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Advice for the Newly Diagnosed

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I was diagnosed with Bipolar Type II disorder on January 28, 2014 and I want to write my first blog post in this space about some of the things I wish I had known then. 

Here is what I wish someone would have sat down and told me on that Tuesday morning: 

It will get better. Your meds will become finer tuned and you will learn how to better live with this disorder. It will all become more natural for you with time and, although there will be some bumps in the road, your quality of life will overall continue to improve as long as you take care of yourself and follow your treatment plan. 

Find a doctor and a therapist you really trust and believe in (and who trust and believe in you). You need to trust that you have been given the correct diagnoses, that your doctor knows what is best for you and that they will listen to you and take your opinions into consideration. You need to find a therapist you like and respect, who makes you feel heard and understood. Keep looking until you find these people – they are worth the extra seeking. Choose a care team who are easy to get ahold of, who call you back and who you can schedule emergency appointments with when things come up. 

Learn your own warning signs for ups and downs and let the people in your life know what they should look out for. They may spot the beginnings of an episode before you do, and if you notice it quickly enough you might be able to do something to prevent the cycles from beginning again.

You do not need to be afraid every time you feel sad that you are falling back into a depression; you do not need to feel anxious every time you feel up that you are getting manic again. Life after bipolar treatment still includes the natural ups and downs of life and it can take a while to learn how to tell the difference between normal feelings again and bipolar symptoms.

You should learn all you can about this disorder. Watch any documentaries you can get your hands on, read and follow blogs, seek out books and articles & look for groups (whether they are on Facebook or in person) for bipolar people who can help you not feel so alone in dealing with this disorder. Make bipolar disorder your new hobby until you are comfortable with this new identity (you have so many) and you don’t have to think about it so much. But for now? Obsess.

At the same time, if you feel like these groups are dragging you down, take a step back. Sometimes we need to be around people who understand our pain when we are hurting but once we are feeling better again, we don’t want to be continually reminded of the dark places. Seek community when it feels right and if it starts to feel wrong, just take a step back. It’ll still be there when and if you need it again.

Find your own ways to cope (in addition to following the treatment plan you create with your doctor and your therapist). Some of mine include making art (primarily photography), taking care of my houseplants and my dog, keeping my space organized and clutter free & eating a balanced vegan diet. Your coping strategies might be very different than mine, but try things and learn what helps you to feel (and stay) balanced.

Look for ways to get involved in mental health advocacy – use your talents and resources to help other people who are also living with bipolar disorder. Doing this will also help you to heal and grow and will give you the support of a loving and encouraging community. Start a blog, make artwork inspired by your experiences living with bipolar, get involved in a national or local organization – think of how you can use the things you are passionate about to become an advocate for yourself and everyone else who is living with this condition.

Comments

Thank you for posting this from your perspective, for being so honest and transparent, and for sharing the thoughts that go through so many minds when they receive this diagnosis. Keep fighting, you are doing a GREAT job!!!

Great post - I'm a fellow blogger here at the PBPF. I'm a parent and the Bipolar Parenting Foundation on Facebook and website/blog has been very helpful to me and my husband.
https://www.bipolarparentingfoundation.org/

The only think I need to get clearer on is how to find that team. For the longest time, it was just my psychiatrist and I. Then I begain to avail myself of outpatient partial hospitalization for the 3-5 day a week group therapies led by fantastic group leaders. Some of us remained friends. I love my psychiatrist. He's been there for 15 years. Recently I've picked up a new primary care physician who seems to want to open up a dialogue with my shrink. I'm 54, and on Clozaril and have been on Tegretol for many years, so the two of them have been running many labs just to check and compare notes. This gives me hope. Is there another way to find a 'team' that's sort of ready made? are they to be found at clinics? Or do you do what I did, start with a good psychiatrist and ask him for referrals? Over the years, when I've asked for certain medical referrals, my doc says he doesn't know anyone. My doc is in his late seventies. He specializes in mood disorders, mainly bipolar disorder. He is not a moralist, and is actually a fun person to go see. He has tons of clinical experience but seems to be cut off from the remaining medical community at large here in ol South Florida.

Having all your Doctor's on the same page is awsome. Monitoring physical as well as mental health is important. Not knowing anyone for referrals is unusual. I was diagnosed 15 years ago and was fortunate to have found a wonderful Physicist on my 1st call. A Therapist was more of a challange. I recently moved to South West Florida and quickly learned I have to be my own Advocate. To me seems like Mental Heath care is lacking to say the least. Having to wait several months for an appointment or many of the Doctors are not taking new patience is so stressful.If you are in Lee or Collier counties any have any suggestions I would reall appreciate it.

