There was almost a period of grief after receiving my diagnosis. I personally experienced mixed emotions. On one hand I finally had a name for the monster living inside of me. On the other hand it meant I had barely begun my journey to wellness. For so long my illness was the only thing I knew. Who would I be without it?
Before I was properly diagnosed I was taking medications that magnified my symptoms. Once I did my research I told my psychiatrist that I refused to take them anymore. The side effects and withdrawal effects of those drugs were horrible. They included tunnel vision, tremors, nausea, and sweating. Just awful. Then I got lucky. The first mood stabilizer I tried actually worked! This seriously does not happen all the time. I had tried medications for depression, OCD and ADD before reaching this point, but when I found the right thing I felt so much relief. The “cocktail” has varied a bit throughout the years, but the mood stabilizer supplemented with an antipsychotic have been a constant. Unfortunately it just takes time to find the right thing. That is just how it goes and it stinks.
At 35 years old – 10 years post diagnosis – I am still trying to take steps of acceptance.
I went through a phase of feeling like I was a slave to a pill. I completely understand the idea of wanting to flush them down the toilet. I even went on and off of them a few times. I just didn’t realize how seriously I needed consistent management.
What made me feel better was knowing that a pill wasn’t my only management tool. I found counseling. One specific therapist completely changed my life. We worked through a lot of feelings – feelings regarding Bipolar Disorder and feelings about things I couldn’t properly process because of the Bipolar Disorder. My family was so supportive that they joined in on sessions. It improved our relationships tenfold.
When I was 29 years old I finally started properly utilizing my medications and I have not stopped since. Sometimes I still get those feelings of grief. I don’t understand why I have this thing. I don’t want to have it. Well, I do have it. I can’t change that so I have to accept it. At 35 years old – 10 years post diagnosis – I am still trying to take steps of acceptance.
I’m very aware that I am different from many of the people around me. Having a severe illness makes that a reality.
So, who am I? I am shy and introverted. I get excited for an occasional night out with my friends, but definitely need some alone time to recharge afterward. I like to think I’m a bit witty. I’m horrible at telling jokes, and I laugh at things that no one else thinks are funny. I’m just my quirky self. I’ve discovered different types of exercise, my favorite being martial arts. Hitting a bag or the mitts is better than meditation for me. It is my meditation. I love to knit and crochet. I’ve discovered a support group where I can interact with others who have the same illness. I love my work. It’s rewarding and I enjoy the people around me. Then there’s the best thing I’ve done in years – I’ve picked up my violin again. I stopped playing after college because the Bipolar set in and stole years of productive, functional living. I can’t play any impressive concerti anymore but I still enjoy it and I think that’s the most important part.
I’m very aware that I am different from many of the people around me. Having a severe illness makes that a reality. There are a handful of people around me with their own mental health issues that have productive lives that I feel comfortable sharing with and confiding in.
In addition, I am still making decisions to constructively manage my illness and live the most fulfilling life I can – exercising, not being scared to talk and share, eliminating toxic relationships and most recently giving up alcohol. The decisions I make as I travel along on my journey are decisions I believe help me further accept my diagnosis.
I realize that I don’t always have to be “Sarah with Bipolar”. I can simply be “Sarah”.
For a long time I didn’t recognize myself. Bipolar Disorder stole my life and identity for years. I am still figuring out who I am again. I may not know exactly what I want all the time, but I am much better at figuring out what I don’t. I also know that there is still so much to look forward to in life. After all I am only 35.
There was a time when I didn’t want to be here on this planet. That still makes me emotional.
I realize that I don’t always have to be “Sarah with Bipolar”. I can simply be “Sarah”. I have Bipolar Disorder but it does not have me. I feel happier and more fulfilled than I have in a long time. I have amazing friends, I have a job I love, and most importantly a family that has stayed by my side and has never given up on me.
There was a time when I didn’t want to be here on this planet. That still makes me emotional. Today I am excited to be alive and thriving. There is no one with a perfect life. Everyone deals with something difficult. Bipolar Disorder is the thing I deal with. I still have ups and downs every single day, but I also have hope, I have faith and I have much love.