, denial).

Now, even with psychiatric and doctorly and friend-o and husband-o opinion agreeing with that, I still can’t say it without much hesitation and an immediate feeling that I have just told a terrible lie.

Some of you may remember that a few years ago, and after listening to the Radio 4 play based upon this blog (that sounds arch and insulting, but apparently it was part of the rationale, though having spoken to him in the past year, I give more credit than that and may have misinterpreted), my psychiatrist at that time said I did not have bipolar disorder but borderline personality disorder. This was a punch in the gut.  I had always been open to the idea that I had borderline personality traits (I certainly did when I was younger and I cringe thinking back to some of it) but I had accepted I had bipolar disorder.  I spent years on punishing medications, which is one of the reasons I think he changed it to BPD, without knowing that I was quite uncompliant most of the time, because the side effects were horrendous.

This diagnosis came at a time when I was doing very well, was stable and quite happy and had actually approached with to ask if I could have help coming off my medication. Which he said I didn’t need.  And said I shouldn’t, “self diagnose”, a punch that missed the stomach and went straight for the balls as I had sat in room after room being told not to have children (and this was a factor in my having a termination), not to drink, not stay up late, not to work, all at the tender ages of 20-21, when my mind was full of future of children, and fun, and work. To be told it when the carer/patient dynamic was one of the things that destroyed a relationship, to be told it when I had gained so much weight and was puffy and glazed and had sat in baths while my hair fell out on Depakote and retched and shivered with Lithium toxicity and watched my sex life dwindle on antipsychotics; became the way a, “mental patient” speaks, the way a, “mental patient” looks, in clothes too small because cloth can not keep up with quetiapine, and ever shaking hands. Humiliating letters sent to my family to explain my diagnosis. Care plans, there forever.  Applying for benefits, attending soul crushing medicals. All for that.

I left feeling shocked. And BPD was fine. It was the, “Self diagnosis” thing that really killed me. It was the feeling of judgement, of dismissal and also of profound misunderstanding. I had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder while in a psychiatric hospital.  I did not do that to myself.

I felt feeling like a fraud.  Especially as my blog and my writing had gathered a little following and I had accidentally made myself a bit of a spokesperson for bipolar disorder.  People asked my advice, people listened to me.  I had never meant for any of it to happen but found value and meaning it.  Some people said I was a professional victim, but I have never and still do not feel like a victim.   I was embarrassed.  I was ashamed.  Not of the diagnosis itself (though I was a bit ashamed) but that I had so voraciously championed having bipolar disorder. Like a tit.

It was no accident that I went from writing here constantly and getting to 1 million hits and then stopped writing and hid. Although the diagnosis changed nothing about who I was, I had, and we all do to an extent, internalise it. I felt, simply, that I was a charlatan and had no right speaking up about bipolar disorder.  And to an extent, I still feel that way.

I felt ashamed that I had spent most of the time of being treated for bipolar disorder in a relationship in which he had to counsel and care for me, and had used it to understand my experiences.  It is still a kind of shame that I carry.

Most of all I was ashamed it mattered at all. Something that meant nothing years ago now did.

When I visited my GP, they spoke to me like dirt.  They asked me if I had been self harming (I hadn’t in quite some time) and made me prove it by pulling up my sleeves, which was traumatic. Nothing I said had credibility, and I wasn’t allowed more than weekly prescriptions in cased I overdosed, except that I had only done so once since 17 year old experimentation, and even that was written up in hospital (I later found) as, “because she had a fight with her boyfriend” which absolutely untrue.  So I didn’t go to that GP anymore.

Since I didn’t need my medication (it was Seroquel, one I did take faithfully for a year or so, which I still do, though I’m trying to get off it), I came off it.  I became quite unwell, if you can call it that, because it was largely fun.  I stopped sleeping, I became fixated with selling my flat (that I didn’t own) and moving to Paris and in pursuit of sleep took a holiday, instead walking up and down the beaches at dawn. I went to social worker appointments with a tiny dress, no pants and my period, spinning around on disability bars in reception, upside down, revealing myself, laughing, have a lot of sex and talking a lot. And it was good.

