By: Sydney Batt
I felt slightly relieved the day I was diagnosed with having bipolar disorder-- it felt good to have an explanation for my actions, however the days to come were very difficult.
I was very emotional the first couple months after my diagnosis--any time someone asked me how I was feeling I broke down crying, regardless of the person. I had been diagnosed with having major depression two years prior, so I was under the assumption that one day my depression would fade and I wouldn't have to take medication anymore. All of that hope was completely crushed with this new diagnosis. I wasn't able to see the good from my diagnosis; I was too busy focusing on the fact that bipolar would be apart of me for the rest of my life.
I was coming down from my first manic episode when I was diagnosed so my immediate feelings were very sporadic between positive and negative feelings. My biggest concern was that this was a life sentence for me; I didn't realize that people everywhere, in all professions were living with this diagnosis. It was just a matter of managing it. I initially thought that it was necessary to take medication for the rest of my life, which I learned isn't true. My doctor assured me that throughout college it would be in my best interest to take medication for my stress levels however there was a chance that I would not need it forever.
Letting this diagnosis take over my life wasn't an option. I knew that I would need to make some major life changes, I just wasn't aware of what those changes were. I bought every book I felt I needed on the topic to help me understand. I didn't know anyone who was also living with bipolar so I reached out to some people over social media to see what changes they felt were necessary to live a successful life.
Successfully living with bipolar disorder requires some serious life changes: healthier diet, more exercise, more sleep, less stress, no alcohol or drugs, consistent therapy, and medication for some. I was 18 years old at the time so the thought of restricting my late night adventures with friends and potential alcohol use was hard for me. Being in college and going to bed at 11PM on the weekends wasn't necessarily my idea of being a “college kid”. It took me a while to accept that I would be ‘adulting’ faster than most of the people my age. I have always been in the party scene, so distancing myself from that was very tough. I was scared that I wouldn't be considered as much fun as I normally was if I didn't have a drink in my hand. Most of my friends and family assured me that I had a lot more to offer than I realized.
Since my diagnosis I have made my life as structured as possible. Unfortunately this also makes me someone who doesn't handle change very well. Considering I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, I have needed to find ways to tend to both disorders at the same time. It has been vital to understand and acknowledge my triggers for a bipolar episode of hypomania or depression but also symptoms of bpd like self-harm, dissociation, extreme anger, etc.
Learning to accept and educate myself of my diagnoses has come with time, but has overall helped me distinguish between what behaviors and actions are motivated by the disorders I have, and what actions are motivated by my healthy thinking.
Although my diagnosis was difficult for me to accept at first, I have now made these life altering changes and can see that having bipolar disorder is more of an opportunity in life rather than seeing it as a disadvantage.