I Was Misdiagnosed for Years

For nearly ten years, I had been diagnosed with depression. Boy, were they wrong.

I Was Misdiagnosed for Years
Photo by Manic Quirk on Unsplash

When I was a child, I was extremely happy and energetic. My mom and grandmother will tell you that I bounced all over the place. I loved to read, I loved to play, and I loved watching and helping my grandmother in the kitchen. I had my ups and downs, but who doesn’t? Nothing ever seemed out of the ordinary. In middle school, though, things seemed to change a little bit. I went to a different school than my friends, and these new kids were not as nice or as kind to me. The way I had made friends in the past didn’t seem to work as well as it had before. It threw me for a loop, but I kept working and getting good grades.

Then, halfway through my seventh-grade year, on Christmas Eve, my grandfather died, and I was devastated. My mom’s parents had been like my actual parents growing up. They had been there for me through everything, even more than my actual parents. After he died, something in me changed. The change had been building for a while, but his death became the catalyst. I became more erratic and volatile in my decision making. I would get really excited for things and start a lot of different projects, but I wouldn’t finish anything. My parents became very worried with me and decided that therapy could help me work out whatever had been going on with me.

By the time I was in high school, I had been diagnosed with depression and blamed a lot of my problems on that throughout my high school career. I became bitter and nasty to most everyone I knew, especially my family. It didn’t help that I had been forced to go to a high school I didn’t want to attend and was not well liked. My friend group changed year after year. I really only had one or two good friends in that school my whole high school career. I also found myself really struggling with having good grades for the first time in my life, and I was not used to it. I was still a good student, and I was a relatively unproblematic child. I didn't skip school, I didn't do drugs, and I didn't really date. But, I was miserable and all over the place. I only felt normal around my friends and hated my parents.

College was a trip for me. In the beginning, I was completely thrown. I had never been on my own (I am the youngest out of five), and while I was excited at first, I was terrified soon after. I remember asking my mom if I could take off a semester because I had a feeling that I wouldn't do well if I stayed, and she told me no. She was afraid that if I took time off, I wouldn't go back. So, I stayed, and I suffered. I went to parties and drank and experimented. I found out what it was like to be free in almost every sense, and I didn't know how to handle that freedom. My grades slipped and I was not great at having jobs or positions of power. In short, I was the poster girl of being a "hot mess," and everyone knew it except for me.

In my last year of college, I felt like I had a handle on my life and was doing a lot better. I raised my grades, I went to therapy, and I even started taking medication. Things were going well until I thought I was well enough to stop my medication, and I did. I absolutely tanked my life for three to four months. I was out of control. I went on drinking benders; going all out and blacking out to the point that I would remember nothing of the night before. I would then start crying and regretting everything I had done the night before, and so would begin a vicious cycle. It was at the point where I consistently had no food in my place for myself or my cat, and I was just drinking my meals that I decided to finally see someone.

After talking with this therapist, I found out that all these years, I’d been misdiagnosed. I didn’t just have depression; I had bipolar II disorder. Turns out the medication had really messed with my mind. There was even a lawsuit or two filed because that medication was not meant for people with bipolar disorder. At first, I was utterly devastated. I realized that for the rest of my life, I would be going through a constant battle to keep myself from going out of control in two equally negative directions. The doctor I saw then suggested that I talk to my cat whenever I felt a mood swing or a panic/anxiety attack coming on. I thought he was crazy. What could my cat do? Turns out, more than I expected.

It's been about seven years since my initial diagnosis, and while things were tough at first, they've gotten so much easier. My mom, who balked at the idea of me being bipolar and refused to come to terms with it, now calms me down when she senses I'm going through an episode. My dad, always the medical consultant (he worked in hospitals for 20 years as an OR technician), was so relieved that they had finally figured it out. Literally, the first thing he said when I told him the diagnosis was, "Oh my god. It all makes sense now!" I regularly go to therapy and take the correct medication. I have a loving family of my own, including my beloved college cat and a black Labrador whose own level of separation anxiety makes me feel like she's a kindred spirit. (My other cat is the epitome of cat and just doesn't care. At all.)

I shared this because I know how hard it can be to deal with crazy diagnoses and feeling like you have no idea what's going on with yourself. For anyone reading this that may be going through the same emotions and confusion, you're not alone. This is unfortunately a common practice. But, I promise you, you will get better. It will get better. Even if you feel like you may not have anyone to talk this through with, you have me now. Misdiagnoses are horrible, but, with the right mixture of support and hard work, anything is possible.

bipolar
Read next: Never In the Cover of Night
Dahlia Baerga
See all posts by Dahlia Baerga