She urged me to take my medication again, and I did, patchily, and the sleep did help somewhat, but not entirely. It curbed some of it, but then it changed.  By the end of the summer I was roaming the streets with wine bottles, restless, and became quite paranoid. My good mood faded, replaced by rage. I would smash my head against the wall and roar, kick doors and throw things out the window.  I started hearing voices talking and I kept having to go and check the hall to see who was there, standing, calling, never to be answered.  I paid for a downloaded software to analyse where my emails were coming from because I didn’t believe they were coming from my friends, that they were lying and replaced.

It all sounds severe, but I started taking antipsychotics again and then crashed into a bad depression.  So that was fun. I actually called my social worker, something I had never done before, and she told me to come in where I sobbed, something else I had never done before.  I felt terrified, despite having been through that before, I didn’t expect it, and it was terrifying. I had a choice between admission and crisis team, so chose crisis team. In the meantime, the massive freefall into depression from months of being chirpy, active and talkative, then a bit mental, tore a hole in my relationship as he struggled to understand what had gone on. It was as though I had been replaced by a different person.  I sat miserably on my birthday, he having actually gone out to get me my favourite meal, some fizzy booze, and felt fucking suicidal. It was awful.

Knowing my now-husband did not understand and was struggling, my social worker had a meeting with both of us and explained to him…bipolar disorder.

So, I was prescribed a short term of antidepressants, and it helped.  Within 2 months, I was much better.  I had to go and see a GP- it was a different one this time- though I can’t remember why, I think it was to explain I didn’t need a new prescription.

“But you must keep taking your medication”.

“Why?  I don’t need it.  I have borderline personality disorder”.

“No, you have bipolar disorder, it’s very important you take your medication”.  And there it was, on the frigging screen. And still is, apparently, and I have been treated as such by psychiatrists and GPs. Either it was changed back, or it was the covert, “bipolar, but we really mean BPD” thing, which they often do.

Ever since, I have been wary of doctors.  I have been treated with kindness- my first appointment with a GP here whom I sadly never saw again bought tears to my eyes with kindness.  I was doing fine, as I mostly have been save for recently, and she said it was good I understand my “triggers”, my, “red flags”, that they were always there for me and I could call anytime.  It was comforting.

The older I have become, the more I think that bipolar disorder, or at least mood disorder, is correct.  I fundamentally misunderstood bipolar disorder myself when I was younger.  I said I had ultra-rapid cycling.  I had, in fact, never been diagnosed with this (I have been diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar, however). I diagnosed myself *shakes fist at psychiatrist* because I misunderstood the nature of bipolar disorder. That was because, to me, when I was diagnosed and over-identifying and looking for a reason, every mood was an, “episode”.  I’d have a night of drinking and being loud and spending too much and think, “Ooh! I was hypomanic!”  But I wasn’t (I was 23).  And I would excuse shitty behaviours with the same excuse, and I shouldn’t have.  If it lasted a day or less, it was emotions, and it was emotional instability.  Not moods.  Mood is the overriding thing and while someone can have ultra rapid cycling, I think it is rare. At the time I was pissed by the, “unstable sense of self” thing because I have been quite the same person forever, and was irritated that my dyeing my hair was, “unstable” when I’ve been doing it since I was 13, and it’s largely because I don’t really like/can’t afford clothes so it’s a nice way to freshen my look. But in retrospect, I did have a sense that I was, “evil” or, “good”. Not really anyone else, but me.  When I was much younger, I was also a total liar.  I was trying to big myself up, to be more interesting than I was. I also told bad lies to cover worse truths.

Now I am the opposite- I am completely honest with people and with myself.  (Some of my, “lying” took the form of psychosis when I was 16). I wasn’t great with being left alone, but I am now.  I am quite settled in who I am, I like being alone, I feel incredibly secure in my marriage and so on and so forth. But at one point, some of it was true. And realising that was actually very helpful as it meant I stopped and checked myself. I did sometimes react super-quick to anything, whereas these days, I’m quite mindful and moderate, and that was a wonderful thing in my life, even though it means I have also become quite boring. I wondered at the time, “Was my reaction to this diagnosis because bipolar had become assimilated into my identity?”- a self awareness I was not credited with, but one I think was true.  And it meant I began to step back from the importance of bipolar as a diagnosis.

