“Well, this looks like a case of bipolar disorder with attached severe anxiety.”
One year ago today those words stopped my heart, and my world, all in one quick moment. I had gone into the psychiatrist’s office knowing that something was wrong – that the last suicide attempt could have been the final one. Things were spinning rapidly out of control in my life, and I needed to find the bottom so I could start the bounce back. That office visit was without doubt, the rock bottom worst moment of my life.
So much changed with those few words. My perception of the world, my relationships with my family, my professional being – it all changed. I have had to figure out who I am again. It was like putting on a pair of glasses that you know you need, but it still takes time to get used to wearing. Immediately post diagnosis the world seemed to slow down with the rush of medicines coming into my life, starting with a therapist, and trying to still – you know – work at my job that was paying the bills. It was hard, and for quite some time I felt like I was walking around, living my life even, while wearing a set of cement shoes.
Never in my life, either before or since, have I felt what I felt those first few weeks of taking medicines. Knowing now what I do – the original prescription was the wrong one for me, and unfortunately it took two more rounds of medicine hell to finally find one that wasn’t killing me from the inside out. Before we landed on the solution though, things got so bad that I chose to check myself into a mental health treatment facility to be safe. The five days that I spent inside that place were at once nightmarish and life changing. I learned a lot in that experience; about myself, about my disorder, and about how to deal with my new life as someone with bipolar disorder and anxiety.
When I came out of the facility, several key things had improved: 1.) I had finally found the right medicine and had worked through the initial effects, 2.) I had learned valuable coping skills from caring and competent professionals, and 3.) I felt more comfortable than I had before with my new reality.
Fast forward now from April of 2017 when I left the facility to February of 2018.
As I’ve talked about before recently, I made the decision in early January of 18 to stop taking medicine. I wanted to exert control in my life, and felt like I “had it,” so I decided to stop. Six weeks later, I openly and honestly admit that I made a mistake.
It took about 3 weeks, but slowly the feelings and emotions from January and February of last year returned. They’ve been in varying degrees, and thankfully not constantly, but they’ve been there – more so every day. A few days ago, I came to a realization that I can’t do this on my own. For better or worse, I need medicine to control who I am. Here’s the biggest change from a year ago though, and it’s what I try to hang my hat on when I think across all that’s happened.
Knowing who I am and what I have doesn’t upset me anymore. I’m not fond of the reality of having to take medicine to survive, but I’m on board with it. At this point in my life as someone with bipolar disorder, survival is the ultimate goal.
I survived the first year of this. I did it.
One year down, eternity to go.