Thank you for such wise and practical advice.

Diagnosed in 1975. 4 hospitalizations occurred up and into the age of 50. Some kidney damage from years on lithium. Developed micro cysts. Had weekly therapy which has helped immensely. Enjoyed a 20 year teaching career and started a second career in art at 35. Married for 36 years. No children. Had yearly episodes including psychosis. Usually lasting about a month and learned to handle this by staying home. Usually recognizable on onset and time to get myself home. Things improved greatly from the mid 50's on. No longer on meds except for when the episode occurs which is thought to be stressed related. Have never thought of myself as a sick person, mentally I'll or different. Very important to be able to accept BPand when having difficulties be patient and know it will all change up. Most important seize on life's joys and experiences like anyone else who strives for a Full life. It is very possible.

Thank you for sharing your story. Glad to hear BP can get better in my 50's.

Same page sister.. Same page. Thank you. Truly. For sharing xo.

It's people like you who are willing to be vulnerable (read brave) and share their experiences that help so many others who will unfortunately find themselves walking in your shoes. Your advice in my opinion was spot on, mature and shows that you have made great strides since your diagnosis. Carry on with your fab self love.

I am not recently diagnosed, but I still don't understand my own illness (type I bipolar). Thank you for this article. It is refreshing to find others who understand the confusion of this disease.

Truth…thanks.

Looking for a support group for spouses of those diagnosed.

Hi Stephanie,

DBSA has online and in person support groups throughout the US. At this link you can search by location, from there you will see a list of support groups. Each group is run a little differently, but many divide into consumers (people living with bipolar) and caregivers (people caring for someone who lives with bipolar -like you). http://www.dbsalliance.org/site/PageServer?pagename=peer_support_group_l...

If you need more help finding support groups or other resources, email hzupin@ibpf.org

We also have a free PDF book that includes a chapter for caregivers, you can request it at this link: http://ibpf.org/webform/healthy-living-bipolar-disorder-book

Thank You, this is the very first blog I read on Bipolar. I was diagnosed 14 years ago. It has been an unbelievable Rollarcoaster Ride of years of Manic Highs with Psychosis and dark Depression. I don't have a Doctor or Psychiatrist I can trust which is so disappointing. The Shame holds me back from trusting them. No human being should have to go trough what I've gone trough. I don't know where I get the strength to carry on but like you I get great joy from playing music. Aine

Hi Aine,

We understand it can be hard to find a doctor you can trust. Sometimes it can take a long time, but it's worth trying new doctors until you find one you like. If you want help finding more psychiatrists/therapists or other resources, we can connect you to what we know of in your area. Email hzupin@ibpf.org for help with this. 

I was recently diagnozed bipolar 1, with secondary major depressive disorder and psychotic episodes, am on meds, but i hate this illness, i am 52 and my life is a mess, i just feel worthless

Hi Robert,

I'm sorry to hear about the trouble you are going through. Sometimes it takes a while for medication to start working or to find the right combination of meds, but it is worth being patient. Recovery is possible. For examples of people who have made it to recovery, try reading the blogs under the "personal stories" topic on the left side of the page. 

If you need help finding treatment or support resources, email hzupin@ibpf.org

We also have a lot of educational information on our website, such as our free PDF book called Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder. You can request it at this link: http://ibpf.org/webform/healthy-living-bipolar-disorder-book

Or our webinar series - hour long online presentations on various topics related to bipolar. We have the live every week, and record them and post them here: http://www.ibpf.org/articles/educational-videos 

I am glad to hear that infromation .I.have to . Think my friend

Also I will try to apply some of the tips.

Thank you so much for this post and for being so brave as to do so. For many years I have known I am Bi-Polar and no one would give me a proper diagnosis. All I was told was its reactive depression. WTF? Now several years on and I am finally getting a proper assessment in two weeks following a failed suicide attempt. To say I am worried is an understatement not for the diagnosis but that they'll still say no. I desperately need to know so I can start my long journey of recovery. I have had MRI's, EEG's that diagnosed nocturnal frontal lobe epilepsy and as bad as it sounds I was really hoping they would find a tumour. Then I would know the reason why I was feeling so ill. The darkness of this depression is taking over my life and I cannot cope. My group therapy is due to end soon and my meds aren't working. I need tools to cope so I can go and get a new job and start to live not exist. Once again thank you. I know I am not alone xx

Hi Katie,

If you need help finding a support group or treatment resources email hzupin@ibpf.org 

We also have a free PDF book called Healthy Living with Bipolar Disorder that you can request at this link: http://ibpf.org/webform/healthy-living-bipolar-disorder-book 

For some more coping tools, you might want to read the blogs under the "coping strategies" topic on the left side of the page. The "personal stories" topic is also good to read for examples of how you are not alone. 

