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Initial Diagnosis

Henrietta Ross

I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder roughly twelve years ago. I wasn't remotely surprised when the kindly psychiatrist told me, as I already had a good grasp of psychiatry and I had had a good idea of what was wrong with me since adolescence, I say ‘wrong’ in the lightest of terms of course.

Though, though I may have had an idea that I had Bipolar Disorder, knowing what is wrong with oneself and actually living with an illness, disorder, are two very different things.

Twelve years ago I was of the mind that if I took my medication regularly and continuously then I would stay well, I honestly believed that it was this simple, which now makes me smile as I remember my naivety and lack of knowledge, even so, perhaps for a time I was lulled into a false sense of security, championing the wonder of psychiatric medications, during those periods when I remained well. Unfortunately these things do not remain static, this was obvious when at other times my moods would fluctuate widely, and it became apparent, frustratingly so, that finding the right combination of medications was going to be a continuously tricky process, one of trial and error and hope, as drugs were tried and tweaked and changed, ever hopeful for that perfect elusive mixture that would help provide a much sought after sense of stability and a lack of horrendous side effects.

Though later still, even after discovering a satisfactory mixture of pills, it became obvious that this was only one part of the equation, that actually living with and managing Bipolar was going to be more complex than I had once imagined. I was going to have to look at sleep, diet, routines, exercise, triggers, and much more, in some ways a complete overhaul of my life would be necessary and pivotal to remaining well, though I am not entirely sure what ‘well’ means these days and so I earnestly began, which led into years of trying to find the perfect ingredients, sometimes getting it marvellously right and congratulating myself, sometimes not faring so well and attacking myself for my foolishness and lack of insight and at other times, not even remembering or noticing when it was all going disastrously wrong, which has happened many a time.

Which brings me to the present moment in time and a short description of how my moods are faring now, which as you read, you will hopefully come to appreciate that they are not faring well at all. In august of last year, something family related concerning my daughter triggered my mood. I was so unbelievably stressed out as I tried to deal with the situation and the overwhelming emotions that sieged through me, that I didn't recognise the signs of hypomania emerging. But emerge it certainly did, not quietly and delicately so one can look back and define the moment when it first began, that it had been percolating inside of one for a few weeks before it all became too much, no, this was more aggressive, sudden and rapid in which saw hypomania soon descending into full blown mania with all the unfortunate consequences of bad decisions, huge debt, episodes of psychosis that this entails. It lasted around four months, until in in January I finally crashed and descended into a depression - as what goes up, must come down as governed by the laws gravity. What was perhaps different about this episode was that the depression lastly only a month, rather than the six months or more after a manic episode that I have become accustomed to, after which point I began rapid cycling and have been doing so ever since.

So is it time to look at all these things again, sleep, diet, routines etcetera, is it time to make some educated changes or may be it is time to try another new mixture of drugs, to strive to find that perfect recipe that may just help me find some semblance of normality.

It can be increasingly more and more difficult to make rational decisions when ones moods are crashing around in the way that mine currently are, but in moments of glorious insight, I realize that anything would be preferable compared to not knowing how my mood will be from one day or one hour or one minute to the next.

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