Bipolar that is.
A couple of weeks ago my very dear friend, Daniel put my silly little blog to shame and his to good use by candidly revealing his struggle with depression and the importance of raising awareness (check it out here). Applauded for his openness, his post received an overwhelmingly positive response, including a re-post on Beyond Blue’s Facebook page to the highest number of likes and comments in their Facebook history.
Personally, his story inspired me to open up about my own struggle. After all, Bipolar is a disease just like diabetes, heart disease or any other. The only way to release the stigma of mental illness is to educate others by being open and honest about it.
Like most people, I’ve gone through life feeling the ups and downs. However it wasn’t until a couple of months ago after I experienced one of the more intense depressive states of my life that my closest friends encouraged me to get help.
Seeking help in its self was a daunting task because I feared that the doctor would confirm what I was feeling deep down - that I wasn’t depressed, I was just weak and overreacting. Unfortunately my first experience was not rewarding. The initial doctor I saw (my university GP) assumed that I was stressed from exams and prescribed a healthy dose of diet and exercise. Whilst I saw the value in his assessment, I felt that he didn’t really try to diagnose me, but rather gave a blanketed generic response for all students.
My friends forced me to get a second opinion and this time was even worse. The second doctor I saw was a particularly horrible woman whose impatience made me feel like I wasting her time. Without fully listening to what I had to say she explicitly came to the conclusion that I wasn’t depressed and indicated that I should go see a counselor who cares and probably couldn’t afford mental health care anyways.
After that, I felt more depressed and was pretty much done “getting help”. But my amazing support system of friends wouldn’t let me give up and as they say third times the charm. The final doctor I saw was incredible and in my opinion should be the rule, not the exception. He listened to everything I had to say and asked a lot of questions. He came to the conclusion that I was depressed but could possibly have bipolar and wanted me to get tested for both as the treatment plans are very different.
This took me by surprise as I suspected the depression but the possibility of bipolar never really crossed my mind. My ‘natural state’ if you will is very bubbly and outgoing, so when I experience hyper or ‘manic’ states, they are somewhat characteristic of my personality. I assumed my exuberance was ‘normal’ and how everyone feels when they’re happy. On the other hand, my depressed states are so far removed from my personality that it’s only natural that they hit harder.
Whilst I saw my doctor months ago, it wasn’t until this week that I was able to get an appointment with The Black Dog Institute to get tested for bipolar. I walked in feeling like it was just a precautionary measure and that i’d come out fine. So as you can imagine, when the Psychiatrist told me that I have bipolar II I was shocked and overwhelmed. However the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. In fact my whole life started to make sense. My diagnosis answered the fundamental question that has plagued me my whole existence - “why am I like this?”
I’m happy to say that I am on the road to recovery, and although I still have a long way to go, I have an amazing support system to help me on my way. Also the fact that i’m now part of an exclusive club that includes my hero, Stephen Fry, is pretty fucking special.
But I realise that this isn’t the story for everyone. I figure If I have bipolar, anyone can. So please, if you feel like you’re struggling or know someone who is don’t hesitate to reach out and get/give help.
As my friend Daniel so eloquently put in his brave post:
”There are some great initiatives out there like R U Ok?Day and all the great things beyondblue do. There are others as well. But it still comes back to us to improve ourselves and improve the way society views these things. I hope it won’t be long before the stigma around mental illness is gone forever, but until then all I can do is my best to get the message out there and talk to anyone I can who needs me”
So now it’s my turn to do some good with my blog and just like Daniel, my door is always open. If you’re feeling pretty low and need a friend (even if you haven’t met me) just holla at firstname.lastname@example.org