I hope this helps xoxo
Welcome to my bi polar world. Nice place to visit, but it really sucks being trapped here! Today’s not one of my better days. I’m anxious, angry tearful and very tired. Showering and dressing are the major achievements for today. My head hurts and my eyes are constantly stinging, trying to hold back tears that come for no real reason.

The people around me seem impatient and cross with me, and I hate them for it. I want to scream and lash out and leave, but the remaining pocket in my sane mind tells me to weather one more storm. It will pass.It always does.

I look forward to my super charged days when I will get heaps done, be happy, awake and the centre of attention. When I look and feel great to be around. This is when I am finally free to be me, hang the consequences. I rehearse for these days, the notes, the letters; dialogues in my head speak of grand and lovely things that I’ll achieve. But not today.

Today I look and see the pitiful mess left behind. I ring friends who can’t deal with me anymore and family who hold their breath waiting to see if my mood will change back in the blink of an eye. The pain in my head gets worse and I struggle to see tomorrow. I seem to spend more and more time alone with my thoughts and tears and it makes me feel tired and lost. I don’t have the energy to fix my mistakes; I just want to withdraw to avoid making more of them.

Although my great days are great they seem more distant lately; their consequences are greater and I self destruct so much quicker. The spiral is tighter and spins almost out of control, then throws me violently on my arse again.

I wish for days of nothing. No thoughts, no action, no expectations, no plans. The solitude of a peaceful, clear mind. Just to be. It’s been such a long time since those happy days. The calmness and clarity of being organised and in control seems to have deserted me for a while.

I so want people around me to understand this freak show that is my mind. The horrid tricks it plays. The sneaky power play it has with me and the energy that explodes within it. I want people to know how much pain I’m in and how little it takes to upset the balance.
And how scared I am that eventually the little control I do have will disappear too.

This was written 22/6/06 during a very difficult patch.
It was also 6 weeks before I went on medication.
I’m not saying I haven’t looked back, but the road is certainly smoother.

Kate

Kate,
Are things better? Reading this, I felt like I was writing this. I haven't been diagnosed with BP, but your story sounds like what I go through. I love my great days, and miss them on the bad days and the good ones are getting more and more few and far between. I don't know what to do first. Today was actually a high, productive day, but lurking in the shadows anxiety was whispering telling me that tomorrow might not be like this. I want to be normal.

He sido diagnosticado con tbp 2.hace poco después de padecer una larga neumonía .además de otras enfermedades crónicas desde 2011 htd insuficiencia cardiaca .lo que hice después de empezar el tratamiento to y de padecer una horrible depresión (eso creó). Empecé averiguar y me di cuenta que le puede pasar a cualquiera y que hay y historias semjantes en distintas latitudes del mundo .eso me llego a permitir que disminuya mi ANSIEDAD y a comprender que todos somos vulnerables.

dad

E
Dad

Great advice! I was diagnosed quite some time ago and have a good handle on my symptoms, but these are great reminders of what I need to do to continue to take care of myself. Thanks!

I want to thank for this post. I have recently been diagnosed bipolar II and have struggled with irritability, anger, and depression since my early teens. I am now 45, getting divorced from my wife of 25 years because she just can't take it anymore. I have finally sought out help and it took a good year to find the right therapist and psychiatrist. I am on Wellbutrin and Lamotrigine and I think that we finally have the right combination. I can't remember the last time I feel as good as I do now. I have to admit I was affraid of the stigma that comes with this diagnosis, but my friends and family have very supportive and encouraging. I feel badly that the brunt of this was directed at my wife and don't blame her one bit for not wanting to deal with it anymore. But I now know what was wrong and I should have sought out help before now but we make choices in life and have to live with them.

I was diagnosed around the same time as this blogger.. It has taken me all this time to start to feel Im gaining some control of my life again. Its been tough, and remains a daily struggle. but I would like to share things that have helped me, incase they can help others.

1. keep life regular. try to go to bed and get up at similar times, for me that means turning off the tv at 10 and trying to relax.

2. meditate, mindefullness and awareness of myself helps me recognise triggers and up/down turns quicker.

3. I give myself permission to be rather than try to fight what is.. dont give yourself a hard time.. or if you do have intrusive thoughts along those lines try to see them for what they are. if Im depressed I allow it and tell myself it will pass eventually, maybe even today :D if Im manic I do the same. I try to look after myself as best i can, try to exercise once a day, even if its only a short walk.. when Im in a low place that can be hard, but I force myself, sometimes with the support of others, to get up and do something.. laying down in bed all day dosent really help me much, if anything it can prolong the depression..

