May 7: Two years after my diagnosis

On May 7, 2013 I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder making me one of roughly 5.6 million Americans, about 2.6 of the adult population. I was 24 years old, which put me right smack-dab in the median onset age.

I don’t really want to get into the long story of how I arrived at my Diagnosis Day other than to say that it was abrupt and a huge inconvenience.

A year ago, filled with wide-eyed optimism, I decided to write myself a letter telling my 2013 self how things were going and congratulating them for getting help. I reread my letter the night before and noticed it was full of gusto. Maybe even a little naive.

It’s been two years, which means I am a total newbie. Bipolar is something I will manage for the rest of my life so I am certain that I can figure it out with time. Maybe someday I won’t feel the need to write letters to a former self every May 7.

When I wrote that first letter in 2014, I was full of optimism: I made it. Way to go, me.

Now that mood has changed: This is still going on?

The feeling I got when the doctor sat down in front of me and laid the whole thing out — Bipolar II, Rapid Cycling, to be exact — this wave of relief washed over me. I’d been trapped in my head, so finding out I had a “thing” that other people had and doctors knew how to work with sounded like a lifeline.

Now, I’m just stuck to it. The initial, well, “sexiness” of it is gone and I just have to do the grunt work.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is great, but I am aware of my health all 12 months out of the year. It has it’s struggles and its ups and downs, but most of the time it is an attempt at strict routine.

I feel this need to write some amazing memoir of my Heroic Battle with Mental Illness, but the title would probably be Karen Goes to Bed at 10 p.m. or Karen Remembers To Take Her Meds Twice A Day. (Many who know me know that I constantly fail at bedtime and am even doing so as I write this, but I am very committed to the meds thing).

The reality is it is So. Very. Boring.

Before I accepted the responsibility of taking care of myself like a goddamn adult should do, most of my creative output occurred between the hours of midnight and 2 a.m.

Before I started the routine I would hit these charismatic highs where I was so productive, so “on” and so confident.

Before I started the routine? Well, I dealt with crippling, crippling lows.

That last one in that list is the lede I am burying. Sometimes I still feel low and it is hard. It is oh so hard, but the important thing is I don’t get as low.

So I don’t mind being stuck to routine. I’ll go to bed early. I’ll take my medication. I’ll eat healthy. I’ll turn down a beer sometimes. I’ll be open with my friends and family. I’ll meditate, I’ll exercise, I’ll keep a mood chart.

Most importantly, I’ll keep going. I don’t want to feel the way I did two years ago. I would much rather feel whiny and bored and annoyed about little things than out of control, wild and down.

In 2015 I’m boiling down that letter to my past into a Post-It note: Dear Karen, I’m doing just fine.

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