I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder just six months ago after years of being treated under the mental health services.
Despite receiving help in the form of therapy from the age of 15 and my mother having a bipolar diagnosis, I wasn’t totally prepared for being diagnosed myself.
It led to me having a lot of misconceptions about what the diagnosis meant and how I would be viewed as a person as, I’m sure, is the case for many people.
Here are 8 things I wish I’d known before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
1. It is not what defines you
I’ve got so used to people describing themselves as ‘being bipolar’ that I forget that what they mean is they ‘have bipolar’. I feel it’s important to remember that bipolar disorder is an illness, and not simply a personality trait.
2. There isn’t a quick fix
As far as I was concerned, I’d be totally okay once they put me on the right medication plan. What I didn’t realise is how long that medication plan can take. I’ve come to learn it’s all about (lots of) trial and error.
3. It’s not as black and white as it seems
I assumed bipolar was being up and down, manic or depressed. I didn’t realise how much went on in between, that you can have periods of feeling normal or even mixed-state episodes where you’re feeling both up and down at the same time.
4. Manic doesn’t equal happiness
Before being diagnosed myself, I’d assumed manic meant you were happy and depressed meant you were sad. I didn’t realise manic was also classed as being agitated, irritable and angry, with the inability to slow your mind down.
5. Being manic is scarier than being depressed
Though I must admit I am much more motivated when I’m manic, I’m also like a ticking time bomb. And that’s scary. When I’m manic, I tend to not sleep much, I carry out every idea in my head, I’m impulsive and my credit card becomes my best friend (and worst enemy). And that’s dangerous. Alongside this, when I’m manic, I’m forever waiting for my mood to crash.
6. My depressed side highlights my insecurities
When I’m manic, I feel like I have the world at my fingertips. That the world owes me something. I convince myself that I’m going to do great things and I have a million ideas run through my head all at once. When I’m in a depressed state, all of my insecurities come out and I have some sense of realness again. Though it’s not nice, it’s comforting to know that there is that part of me that wants to do better.
7. The diagnosis is made easier to understand when a loved-one is suffering with the same thing
I must admit, bipolar disorder for me has been easier to deal with knowing my mum is living with it too. She can offer me advice, experience and can lift me up when I’m at my lowest.