Author: Lauren Meredith
I was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) when I was 21 years old. I was a senior in college. I had testing problems and lo and behold it was due to testing anxiety which was also manifested in various other aspects of my life. My life then began to spiral out of control. When I was 24 I saw a psychiatrist and on my first visit she diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder. I felt nothing but relief. I thought that has to be it! However, my problems were much deeper. With talk therapy, I was also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and later Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). I felt like nothing could be worse, four mental health disorders by the age of 29? It was overwhelming and, in the beginning, I was embarrassed.
It was hard enough having one disorder but, once all the pieces of the puzzle came together it was like: Is this who I’ve become? Negative thoughts consumed me. I felt like nobody would understand me and that this was something I would have to run and hide from the world. I did for years but, to hide pieces of who you are gets tiring and ultimately, not worth it. I realized it was time to not run and hide from my diagnosis’ when I craved for stigma to end. I wouldn’t have to run and hide if it weren’t for the uneducated causing stigma, so I decided to speak out.
The hardest diagnosis’ I have had to overcome has been Bipolar Disorder and PTSD hands down. I can’t undo the past (although I wish I could) and the hardships of my youth will always remain, memories unable to fade away. While having trouble with my past I am also dealing with Bipolar Disorder where my emotions run wild and my moods seem to be off the map. It took me two years to discover the right formula of drugs including the right medicine and the right dosage. Once I participated in talk therapy and took the right medications no one would know I would even have four mental health disorders unless I told them. What’s strange is I have not received a lot of stigma with PTSD but, I have with Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder is unique in that it is the only diagnosis out of the four that I have really faced stigma with.
At the end of each day I am grateful for my disorders. I know it’s “abnormal” to have them but, without it, there’s no “me.” My disorders are a part of me and it’s like a suitcase that I have to lug around without choice. I’ve learned to appreciate the color and carry the baggage and see the good inside that suitcase. I have met many, incredible people with the same or similar diagnosis’ and I can assist in the fight against the stigma. That’s powerful and strong, that is the real me, and who I am. I make sure to keep my disorders packed in that suitcase because I carry that suitcase, those diagnosis’ do not define me, rather, they are simply a part of me.
Lauren is the founder of “Journal of Bipolar Disorder” blog on Facebook and is also the author of the book called “Inner Strength.” She has her MA in English and Creative Writing with a concentration in non-fiction and a dual BA in Psychology and English. She wanted to write for the International Bipolar Foundation to assist in ending stigma and to be a part of a bigger voice in connecting with other individuals who are facing the same or similar issues at hand. Lauren was diagnosed with General Anxiety Order in 2008 and in 2010 was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Shortly after was also diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Lauren is divorced, has a beautiful two in a half year old daughter, Valentina, and works full time as an assistant at Hospice. She enjoys writing in her spare time and playing with her daughter. She enjoys collecting junk journals, first edition books, and coins. She lives in NC, USA.