Maybe It’s Just Me

Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder (I really hate the name) has caused me to have an identity crisis. How much of this is the disorder, and how much of it is “just me,” my personality? How do I know the difference? Some of the side effects could just be personality characteristics. I’ve always been impulsive. But am I really impulsive? Or is that just a side effect of the disorder? What am I? Am I an introvert? I think so. But I’ve had people literally laugh in my face when I’ve said this. “You are SO an extrovert,” I’ve been told. So then I’m confused. Am I?

I don’t think it’s “normal” for a thirty-something woman to not know who she is. I feel like most of my friends have a strong sense of self…so why don’t I? I think this disorder complicates things. I think getting diagnosed with anything probably does. You read this list of criteria that accompanies the disorder, and say wholeheartedly, “Oh yeah; that’s definitely me.” But I want to know who the REAL me is…how much of this is me and how much would change if I didn’t have this diagnosis?

From talking to several people and reading various accounts of those with a bipolar diagnosis, I don’t feel that mine is even close to the most severe cases. But I don’t know. I’m the one in my head, and they in theirs. How do any of us ever really know?

I think part of the identity crisis lies within the disorder, for sure. I think I’m both extremes, depending upon the day…I also exhibit characteristics of borderline personality disorder, which overlaps bipolar symptoms in many ways. That might be where the extremism comes in, too. It’s hard for me to do or see anything halfway. If I’m shopping, I either buy nothing, or spend all my money. I don’t use a tanning bed anymore, because I can’t just tan “a little” once I start. I need to tan ten hours a day if I’m doing it at all. If I’m doing anything, I want to do it all or nothing. I’m either shy and not talking to anyone, or I’m the girl dancing on a table, not caring who sees me. (This has happened much less often since I’ve quit drinking.) I also know I have an addictive personality…but…I just wish I had a stronger sense of myself sometimes. I think I let the diagnosis cloud my assessment. One of the truest ways we define ourselves is through the observations and opinions of others, and in that case, I’ve been described as everything, from one end of the spectrum to the other. And maybe it doesn’t even matter if I don’t know who I am yet…maybe it’s a lifelong process.

Maybe it’s just me.

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