What I Have Learned From Being Diagnosed With Bipolar 1 Disorder By Susanna Page
My story starts in 2013, in Denver, Colorado. I was in college when I began to feel serious symptoms of bipolar disorder. My episodes began with me just staying up a couple days a week and not getting any sleep, but as time progressed, I began to stay up for days at a time and struggled with debilitating depression. At the time, getting no sleep seemed to be a regularity on a college campus, so no friend told me something was wrong when I told them I was staying up all night- on multiple days of the week. The thing was, was that I was having a hard time, but no one could see that. I was socializing, doing my homework, and was always “happy”.
It was a different story when I got home from school. It took a lot of energy out of myself to paint a picture to everyone else that things were normal with me. At home, all the protective walls came down and the symptoms of bipolar came out. I went from highs and lows and it affected the way I lived. By March 2013, I was struggling. My grades had gone from A’s and B’s to F’s. I was almost put on academic probation. I was staying home more because of depression and made excuses to professors so I didn’t have to go to class. Now, looking back, I had obvious episodes of mania and depression.
Inside, I remember the episodes making me feel like I was on a boat going through rough water. I couldn’t understand why I was doing particular things, like staying up for weeks at a time, eating a ridiculous amount of food, and reorganizing my room sometimes up to three times a day and cleaning obsessively. I also couldn’t get my mind around why I was so depressed. It wasn’t depression as though you got a bad grade on a test, but it was deep depression that was slowly killing me inside. The darkness inside of me didn’t want me to exist, and it was a battle every day to get up and conquer the day.
In March 2013, I found myself in the emergency room (ER), and a week after my ER visit in Denver, I found myself during late March of 2013 in a psychiatrist’s office in Marin County, CA, back where I grew up.
I was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I didn’t know what to do with my diagnosis. My diagnosis was extremely stigmatized- how was I going to tell my friends? How about my family? How was I going to survive?
Fast forward to 2019, I look back at my journey with bipolar disorder as the best thing that has happened to me. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I have survived. The first thing I remember thinking when I was first diagnosed was that I wouldn’t get married or fall in love. In 2018, I married my best friend and overcame my worry that I couldn’t be loved because of my diagnosis. I’ve discovered that taking medication is not as bad as it seemed. Medications help me stay stable and enable me to live the life that I am living now. The life that I love. I find humor in the fact that I have to drink so much water because I take lithium. While others rate restaurants on their food, I personally rate restaurants on how fast they refill my water glass because I am thirsty all the time.
People might think it is ridiculous for being thankful for my manic and depressive episodes, but I truly am. The mania taught me how not to live life- being impulsive and not thinking things through- but it also gave me some of my best memories as well. The depression has taught me that I want to live with standards that promote a positive outlook on life and promote positive well-being.
My manic and depressive episodes have given me confidence that I can take on the world.
I met my husband because I was manic enough to create an online dating profile, and I got a dog that aided in my recovery because I was manic as well. I’ve overcome so many obstacles by having the experience of being in a manic and depressive state of mind, but stability feels like home for me.
Stability to me is not having manic or depressive episodes but being in the middle. Stability seemed impossible to me when I was experiencing mania and depression. I always thought I was going to experience the ups and downs of bipolar disorder. But being stable is possible.
I need to rely on family, friends, doctor’s, caregivers and strangers. I say, strangers because even though it was hard, I put my life out there for people that I didn’t know well. I blogged and I spoke about my experience with bipolar disorder, and strangers resonated with my story and helped me come to terms with my diagnosis by giving me unconditional support, even though they didn’t know me very well. They gave me hope.
It has taken me six years to come to the point where I accept my diagnosis and feel like I can coexist with it. I think of my diagnosis as a best friend. It challenges me, but it has created someone that I’ve grown to love (me) through these last six years.
Be patient with your journey. Seek out examples of people that have overcome some of your worst fears whether that is through a book or even a YouTube video. Volunteer, exercise, eat healthily and write. One of the things my therapist always tells me is that you can check a negative thought, and then change it to a better more realistic thought. You can do the same when it comes to your life. I realized through my journey with bipolar disorder, that it is so easy to be unthankful for things that come into our lives. Once I switched my point of view when it came to my diagnosis, everything changed. When I accepted my diagnosis, doors opened for me. I became a writer because I started to share my story, I became healthier, I fell in love, I got married, and now I am about to graduate with a degree in Psychology. Everything became manageable, rather than feeling impossible.
If you are struggling with a diagnosis right now, know that it does get better but it can take time. So have patience, find support, reach out, be open, accept challenges, and be kind to yourself. When I found out that other people lived successfully with bipolar disorder, it changed my world. I said, “If they can do it, I can do it.”