Friday, December 6, 2013

Being Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder

It was 2009 and I was lying in bed unable to get up and start my day. This had become a problem for me the last few mornings. The thought of getting out of bed, getting dressed, and going to work caused me to burst into tears. I was severely depressed. This wasn't the first time I had experienced depression but this was the most extreme. All I could think about was suicide. I wanted to escape the overwhelming feeling of dread and doom.

I took a leave of absence from my job and was able to have my aunt keep my kids for a few weeks. Summer break was upon us so my little breakdown happened at the perfect time. I thought that taking a break from reality would help ease my depression but I was wrong. After a week of still feeling the same way I decided it was time to see a therapist. I couldn't stop crying and I wanted someone to pull me out of my crippling depression.

When I finally linked up with the right psychiatrist he told me that I was bipolar. But this diagnosis didn't come right away. The first psychiatrist that I had spoken with told me that I was just depressed because I had six kids. I tried desperately to explain to him that his assessment was wrong. My children had never been the cause of my problems. Don't get me wrong, my children do sometimes drive me crazy but they had never caused me to be depressed. I had always been my worst enemy. My children were the result of whatever was wrong with me. The psychiatrist, on the other hand, didn't agree. He told me that my problems were because I didn't live up to my parents' expectations and that was also causing me to be depressed.

I tried to explain to him how absurd what he was saying was. I was a very independent woman. I had been on my own since the age of seventeen. I lived in a townhouse and I had a very good job. My parents admired the qualities that I had. They had accepted long ago that they couldn't control me, and while they weren't proud that I had so many children without being married, they were proud by how I handled it. I was far from being depressed because of how my parents felt about me and if he were listening he would have known that I could care less what anyone thought. But still my explanation did not sway his opinion. He had judged me and that was that. He prescribed me some anti-depression pills and sent me on my way.

His actions caused me to go into a full-on panic attack. I felt hopeless. He was supposed to help me but instead he put me into a stereotypical box. After I left his office I sat in my car completely freaking out. I called my therapist and tried to explain to her what had happened. She calmed me down and set up another appointment with a different psychiatrist. It was the second psychiatrist who diagnosed me as being bipolar. I was relieved to have a reason why I was such a mess but I didn't really feel any better about how I was going to survive through the rest of my life.

I had always known that something was not quite right with me. As a child I was extremely withdrawn and nonchalant. My nickname was "Evil" but I wasn't evil, I just wasn't interested. As an adult I would have spurts of happiness followed by spurts of depression. Nothing in my life could remain constant for too long without me becoming bored. The boredom would spiral into depression and to escape the depression I would have to change something. I would either quit a job, change my hair, change my furniture around, or whatever else I could change.

I couldn't stand anything once I had become irritated with it. Irritation to me was a physical thing. I would literally feel like I was going to explode and I would start feeling like something was crawling around on my skin. Soon the tears would follow. Being stuck in any situation that irritated me was unbearable, I would have to be removed from the irritant.

And that wasn't the only bipolar symptom I showed. I once went into a store to buy bug spray and I came out seventeen hundred dollars poorer. But that was nothing compared to the six thousand dollars I once spent in a day. I had extreme risk-taking behaviors. Sex, alcohol, and shopping was how my riskiness was displayed. I was twenty-six with six children. I jumped from job to job and college to college, majoring in several different things.

I had moved nineteen times in the span of a couple of years. In my early twenties I was drinking a pint of gin a day. My riskiness caused me to be raped twice and subjected to an abusive relationship. I constantly put myself in dangerous situations and I loved to play with fire. I would do things I didn't even want to do but I couldn't make myself stop. I couldn't be faithful and I couldn't be consistent. I had zero control over my life and that lifestyle was starting to weigh heavily on me.

I self-medicated with alcohol using it to calm my nerves and make me less irritable. Alcohol helped to make things more bearable. The jittery anxious feeling was gone when I had a couple of drinks. I was less indifferent towards people and would be friendly. It also helped me to sleep better at night. But alcohol had its side effects. I never had just one drink, and that in itself was a problem. Another problem with using alcohol to self-medicate was that alcohol made my risky side that much more riskier. And even though while I was drinking I was less irritable, if I did become irritated I would snap. Luckily, that didn't happen often. I was pretty calm when I was drinking.

The bipolar diagnosis provided me with insight but it didn't fix or change anything. The worse part about the diagnosis was that I was told that I was a person who went through periods of extreme creativity but it was just my mind playing tricks on me. It made me feel stupid and it opened my eyes to the fact that many people didn't take me seriously. And while it was true that I did have spurts of creativity, that's all they were, they were just spurts.

Regardless how good my ideas were I would never complete them. This was part of my sickness they told me. But what I could never understand was exactly what they meant. Am I capable of all these wonderfully creative things I dream up or are they just dreams? Will I ever gain the discipline needed to be able to follow through or will I always remain another example of a person who is bipolar?

I guess we will have to wait and see.

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