I knew that I had a mental illness. I had for a very long time. Ever since I was 15 and tried to kill myself I knew that I had a mental illness. But I wasn’t very accepting of it. Don’t get me wrong, I tried all of the meds. I always took them. That was, until I got manic and stopped taking them. Nobody knew that I had bipolar disorder. They thought that I had depression or schizoaffective disorder.
In all fairness, I didn’t tell them all of my symptoms, but then, I didn’t know, either. I thought that mania was normal. I thought that that was how normal, happy people were supposed to be. I didn’t think anything else of it.
After a few years of trying antidepressants I kind of gave up. I was bored of the med-go-round and nothing working and I wanted off. All they did was make my moods go up and down, up and down. I went unmedicated for about five years, until I was 24. I just let my moods do as they pleased and rolled with it. But the older I got, the worse the episodes became.
One morning, after a severe manic episode, I woke up crying uncontrollably. I must have been crying in my sleep, too. I sat on the edge of my bed for a long time, crying, scared to move. I didn’t know what had happened. I huddled in a corner on my bathroom floor. I didn’t know that I had bipolar. I had been outrageously manic but I didn’t know. I still thought that mania were normal moods. I thought that if I waited a while then the crying would eventually stop. But it didn’t. So I made a tough decision and I went to urgent care. The temperature was over 100 degrees and the urgent care was about three miles away. I walked the whole way. By the time I got to the urgent care I was soaked in sweat. I guess it matched my tears. I wore my sunglasses while waiting in the waiting room as the tears were still streaming down my cheeks. At least there was only one other person in front of me.
Pretty quickly they called my name and I jumped out of my seat. They led me to a room where they had me sit down and wait for the doctor. They did my blood pressure and stuff too. I waited in that tiny room for probably about 15 minutes before the doctor came in to see me. She asked me how I was to which I lifted my sunglasses to show her the tears streaming down my face. I told her that I had depression, because that is what I thought that I had. I still was under the impression that all of my many manic episodes had been normal behavior. After talking to me for a few minutes she gave me a prescription for yet another antidepressant. As soon as I left her office I went and had the prescription filled and started taking them straightaway.
Fast forward a day or two and I was severely manic. I couldn’t sit still, couldn’t even sit on the couch. I had to keep moving. I couldn’t sleep. Even when I lay down in bed I couldn’t stop moving. My mind was racing, I had pressured speech. There was definitely no doubt about it this time. I couldn’t keep on denying it. I needed to see a doctor. So I made an appointment to see one as soon as possible.
When I went to my doctor appointment it took him all of about a minute to distinguish that I have bipolar disorder and that I was manic. So he added a mood stabilizer and told me that I needed to find a psychiatrist, which I did.
My new psychiatrist also agreed that I had bipolar disorder. He messed with my meds again and told me that he wanted to see my every week for a while. After a few weeks of seeing him I was committed to a psychiatric hospital for a mixed bipolar episode.
My symptoms of being mentally ill started when I was quite young. I was already hallucinating as a young child and thinking of suicide at about 10 years old. I wasn’t diagnosed with a mental illness until I was 15 and had attempted suicide. And I wasn’t correctly diagnosed for another 10 years or so.
I’ve had many different diagnoses but this is where I stand now: I have bipolar I Disorder, borderline personality disorder, and anxiety disorder. It took a really long time to get the correct diagnosis but now that I have, it’s easier for doctors to medicate me and make decisions about my treatment. I’m not saying that it’s made life easy; it hasn’t. I still have a mental illness and I still struggle every day but it has made it at least a little bit easier for me to know what I’m up against, to know what I’m fighting to win against. Because that’s what it is, right? A fight? But I think that it’s a winnable one.