Part of me was also grateful for the borderline diagnosis, as, when I had been told about it, I was told I had also recovered from it.  When I actually sat down and thought about it, my reasoning was, “Okay, so, if I’ve recovered from this, I don’t have a shitty, life long illness.  This is GOOD news”. And once I stopped fixating, things got easier.

But. On the background of that instability were moods. The instability stopped, for the most part, during proper mood swings. The moods are different.  Emotions swung from despair to anger and back again, but my moods swung from depression and despair to normal to elation and irritability and lasted a much longer time. Affected everything. From awakefulness to neverwaking. Were not who I was.

So it was all complicated by this instability that existed within me, and my general personality, which is to be analytical in the first place, and a bit of hyper vigilant.  When I look back, it is clearer to me now. The very long period I have had of being high functioning, groovy, mostly stable (save for normal stresses) without a whiff of BPD nor bipolar disorder beyond the medication effects and my general social awkwardness, makes it make more sense to me.  My moods, in the absence of the instability and other youthful behaviours and coping mechanisms, have become more sharply polarised and more noticeable as being, “different” from the way I normally am.  When I think back to my late teens, I was unstable, but I was also the person who used to infiltrate classrooms and talk and talk, until the break ended, constantly to whoever listened and stayed awake, laughing, breaking things gleefully, half my boobs out, indiscrete then believing I was a famous comedian. Before that was a depression that meant I missed most of my GCSE years. That period got me kicked out of college for being bizarre and hyperactive.  I forget that sometimes, why I am a 27 year old student, and am sad for it.

But overriding it all confusingly was emotional instability.  It was the start.  And I have found it difficult and confusing to separate myself, and had hoped that when that went away, everything else would, and it didn’t.

But that diagnosis before has made me so reluctant to get help when I need it, for fear of being dismissed.  And that is not a problem with me, but in the way personality disorders are treated and it pisses me off.  I almost want to say, “Yes, it’s not bipolar, it’s a personality disorder, so go on, treat me with the kindness that you just did”.

Recently, I have been depressed and it came as a shock.  I get the, “typical” bipolar depression of sleeping too much, eating too much, slow speech, slow thoughts,  guilt, feeling better in the evening, episodes being relatively short, etc.

At the moment, for the past 11 days, I’ve on Lamictal (as well as Seroquel). I am supposed to titrate up to 200mg, but I was so desperate to feel better, I thought, “Fuck it, I’ll start at 200mg”.  Which worked.  I am less depressed, but I think a lot of that also has to do with not working shifts, getting regular sleep and generally being able to take care of myself in a way I wasn’t able to while being a student mental health nurse.  And that gives me a lot to think about, that I may really have to deeply consider that I might have limitations I need to accept.  At the moment I am drowning under stress due to my habit of consistently taking too much on (moving house etc), still on a bit of a knife edge and feeling weird, and I know it’s not the time for big decisions.  This may not be recovery, this may be the effects of a high dose of a medication I have newly put into my body and on a dose I shouldn’t have.  This feeling better is fragile.

It has worked and been very activating (for a few days counteracting Seroquel to the point in which I could not sleep, at all, which felt weird after months of barely being able to get out of bed and crying myself to sleep) but I am now going to titrate properly as it seemed to be having a bad effect cognitively- yesterday I kept falling over, mixing up words and generally being dumb as fuck.  Today, I feel somewhat better, although I am so paranoid about THE RASH that I freaked my husband out so much he didn’t want to go to work yesterday.

But I still go, “Why am I taking this?” and feeling a flash of anger that I was put on medications so young for an illness I may not have, but probably do.  I wonder what the hell they did to my brain and if I should chuck them all away. I also feel flashes of anger that my language was taken from me.  Since I was 20 I have been talked to and speaking in terms of medical things; hypomania, depression, hypersomnia, etc. I no longer have the language to describe succinctly- this is why these kind of posts exist. Emotions and moods stripped to diagnostic criteria.  And once you begin to think that way, it’s hard to stop. Especially in my profession too.  One of the reasons I’m thinking of dropping out and doing psychology; I know there is a language, but to me, it is a more humane one.

