Why it took 10 years to get diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

I had a conversation with a dear friend tonight, and it took me back to something she said to a could-have-been cruicial conversation we had 9 years ago…

 

Friend; ‘Maybe you have Bipolar disorder?’

My reply?

‘I doubt that.  I am never happy.’

 

When I look back at my troubled youth to my lost little self, attempting to navigate her way through the foggy maze of heightened teenage emotion; I see her frightened.  Bewildered, in to taking more wrong turns than the steady path that she so desperately grasped at and missed. I wish, that there was an Angel, who dutifully held her hand out to her and guided her through the haze, just enough so she could just make out the glimpse of what was on the other side of these walls. Just enough to assure her that one day, everything will make sense.

 

There was no Angel.

 

And without direction, I had no faith. Without faith, I was sure to keep falling down.

One of the (many) reasons why I never got diagnosed earlier, I believe, was because there was no one there to tell me how it felt like to be trapped inside the mind of someone who is struggling. What I really needed was for people to assure me and say; Yes,  I understand exactly what you are going through. Yes, it is perfectly normal for you to be experiencing for someone with mental health problems. Yes, your feelings are valid. Yes, it is okay to reach out to people and talk about it.

I had a hard time admitting to myself the turmoil I was experiencing inside, never mind asking others for help. I was still in the mindset that having an illness such as Bipolar disorder was just a case of being either ‘sad or happy’. Who was I to know that there was so much more to this? No one ever told me otherwise! No one ever showed me what it was really like to experience and live these difficulties first hand. What it was really like to feel these turbulant emotions, these anxieties, to host these scars. There was no elemental foundations for me to relate my own troubles.

Bipolar and other Mental health conditions are prevalent and talked about in health society these days. There are descriptives, figures, statistics – every where – but what there is lack of is the first hand experiences of these complex, hard to catagorise symptoms and episodes that make it easier for those lost little Megan’s everywhere to place themselves in and say;

“I can relate to this.”

“This is exactly what I am going through.”

Without online mental health forums, stories, blogs and having that crucial access to the like minded community who shared their experiences and fought to reach out to help others, I may still have been sailing along without the breeze to guide me.

So write. Share. Express those emotions within you, however dark they may seem, and however hard they are to bring to the light. Connect. Help. Reach out. Make a difference. Help one more person reach their goal to getting the help they need.

Let’s help people sooner understand that it is okay to say, out loud;

 

“I am not alone.”

 

 

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Why it took 10 years to get diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder

  1. I couldn’t agree more Hun. I know that with my depression people who had suffered with it before were telling me they thought I was depressed when I was 16. And I thought “but depression is being sad all the time, and I am happy sometimes, and sometimes I’m not even sad” or “but 16 is too young to be depressed so I can’t be”. I was lucky in that only a few years later my depression threatened to destroy my relationship and I knew I couldn’t let that happen so I went to see the doctor and was diagnosed there and then. But if that hadn’t been the case? I’d have probably still been in denial about it. I know I’ve been in denial about some of my more recent episodes and I know what it is now.

    I think that people, but young people in particular – those who are fumbling around at 14, 15, 16 etc trying to find who they are and what they want from the world, who know what they’re feeling but maybe not what it means, or even those who do know what it means but are worried about the stigma of being depressed, or having bipolar or whatever – they need to be taught that it isn’t a bad thing, that it’s just part of who they are, that they’re not alone and that they do have help if it’s needed. They need to be taught that anyone who stigmatises them because of something they didn’t choose and they can’t control is not even worth the time of day.

    And adults, parents and caregivers need to be more knowledgable of the signs of mental illness. To be able to spot when a friend, or son, or sister or whoever might be struggling with a mental illness. They need to be more knowledgeable on the best ways to support someone with a mental illness.

    There just needs to be better education and better support for everyone -something our health system seems to be lacking in.

    • I think part of the problem for teenagers is that we don’t seem to take them seriously enough, because they are young and inexperienced – so what should they know about being depressed, right? But it happens, and it happens on a bigger scale than we could know.

      I remember when I was in the earlier years of being confused and scared about the emotions I was feeling. One day I must have been sulking around or something, and my Dad mentioned something to me about it (told me to put a smile on my face, or asked what I was moping about for or something along those lines) and I told him it was because I had so many problems that i didn’t know how to pick myself up. He responded by laughing at me, and said “Problems! Just you wait until you reach your adult life!” and totally dismissed it.

      It was at the time where I was severely struggling with social anxiety and paranoia, depression, self harm and was having dissociative episodes – as well as keeping this all to myself because there was no one there to admit this all to who would take me seriously. But I was just a child, so what would I know?

      The experience has opened my eyes to be more prepared for how my own daughter handles her teenage years in the future, and to look for signs of distress in her.

      Well done for reaching out and getting help x

      • That’s exactly what I mean though. I remember my sister at 16 going seeing a counsellor in secret after a teacher raised concerns and my mum told her she was too young to be depressed.

        And myself, when I was diagnosed I had all that as well…”but why are you depressed?” And “what do you have to be depressed about?”

        If you spoke to my parents now they’d tell you that they were supportive of me throughout that whole time, but they really weren’t! I remember my mum telling me that in her opinion I “needed to grow a back bone, learn to deal with it and come off my meds” – this from someone who’s supposedly been depressed herself.

