Getting help for my bipolar disorder was one of the hardest and best things I’ve done. I’m a pretty proud and independent person so opening up and making myself vulnerable was extremely daunting.
I was in my third and final year of university when I knew something wasn’t right. The familiar feeling of dark hopelessness had started to creep back into my life again and my academic work was beginning to be affected by my low mood. I had experienced this feeling of depression countless times before on a yearly basis but didn’t have a name for it – didn’t know that it was serious enough to be part of a disorder. But this time the feeling was more intense and consuming. I knew I needed help whether I liked it or not because I couldn’t wait out the darkness again.
So I emailed my tutor at university asking if I could talk with her. I was a ball of nerves walking to her office. I hadn’t told anyone – not even my family or friends that I had been struggling, everyone thought I was fine. The moment I told her what I was feeling it was like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. She was very understanding and listened to everything I had to say before setting off a cascade of events leading to treatment and healing. I have a strong feeling that if I hadn’t felt comfortable to go and talk her when I did, I wouldn’t be here today.
After speaking with my tutor, I started to see a counsellor at my university. Again, while sitting in the waiting room before my first appointment my nerves were running riot. I didn’t know what her assessment would be and thought that I was over-reacting, that I was just a bit sad and that I wasn’t bad enough to need the help of a counsellor. I filled out forms that assessed for depression and anxiety and was told that my scores were pretty high for depression. After a few appointments, I was advised that I should see my doctor about starting medication. I saw my counsellor on and off for a couple of years because the depression kept clearing up and then coming back even though I was on anti-depressants (a warning sign in retrospect of bipolar disorder). Since I got the diagnosis of bipolar, I’ve been seeing my counsellor on a regular basis. During the past three years there have been many times that knowing I would be seeing her weekly has gotten me through the really bleak times.
Eighteen months ago I made the decision to see a psychiatrist for my moods. Anti-depressants didn’t seem to work and instead some made me worse, putting me into mixed states. I had done some research on bipolar disorder and it seemed like it fitted my symptoms pretty well. This time while sitting in the waiting room of my psychiatrist’s office before my initial assessment, I wasn’t nervous. I had been through the process a few times before by then and I was so depressed that I didn’t care about anything at that point. Sure enough, an hour later I was diagnosed with bipolar type II disorder (which in months to come turned into the diagnosis of bipolar type I). With the correct diagnosis I was put onto appropriate medication and my long road to recovery began.
If you feel that you need help, I strongly encourage you to reach out to someone with whom you feel comfortable to tell them that you’re struggling. No one will think differently of you and it’s such a relief to share your problems with someone else, to know that you’re supported and not alone. If you think someone you know is struggling, let them know you’re there, that you’ll help them figure out a solution or that you’ll listen if they just want to talk.
Without the help of my kind and caring tutor, patient and comforting counsellor and calm and wise psychiatrist, life today would be very different. I’m certain I owe my life to these three people, and to me for swallowing my pride and seeking help in a time of need.