And it has also given me suspicion of the medical model, which has come partly from age and education, and being more mature.  I was quite dogmatic at the beginning, and now I have a better understanding of my own experiences and how they contribute to who I am. I was keen to blame everything on a fabled chemical imbalance, while trying to minimise the trauma I had experienced, something I still do.  A friend of mine called me, “Rubberband Girl” due to the fact I could snap back from stuff which would knock people out for good.  But it took its toll, I just never really liked to admit to it.  I have been through a crapload of trauma and difficulty, and instead of feeling proud of surviving it, I pretended it didn’t matter. (You will not be surprised to learn- it did. And does).  I just suppressed everything and, in a way, hid behind the bipolar label.

I am more in touch with that now.  Recently, with moving, my husband says I get, “itchy feet” and finds it ridiculous that I enjoy looking up domestic things like curtains, that I pore over them, find them important.  I get itchy feet because I am used to being moved around.  This is the first time in my life it has been my choice.  I enjoy domestic things because for so long I was incapable of them.  I get a lot of pride in being responsible, paying bills, caring for myself.  I had a bit of an emotional storm during the wedding planning and the weeks before, when my past just seemed to hit me. I cried and shouted and raged, and it was what I had needed to do for a long time.  I am very self obsessed, I know this.  It was a self obsession I had to cultivate to keep my emotions in check, and, later on, my moods.  Psychiatry teaches you to be self-obsesssed while at the same time condemning you for it.  It tells you to be aware of yourself while at the same time telling you to stop thinking so much.  (My mum, when I was younger, used to say of course I was mad, I was a genius.  I wish she still thought that).

But there is also the little, “Your mum is mad and probably has manic depression, you grew up with her depressions and psychosis and you grew up with her cleaning the house at 5am, screaming, hyperspending and consistently getting us into debt and moving us around, your dad was an alcoholic, you probably inherited this, too” voice inside me. But it would say the same thing if I had borderline personality disorder.

I know it doesn’t matter, to me, in my heart.  I’m still me. My own sense of self does not rely on a diagnosis and, if anyone, the experience made me realise how fluid they are, how okay I actually was. The diagnosis helped me to be more honest with myself, and honestly, at that time, I was pretty okay.

But it does matter in some circles. I’ve been told constantly, “labels aren’t important”. But they are, and I found that when I had those two GPs.  I will find it when I register with my new one when I move, and get right in there with an appointment to discuss some physical stuff before they’ve had a chance to see my records and before they judge me based upon them.

It also matters in the sense that I have never quite shaken that idea that I have no right to talk about bipolar disorder.  At the time of the change of diagnosis, I saw some blogs which expressed their surprise.  Some people used the phrase, “bipolar poster girl” and it made me cringe.  I had never intended for that to happen. I never intended to be a poster for anything, and I don’t think everyone’s experiences are so similar that anyone can be.

There are better blogs out there now, I have mostly been fine for years, and I have faded into relative obscurity as a blogger.  But because this blog is still here five years later, I sometimes get approached asking me to speak upon it, and I usually refuse. When they ask me about my experiences of living with bipolar disorder, I say I don’t want to use that phrase- not just to avoid labelling myself (I was, “bipolar writer” to people, which annoyed me, which will ever shall be, but I don’t blame them, because- well, I write this blog) but out of shame that if I say it publicly, someone is going to “out” me.

And regretful.  I took a lot of joy and meaning from what I used to do. I very strongly identify with the experiences of people who have bipolar disorder.  Nowadays, my interest has become academic and I love mental health. Whatever happens, mental health (implicitly linked to me with social justice, human rights) is the area I want to work in, in whichever capacity I can be helpful.

At the same time, I have to hide my own mental health problems working in, “the system” and am in the double bind of wanting to say nothing and wanting to shout it at the same time because I am sick of hiding that I am drowsy due to antipsychotics and that I really honest to god cannot do late-earlies and night shifts because I cannot mentally cope with not having a regular sleeping pattern, which keeps me sane. I am sick of hiding the fact that my concentration and energy wax and wane, that yes, I did self harm, and rather badly for years, but I don’t have the plague, so please, let me pull up my sleeves without you staring at my arms because I am hot and itching under this.  I am sick of hiding that a lot of my sympathy and compassion comes from the fact I was a service user for such a long time, and when I hear shit chatted I want to butt in with the truth that, “us and them” is in fact “us”.

I want to start speaking out again.  I want to start writing again.

But I still can’t say I have bipolar disorder.