        Teens need to be taught that it’s okay to be mentally ill. But parents and adults need to be taught that children can be mentally ill, they can have problems and just dismissing them is never going to help them. They need to learn how to recognise when their kids are struggling and how best to support them.

        Well done to you as well. I know you have your bad days but you’re doing a lot better for yourself than some other people I know with bipolar x

  2. I am going through a continuous struggle of finding the right combination of the right cocktail of drugs that will help me manage my symptoms better.

    I was also the one who diagnosed myself about 6 years ago.

    The psychologist I was seeing kept telling me I had Borderline Personality Disorder. I disagreed with this, as did several of my close family and friends who are my support system.

    The way I began to understand what was going on with myself is that I had been finding ways to self-medicate. I never traveled down the path of addiction, but I knew what I could take to help curb some of the nuances of being ADHD/Bipolar/Anxiety.

    If i were down, I smoked marijuana, it lifted me up to humming bird levels and I could function in hyper-drive. Then I became more desperate and tried cocaine a few times. I loved it, the thoughts became quiet, the mellow modes that rained over me were glorious. I could focus, I could concentrate on one task…like watching a movie or cooking dinner, without forgetting the stove was on and almost burning down the house.

    It was difficult at first to talk to my psychiatrist about this, but when I did, he said why haven’t you told me this before, and well….that stuff is illegal!!!

    But that same visit that same conversation, led to a firm diagnosis of “my brain is on fire!”

    The psychiatrist smiled kindly at me, chuckled and said well that helps me out.

    We agreed that treated of the unstable moods had to come first. Then treated of the ADHD, and hopefully the anxiety would subside with the treatment of the two nasties and voila’!

    By the end of the visit it felt as if we had made a huge leap in my care.

    Back to the cocktail search, we are really close…and now the new psychiatrist with my clinic is using genetic testing and a grand series of bloodwork to find a customized dosage and medications that will be best for me.

    Perks= No more rollercoaster cycling
    Focus
    Understanding myself and behaviors in realtion to others.

    • From experience of talking to others, I do believe for many the journey of inding the right mix of medication to compliment your own neurochemistry can be a challenge in itself. I am always chopping and changing meds/doses. It’s all trial and error unfortunately.

      I also feel the need to bring up your early diagnosis of Borderline personality Disorder, as that is exactly the conclusion i recieved from the first years of me getting councelling support. There is so much danger in giving someone a label that doesn’t fit,it leads to misdirection in treatment. As a result I was put on antidepressants, which lead to a few years of episodes and stupid decisions. We all know how dangerous antidepressants on their own are to people with Bipolar Disorder as they induce mania. This misdiagnosis between the two conditions seems quite common.

      I am glad you are on the right pathway to support and I hope you find the right mix for stability soon. 🙂

      M x

      • Yes you are correct the wrong diagnosis can be the worst for those of us suffering with mental illness. The BPD diagnosis almost ended my life as the medicine that I was on sent me on a downward spiral of tragic depression, that changed my life. I think we are finally at the right place with therapy and almost spot on with meds. It’s a relief and a blessing to have the team I do at this point. HUGSYA

    • I saw a little video clip on bipolar awareness once, where they interviewed the public on the streets and asked them what they understood about Bipolar.

      The majority of the poeple had the same understanding, and gave similar answers such as “you are either extremely happy or extremely depressed.”

      The rest of the public couldn’t even give an answer as they didn’t even know what it was.

  3. It took me a while too, and a few wrong diagnoses. I think part of me knew for a long time but was terrified–I did not want to be bipolar. I feel so much better now with proper treatment. Thanks for sharing, it is always healing to connect with the experiences of others.

    • Hi Allison! Thank you for connecting. How cool that you wirte for BP hope as well, it is a website I visit frequently.
      I’ll look forward to reading your posts on Rebel with a cause,
      M x

  4. Hey I’m new to your blog and thought Id chime in as someone who has fought depression off and on in my life.

    Sharing our stories is so important. Sometimes just hearing another person’s story helps keep you going on the real dark days. It doesn’t even have to be a story with a particularly “happy” ending, like “I got better,” it just needs to be honest and human and true.

    And that’s what I see here in your writing.

    Thank you.

  5. That is excellent advice.

    My mom is always pushing me to be an advocate for the mentally ill.

    But she can never understand that the best way to be an advocate for the mentally ill is to share your experiences with mental illness with others–and to show the world, through your talents, what a person with mental illness can accomplish.

    It has been pointed out to me that one problem with the “gay rights movement” is that so many homosexuals and lesbians base their entire identity on being “gay”–as if their sexual orientation is all they are.

    Likewise, those of us with psychiatric illness need not base our entire identity on our illness–as if it is all we are.

    We are so much more than our psychiatric illness. And our struggle to rise above it–and live as best we can, despite it–is a testament to humanity at its best.

    • Thank you for your input 🙂

      I suppose there is more than one way to advocate for mental illness. I do believe in the power of doing it through emotional experiences though. There’s definately alack of it out there today.

      M x

  6. This is absolutely so true. Anyone who takes a mental health first aid course knows this: in trying to help someone with a mental health problem/illness, validating that person’s thoughts and feelings can help them change their behaviors.

  7. This is such a great post. I can relate and hope that one day I am able to help others. I’ve been pretty candid on my blog. I suppose that is a good starting point. Being honest with myself and others has been the hardest part, but I am getting over the hump. Your post is really helpful and inspires me to keep flushing out my thoughts, wanting to realize that I am not alone.

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