What I Wish I Knew Before I Was Diagnosed With Bipolar

I was born in the mid 1950’s when mental illness just wasn’t talked about. I wish that I could have had advice about the bipolar disorder I struggled with prior to my diagnosis. Perhaps it would have brought some ease to the fear I was experiencing.

If my parents had been better informed about mental illness and found a doctor to help me before I was a young adult, I could have rested more easily. Therapy could have been provided to help me make sense of what was going on in my mind and distract me when things got bad. The search for medicine would have started earlier and could have prevented my condition from getting as bad as it did, for the older I get the worse it gets.

Here I am at 60 years of age and I’ve had a crash course on bipolar disorder, continuing to learn more about it as I go. I wasn’t diagnosed until my late 30’s. I knew I was different from others, but could not understand why. There were many questions that ran through my head. Why didn’t I sleep for months on end? Why did I find myself excited and out of control? Why was I deeply depressed after this excitement? There were no answers to these questions then, and the answers now are still unclear. I suffer from bipolar disorder, and a universal answer that works for everyone simply does not exists.

As my condition became worse, I finally called the company that I work for. They had an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) and I spoke to a counselor. After conversing with the counselor it was determined that I needed to see a therapist for the depression I was experiencing. They called to set up an appointment for me and provided me with four free sessions.

A problem arose when the therapist diagnosed me only with depression and had my family doctor prescribe me an anti-depressant. A full and thorough evaluation was not done (this should be done before any treatment is prescribed), and not only am I medication resistant, but I was misdiagnosed. I had bipolar disorder, not simple depression and it is now known that a mood stabilizer must be given rather than just a simple anti-depressant. Unfortunately, I got worse. I tried medication after medication and nothing seemed to work. I eventually gave up on the medications and went to therapy instead. As of today, I am still going to therapy.

I still suffer from bipolar disorder as it will never go away, and after two hospitalizations I still haven’t found medications that work for me. I am still trying medication combination after combination and hope to find one that works well for me. I am on a mood stabilizer, an anti-depressant, and an anti-anxiety medication.

When things feel wrong, I use my God-given talent of writing to express what I am feeling. I use my creativity to write stories and poems as well as articles. I find writing soothing. I am regretful that I didn’t find the strength within me to write until my late 50’s. Now this talent of is put to good use.

I also read to keep me occupied and my current, new distraction is binge watching series on Netflix. Both of these take me out of my mind and allow me to feel that I am someone else. All of this would have been helpful to know prior to my late diagnosis.

If you are just now suspecting bipolar or other mental illnesses seek help from a psychiatrist and have a full evaluation. The earlier you seek treatment, the earlier you will be able to feel better.

To read more from Teresa, see the rest of her posts for IBPF here or visit her personal blog here.

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