34 Responses

  1. Not sure what to say, but I felt I should say *something*
    You’re cool. And not because of any label. Mmkay?

  2. This is a brilliant, insightful post. I have had difficulties with the whole label thing as well. Hope you feel a bit better soon with the meds & stress x

  3. I was going to write a supportive essay until you called manic depression glamorous. It fucking isn’t. End of story. Sorry if you take that harshly.Might be for you, but hell, get over losing family, kids, wife, confidence, car, any possible insurance, business that paid two three kid families. I am getting better, believe you me. But it is a fucking hard road, and you in that post are making it Fryish. Soz Sean, but, but but open your eyes.

    • David- you know me well enough to know I meant that in the way it’s portrayed in the media, not in how I feel about it. I’ve written-constantly- about the life ruiningness of it, about the statistics of mortality, and the way it is glamourised minimising the suffering. You know this. You know, from reading for years, what it has done to my life. I mentioned already I didn’t finish school or work for years because of it. That it wrecked my relationships and the medications wrecked my health. Please reread! I have edited, I would be mortified if anyone came away from it thinking I was glamourising it.

  4. After talking to you, yes, I agree, and I take my comment back.x

  5. I first found your blog because I was bipolar and struggling to understand. I found reassurance that I wasn’t the only one, that someone else was struggling with similar things to me.

    I follow it now because I like you, in all of your faces. 🙂

  6. I really believed I was alone in questioning my diagnosis. I was diagnosed in 2007 with type 1 bipolar and it has been a roller-coaster ride since. I default a lot because I really don’t think I have bipolar. Yes, I’ve gone through psychosis, mania and the darkest of depressions but… It’s been 5 months since I last took my meds, 20mg prozac, 1000mg tegretol and risperdal which come with hectic side effects. I also stopped because I had gained so much weight I was running out of clothes to wear, I couldn’t write poetry, my sex drive disappeared, I couldn’t feel any thing basically I felt like the walking dead, a zombie and I couldn’t handle that. I do feel like I’m teetering and the edge of mania or depression sometimes but I have been able to handle it okay so far but I know that sooner than later I wont be able to ‘handle’ it and I will be put back on meds.

  7. Sometimes I like how ‘trendy’ and misunderstood Bipolar is, I can pretend to be normal and people will think I’ll be a right laugh. Mostly I’d cherished it at times of psychosis “no, no, I’m NOT schizophrenic – I have PROOF!” because I constantly worry I’m “a schizo” and an odd part of my mind views that as more permanent than Bipolar. It’s hard not to view any point I’m in the manic half of the spectrum as a wonderful step into remission and, ha! Normality! Every bloody year almost, 29 in a few months and how many flats have I rented in Eastern Europe and never got to…how many drama schools I’ve auditioned for and managed 3 weeks at? Thinking all the time it’s some BIG BIG change when it’s really just a sign nothing will change.
    You inspire me though…in a weird way that actually makes me burn with envy a lot of the time. SHE did it! SHE managed a relationship! SHE’s studying! Fuck, that’s embarrassing to admit but it’s true.
    Your blog is how I came across you again and when I found out it was YOU I honestly smacked my forehead and thought “OH COURSE!” and maybe you did the same when you found it out about me. Sometimes Bipolar disporder really does suit people and it amazes me a psych could ever think you self-diagnosed. It’s not just all we are though, I wear it like a suit of armour sometimes – attack the disorder not me! I’ll walk around dressed in excuses and segregate friends for different moods. One day I hope I can put Bipolar in its proper box and build myself around it instead of inside it. You’ve been doing that for a long time from what I can tell.

  8. I just wanted to thank you for writing. What you share, and the way you express your experiences, give me heart in my own life. The quetiapine I’ve been on for 2 years that has made me 3 stone heavier and put my cholesterol through the roof is finally being changed, albeit for another anti-psychotic. But, I just passed my second Open Uni course (Health & Social Care) with distinction and have earned some letters after my name. I am about to enter the whole job-hunting experience. Wish me luck, and thank you again.

  9. Hello, Do not worry about the label that is always the hard part but you might have to except it eventually, as you are very gifted in being able to share your private, self intuition on how you feel in truly inspired writing on this blog. David.