4. be with people who care about you. Physical contact is important for me, to know I am accepted as I am, warts n all..

5. try to avoid stimulants.. as silly as it sounds coffee can send me to a manic place, so I dont drink it anymore, apart from decaff.

I wish you all all the best.. I hope you find balance, go Gently..

I was diagnosed in February 2015. I had finally changed psychiatrists finding someone that was truly sympathetic to my symptoms. I have a 28+ year mental health history being misdiagnosed as major depression. I always felt my symptoms were more on the bipolar side. After losing my husband and mother within the span of 1 year I became suicidal. I now have a wonderful psychiatrist that is working very hard to get my moods stabilized. We have tried several medications and still can't seem to get the right combination but I am confident we will. I also have a compassionate therapist who sees me weekly and God bless her just goes with whatever mood I am in. My diagnosis is rapid-cycling bipolar so often times my mood changes from day to day. I am living in complete hell right now but holding on to the hope that things will get better. My doc and therapist are holding me together. I am reading everything I can get my hands on to understand the madness going on in my mind and that has caused so much pain and suffering to everyone that has ever been close to me, especially my children. I pray that someday I will be level enough to consider myself somewhat normal. Thank you.

Hi I have recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder iv been hospitalised once with a manic physicosis iv just had another bout of physicosis anxiety and paranoia on meds anti depressants sertraline and mirtizipane mood stabilizer/anti physicotic olanzapine iv recently came off the daytime mood stabilizer because I found it has me like a zombie so I told my physiciatrist I'm doing an awful lot of sleeping because I'm on a night time anti depressant and a mood stabilizer I do be zombified nd lack energy a lot during the day it's disastrous its more like feeling lifeless I'd like to be more energetic but at the moment I'm in recovery so for now I just gotta stick with the programme. I don't know whether I should get my physiciatrist to increase the anti depressants or come off them fully I'm not working at the moment I just threw the towel in at work because it wasn't helping my situation and I also was drinking a lot of alcohol I'm off it the last four month's nd plan to stay off it because it triggered my physicosis

I am recently diagnosed and I often wonder if I will ever get better. Your post gives me hope so thank you.

Dear Kait,

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this blog. You are so sincere and clear with your experience. I am thankful that there are people like you that others can identify with and share hopes and sorrows.

I was happy to be diagnosed in 1986. I was 38 years old. Being told that someone understood that my behavior was not under my control left me joyous. I didn't like my actions or feelings. That there were medications to relieve this lack of relationship between my inner thoughts and outer behavior was great. I wish I had the meds when I was 15 years old.

Love the article but wish I could fall into that stability. Diagnosed at 48 (in retrospect had my first manic episode at 16) years of misdiagnosis and way too many antidepressants (which trigger episodes for me) I finally found a therapist who picked up on it after 2 suicide attempts and years of crazy destructive mania and dark depression. Wonderful mental health team who also works with my primary but med after med and some very serious side effects and weekly therapy (sometimes twice weekly) 2 hospital stays and it worsens and worsens despite major life changes ( weight loss, walking 3 miles a day, dietary changes, yoga, meditation, family therapy too many to list). I swing wildly still although mania easier to control with meds than the dark times. Beyond frustrating. I just feel like giving up this horrible disease losing all hope. Watched my mom and grandpa go through this horror and eventually die from it. My dad with mental illness took his own life although not bipolar. Have Bipolar 1 and PTSD, anxiety disorder. If not for my son I'd long ago have ended this madness. Over 2 years now since diagnosis. I wonder how people hang on with rapid cycling and mixed episodes. Only 5 weeks of feeling relatively stable. Such a nightmare disease.

This blog post was spot on. I have had success exercising and have lately learned how gratitude helps me to get through tough days. I feel that I was born to deal with this and my personality, beliefs and way of seeing the world is specifically designed for this disease, disorder, opportunity, challenge, sickness etc. (How ever you want to define it)

That being said there are still plenty of dark and difficult days.

This is really good advice. Thank you

Thank you i just got diagnosed right after my 25th birthday. Its been a couple of months and now im just waiting on my phychiatrist appt was 5 month waiting list so hopefully il get medicine sorted. Im type 2 so guess im lucky in a way. Im glad now i know whats been going on cos i used to feel like i didnt know myself cos of impulsive things or my actions. Im in a hyper phase at the moment n i find them so hard to deal with. I feel like running down the road shouting. Hopefuly will pass soon

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