Before I start this post I want to make something very clear: I am not a healthcare professional, mental health or otherwise. Nor am I a therapist or a psychiatrist. If you feel like you need to talk to someone, or recognise yourself in any description of a condition – please contact your local health center and get professional help.
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the autumn of 2015, after having suffered a rather long hypomanic period over the summer. I wasn’t aware at the time of what was going on, not even close.
Rewind to when I was a teenager – I was 14 ~ish, when I experienced my first symptoms of depression. Of course, I didn’t know back then that that’s what it was, but looking back it’s been pretty clear. Over my teenage years, I more or less had what’s known as high-functioning depression. It didn’t affect my studies all too much, I wasn’t staying in bed all day and it wasn’t too easy to notice. I remember the feeling though, which came from a lot of different circumstances in my life at the point. Lack of friends, lack of self-confidence and lack of self-esteem. Over the years I didn’t really do much to get help, and the very few times I did I wasn’t offered the help needed.
Flash forward to 2015. I was living with my then-boyfriend, J, in a very small place (18sqm to be exact), under rather stressed conditions. It wasn’t by any means bad, but it definitely helped trigger what happened next. Now, I don’t remember a lot from that summer – memory loss is rather common after a hypomanic episode – but I do remember feeling entitled. Feeling like I was in the right, all. the. damn. time. No kidding.
One thing I remember specifically is what I call the “phone accident“. I was ridiculously angry at J for something (probably nothing), and decided to leave the house with some vague threat of hurting myself. I refused to take my phone with me since I didn’t want anyone to reach me at that point. Most likely I wouldn’t have hurt myself had he just let me go, but he refused to leave and just stood there, outside of our building, trying to hand me the phone. I got so angry I took it and told him that if he left I would just put the phone under a nearby rock and pick it up when I came back. Long story short, that’s exactly what happened and I ran off into the night being angry and upset trying to calm myself down. I came back about half an hour later only to find that my phone was gone, literally just disappeared. I assumed that J had come to his senses and gone back for it, but it turns out he hadn’t. I ended up spending the coming two days cancelling all my credit cards and similar, as they were attached to the phone pocket. During this time I was angry at J for causing this and I felt like it was all his fault. I felt as though it would’ve ended well had he just let me go.
There are several stories like this one, stories where I make myself look like a downright idiot if I tell them, which I why I rarely talk about it. It’s sometimes hard to make people understand the kind of mindset you were in during an episode which caused you to act the way you did. Coming out of an episode it’s not unusul to suffer memory loss and some of these stories have come to me from other people who were around me at the time. Of course, looking back I do realise that my actions were unjustified but I’ve also spent years coming to accept that I couldn’t do more than my best to prevent them. Once an episode has set it, it’s almost impossible to stop without professional help – and I wasn’t aware of what was going on.
After this incident, and several others over the summer, I was pushed to seek help and thankfully took that advice to heart and did so. After a few months of questionnaires, interviews and tests I was presented with my diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder II (type 2).
I wasn’t quite shocked as it had been expected, but I was confused as to what this would mean for me, J and my future. But most of all I was relieved, that finally had words and reasons behind my acting and all the confusion I had been through. I was put on medication as soon as possible and started going to therapy to help find mechanisms to cope with the disorder when it does start to spin out of control. With that I have now built a better and more stabile life for myself, of course with the usual setbacks every now and then. Over the coming weeks, I will make some more posts on this subject and talk more about how it is right now, what works for me and what doesn’t, and how I learned to accept myself as a bipolar person and all that included.