  10. Isn’t it weird the way one diagnosis (bipolar) is treated so differently from another (bpd), even if the symptoms are the same? And how difficult it is to distinguish both of them from “just” personality and “things that people do”. Especially how hard it is to escape from labels like “overdose”. Thanks for writing about something so important. With my daughter growing up into adulthood carrying these sorts of labels with her, I wonder which labels she will be desperate to throw away, and which ones will actually be helpful.

  11. So, so articulate. Thank you for writing so well about such complex feelings.

  12. Girl! Hell yeah you have Bipolar Disorder! (Why do I say that, because only a BPer could write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write and write (and quite well I might add) about a label. Here’s what I know about us BPers…just a little spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down…WE CAN WRITE! and write and write, and write and WRITE!

    And, sorry to say, you might have Borderline Personality Disorder too (like my sister.) It’s not like they are mutually exclusive. She has both.

    Well here is some advice from an eleven year old Bipolar 2 (I was diagnosed in 2001. BP 2 is supposed to be less severe but what that means is that we primarily suffer from depression- which sucks! I mean mania feels good WTF!?!?!?!? Talk about getting the short end of the BP stick!)

    I have lived with this illness for forty-one years. It runs relay races in my family. Tag! You’re it- It’s your urn to attempt suicide! Tag! You’re it! It’s your turn to go running up and down the streets, half-naked, screaming ‘the russians are coming, the russians are coming!’ like a total lunatic! Tag! You’re it – looks like it’s gonna be quite the hospitalization and doping up to bring you down from this manic rant. Tag! Tag! Tag! It’s Christmas! We all have to lose our ever-loving minds!

    Okay, back to the advice (you see what I mean about us BPers! I’m supposed to be giving you advice and instead I am WRITING on and on and on about my crazy siblings and me… it’s a BP thing, at least you’ll understand it.

    You understand the illness quite well, you’ve written about it for five years and you have paid your dues in blood, sweat and tears.


    Are you kidding me! I would! I would love for somebody to ask me to come and talk about bipolar disorder!!! it would be so easy! I would be like, “I got this! cause I know this, like the back of my hand! I GOT THIS!!!!!”

    Girl, you got that.

  13. what a beautiful and heartfelt entry. I often struggle under the weight of a “label”, though I was the opposite, starting out as an impulsive young woman and voila “borderline”. the drs said no hope, a lifetime of upheaval and no hope of steady relationships. I felt as if I had been poisoned. There was no hope for me. Anything I did was a manipulation. years past and my moods began to shape my existence. I wasn’t impulsive like I was at 20. Now I was adrift in a sea of emotion, shifting to and fro. I had no idea what was the matter with me. While deep depression was my most frequent state, I shifted into mania and the doctors all finally agreed on the dx. My life has become regimented in a desperate attempt to keep the shifts at bay. I dutifly swallow the cocktails of meds, accepting the often terrible side effects. In the last 10 years I have been in and out of the hospital in an attempt to keep me safe, or at least safe from destroying a life controlled by bipolar. I have spent the last year working hard to come to terms with this life, and take a driver’s seat. Bipolar is brutal, nevermind the label, this is my life and I am fighting to survive. Thank you for writing in such a connected and honest voice. It gives those of us “in the weeds” some hope of finding a new path. thebipolarfarmer

  14. Just cheked out what you gotta say. Although it’s my first time reading you, it’s been very interesting to know your point of view. I mean, Im a psychology student, and well, I have a long road to take on over my career studies. They -teachers- always talk you about this kind of situations, but you never get to comprehend them at a 100%, well, not at least until you graduate. I wanna thank you to sharing your thoughts and feelings, help me get a better idea of what this must be. But don’t worry, I know you might have a weird feeling with me telling you this, but believe me, we all have our issues, being or not mental or physical ones. You are not the only one, yet alone the last one to struggle this fight.

  15. […] to home, and far less tragic, Seaneen Molloy has returned to blogging  with an awesome post ‘Legacy of a label’ which brings us up to date with everything […]

  16. I would say “I’m bipolar” I leave the disorder out of it. And yes I DO think I am the “disorder”. One’s moods are inherent to oneself. So yes I am bipolar.

    As for you being a professional victim. Well that’s assuming you’re “suffering” from the disorder. It is quite possible to be floridly mentally ill and not suffering.

