Beginning My Journey
Discovering Bipolar Disorder, Rediscovering My Life
"Fantastic! I feel fantastic, honestly! I've never felt better. I can do everything, I want to do everything—my tablets must be working. They must be."
Yet they weren't.
Looking back, it seems so obvious that I was far from fantastic. I was becoming unwell. Signs with which I am now all too familiar: racing thoughts, pressured speech, lack of focus, extreme excitability, the insatiable feeling of wanting to do a million and one things every minute of every day. Symptoms to which I now find myself reduced whenever I react, in any manner of ways, to practically anything that happens.
It baffled me to think I was sat in front of my doctor, proclaiming how wonderful everything seemed to be, and why this was such a concern to everybody. I was taking my antidepressants. That's what they're for—what did they expect? I had returned from the dark caverns of misery and despair that had nurtured my most recent attempt to take my life, to a world of wonder, amazement, pure brilliance. Instead of struggling to find the energy to get out of bed, I struggled to find the time to achieve everything I had planned. And for once, I had plans. Big plans. It felt so unfair that people couldn't be as happy for me as I was for myself.
When the doctor decided to take away my Prozac, I genuinely feared for my life. Did she not realise that I'd once again become a shell of the person I now realised I had the potential to be? Going to the hospital had been one of the worst experiences of my life and was the last place I'd ever want to see again. How could she say they were making me worse? I left her office with a referral to my local Crisis team, confused, afraid, and apparently unheard.
Weeks passed. Countless appointments with various mental health services and a psychiatrist followed, assessing every remote detail of my life. It was towards the end of one such meeting that I blurted the question I had been most desperate to ask. The question that should long since have been answered. The question that would change what I knew about everything.
"Why am I here?"
That day, I was diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder.
At last, I understood. I hadn't known that antidepressants could trigger manic episodes, much less that I was displaying all of those symptoms. I'd had no idea that my mood had spiralled out of control. Nobody had ever told me that there was a reason why this was happening to me.
Life since diagnosis is different, but better. I know to look out for warning signs that I'm becoming manic and how to keep myself safe. I know that my medication is another part of looking after myself as much as making sure I get a decent night's sleep. I know that sometimes I need to think twice about taking on new responsibilities in the interest of my mental health. But most importantly, I know that nothing is wrong with me. I don't need to be fixed; I'm not broken...
I just have bipolar disorder.