    I hope your depression fucks off soon.

    Oh by the way I know I shouldn’t put this but I will. I was feeling like crap the other week so I STOPPED my quetiapine, which is the only thing I’m on. I had this incling that by stopping my mood cycling it was keeping me IN the depression. Whereas if I could only cycle, I’d cycle up and out of it. WELL I WAS RIGHT; I now feel deliciously hypomanic. So much for drs and all their pills!! 😉

  17. o bloody hell did i put that professional victim bit wrong? Well I don’t think you’re a victim at all. A person who has an illness is either ill. Or possibly they have a mental condition but not an illness (being pregnant is a medical condition; so’s hypomania ~ neither one is an illness). But depression? Ukh please spare me it’s the pits. The only good thing about it is, from what I remember, when I’ve been right down I no longer feel suicidal at all. And I can’t move properly. So I’m seizing up all the time. And I feel extremely paranoid and kind of out of it in a very unspecific way that I cannot describe. It’s the milder depression that’s actually worse, in a way :-(… do you know what I mean?

  18. Oh BTW what you say about self-diagnosis: I got told I was acting “manic” or “bipolar” for over 15 years before I ever got the diagnosis. And when I DID try and tell the professionals about the bipolar symptoms I’d had NOBODY EVER TOOK ME SERIOUSLY and basically I felt like I was being dismissed as a neurotic liar. THEN I went into delirious psychotic mania and wow, suddenly they all listen. I just can’t believe it had to get to the point where I literally could not read at all, couldn’t understand other people and was yelling incoherently for anyone to take this seriously.


    I hope I spelled your name right this time 😉


  20. I love your story since I identify with a lot of it. I’ve struggled a lot with accepting the label ‘bipolar’. I still don’t really know how to tell people: I have bipolar, I am bipolar, I’m a lunatic, etc.

  21. My question is whether you actually ‘believe’ in all these labels/diagnoses ? There are over 350 classifications now in the DSM.
    Mostly , the medications are the same – whatever the label !
    Nothing is set in stone is it and psychiatry is not an exact science so whatever label/condition a person is told they have will depend very much on the psychiatrist’s perspective.

    You are an individual, Seaneen. We are all individuals.
    Yes, you have experienced intense emotions and ‘psychotic’ symptoms at times. This is more common than people want to know. Moreover, this does not mean that you have to ‘buy’ whatever the psychiatrist has to say about you. You don’t have to call yourself ‘Bipolar’ or BPD.

    There is only management of certain symptoms provided by the drugs/medication and the idea of ‘curing’ people chemically for what are fundamentally emotional problems is a daft myth.

    It sounds like you are doing very well in spite of it all… Happy New Year and thanks for writing this blog.:)

  22. Seaneen darling post something new, please about your fascinating life.

    PS didn’t you consider becoming a clinical psychologist as well as/instead of being a nurse? Or is the training too long…? I would have thought that would suit you down to the ground. But it’s all in the funding…

  23. I am so sick of the BPD label, DX with it in 2008 via the NHS, but I know and others (friends, family) know I have a mood disorder, most likely Bipolar… but trying to get the psych to change the label is just null and void. He finally gave me Lamotrigine when I was in the hospital in December, but only because I threatened to leave if he did not try me with a mood stabiliser, so he gave me Lamotrigine, which of course is used in patients with BPD!

    Having spent almost two years in therapy with 8 other BPD patients (5 left!) I have come to understand more and more how unlikely it is I have BPD, but I think they wish to keep the label attached to me in order to keep me in the therapy group because I am the only one who has showed any commitment to it, with 9 weeks to go I am almost on the verge of walking which will screw up there statistics!

    I find the label of BPD so damaging in psychiatry, I know I am treated differently from those diagnosed with Bipolar or Depression. My last hospital admission in December saw me ignored by the majority of the staff for 4 days, with them citing ‘we thought you where only here for a break over the weekend’ when queried by my CPN, the admission lasted 3 weeks!

    I detest BPD, and whilst personally ‘the label’ does not change me, it does I feel stop me accessing the right medications on the NHS.

    Also I continually question why the NHS fail to take into account the genetic Bipolar disorder than runs through my family like salt!

  24. The BPD label is so damaging. I completely understand why you now find it difficult to say you have bipolar.
    It’s difficult enough for anyone to admit to any mental illness due to the stigma, without the staff who are supposed to help us implying that mood disorders are real, valid mental illnesses that people can’t help having whereas PD’s are just us needing to get a grip and get on with it.
    You were told that dyeing your hair showed you have an unstable sense of self?! LOL (in an ‘if I didn’t laugh I’d smash my computer at the stupidity’ way). The ‘fight with her bf’ thing, I think they thought that about me too, I dread to think what they’ve put in my notes (and I am going to request them). They see what they want to see, and (mis)interpret behaviour to confirm what they think we have.
    It can be difficult to distinguish personality from illness, especially when it starts when we’re only teenagers. A lot of the laughable BPD criteria are true of everyone (sometimes, to some extent), especially the young as you point out, especially people who are insecure/ have issues, but it’s human to be insecure and have issues. 99% of my depression support group would be diagnosed with BPD if a psych was sitting in who *wanted* to diagnose them with it. I mean for example childhood trauma/ difficulty of some kind, admitting to which seems to almost always get people labelled with a PD, comes up all the time. It’s only in the medical model that mental illness just happens for no reason, not in reality. Anyway, this is about to turn into a rant, I’ll save that for *my* blog. Hope you’re OK.

  25. I agree with those people who are questioning the validity of psychiatric diagnoses entirely, btw, meds should be given for *symptoms*. You have a headache, you take a painkiller which may or may not help, doesn’t mean you have headache disorder. The trouble is that the system is run entirely on the medical model, and the label we get very much affects us – how we are seen, our access to care, access to medications. People are turned away from services in a crisis and refused medications that will help them because they are diagnosed with BPD.

  26. Hey, can you help me?

    I think…i think i have either bipolar or borderline personality disorder…

    it’s scaring me…

    I also have depression…(says the psychologist to me…)

    I can be happy one day and the next, nothing can shake me from a mentality of cutting bitterness and frustration…of anger and hurt and upset.

    Some days i feel energized, and others, i shut the world out and hope those who hurt me burn forever…

    I don’t know…and i hate it. I hate not knowing, not understanding, and not caring about who i am or what i lost.

    Some times i feel like i’m burning with frustration and that nothing or no one would be able to stop me, even if they could.

    I feel like i could punch throw someone’s chest with east.

    Sometimes i feel so down that the slightest thing makes me cry (and i’m a fairly tough guy…got bit by a five foot long king snake that had to be pried off with a spoon…and laughed the entire time).

    Help? Please?

  27. Yes very good advice Seaneen and Erin please do not be scared there is now a lot of help and understanding now with starting reading this Blog. Seek it out till you get a result. Good Luck.

  28. I am sick of the labels, when I was 14 I was an attention seeker, at 21 I was a paranoid schizophrenic by another psych. When I was 25 a professor of Psychiatry in Leeds dx me Bipolar 1 with rapid cycling and psychosis. My first psych here agreed with that and that dx stuck right up until 2012. It was then changed to BPD, the reason it was changed pissed me off, not the diagnosis itself, but because I opened up about my eating problems I’ve had since I was 12 (my other mental illness started at 8), I was told that was proof I was BPD because I was trying to stop professionals abandoning me. I won’t go into exactly what I thought about that!
    Then almost a year ago I was sectioned again in the same hospital. It was a new Dr on the ward, initially she stuck to bpd, my mum asked was this right because I didn’t really fit that offer than the symptoms that overlapped with bipolar. She was told yes definitely. They said to the panel at my tribunal my psychosis then was drug induced, I hadn’t taken any drugs other than theirs! By the end of my hospital stay (6 months very nearly), she’d changed my dx again to cyclothymia! Which is a mild rapid cycling form of bipolar?! So I guess it’s tamer your pick for me! I do think i have most symptoms in common with bipolar, but I personally think there’s no different illnesses. We all have things happen, and some people have very strong minds, others fracture easier. It is how deep that fracture goes that determines your symptoms and the severity of them. From speaking to people when in hospital I do indeed have traits of a the illnesses I have ever been dx with (with the exception of attention seeking which is not a valid dx). I am now labeled as bipolar again so I use that label, but I don’t necessarily think these different labels are helpful.
    Great piece, thanks for sharing.

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