I am. I have. I will be.
I was first diagnosed as bipolar almost 30 years ago(back then we called it manic-depressive which admittedly is more descriptive but way less cool-sounding, I mean who doesn’t want to sound like they are the earth, or a magnet? right?). My youngest was a year old. But that first diagnosis was withdrawn when it was discovered I had hypothyroidism and the therapist felt that a lot of my symptoms could be confused with someone going through the death spiral of their pituitary/thyroid axis combined with postpartum depression. I was 26, Mother to a third child. I didn’t have google (oddly enough it was being invented that very year) or a lot of resources. I said OK and I started on Synthroid and Prozac and went about my life depressed, stressed, and fighting my body. I didn’t even have memes to get me through :O
Little did I know the cyclical nature of my brain. Little did I know how often I would blow up my life because I had no idea who or, more precisely, what I was dealing with. (I feel compelled to chronicle that it was a chiropractor that first identified my suspected thyroid disorder and sent me to the doctor for my first test, which my doctor almost didn’t do because “I had just had a child and needed to just exercise and I would feel better” I later found out that postpartum is a common time to develop it and had I listened to my doctor I would have gone longer undiagnosed-and thus began my long journey of medical harm and gaslighting) The primary care gaslighting is a whole other Oprah – let’s just focus on the mental health aspect. It will be enough.
I would be rediagnosed in my early 30’s by the rudest, gruffest, most condescending psychiatrist of the bunch (the bar was pretty high too) His misogyny was epic. We tried a few medications but I was never really prepared for their effect and almost always got incredibly worse right away – and I was always “over-reacting” and “being hysterical” – so after a year I rejected the diagnosis, the meds, and well, therapy in general for quite some time. This is just one of the times psychiatric care did more harm than good because I was never coached or supported through the process. SUUUREEE now I know that meds can make you worse at first, SUUUURREE NOW I know that bipolar can make you think you don’t need meds, SUUUUUUUUUUUURRRREEEE now I KNOW a lot of things…but imagine if that doctor had explained that to me? Instead, I was labeled “non-compliant” “difficult” and “combative” … because I cried…a lot (anyone who knows me might laugh at that) and begged for different medications.
I was a single mom with three children and was made to feel that all of it was my weakness and lack of effort. Another nail in the gaslighting coffin as my confidence, joy, and belief in my own feelings eroded. Still, I persevered.
A few years pass without meds or therapy and I start my Master’s Studies, I get promoted and move up in my work, … I have hopes and dreams and I meet the love of my life. Sure I struggle but I believed that I had “overcome” my issues. I was responsible, I wasn’t doing all the manic things I had done in my 20s – so surely that was all youthful exuberance and not a mental health disorder. I drank too much. My newfound love is sick and struggling and I begin having my first panic attacks. But that’s normal right? things are hard so of course, I’m panicked. OH, there is too much, I will sum up… My husband’s health issues take over our lives and he eventually dies from an allergic reaction to MRI dye – It was on my 37th birthday. OOF still 16 years later it hits like a train wreck. My anger and sadness run so deep. I blamed myself. I blamed the medical system. I didn’t blame god because I don’t believe in them, but man that sure would have been a nice outlet. Again I digress – it’s sort of my MO 😛
Holy crap – this is a long story. Let’s leave it there on this uplifting moment of my dead 36-year-old husband because I need some space to let this wash over me. This is 10 years of my life. And looking back what a freaking intense 10 years. 10 years of not getting the help I truly needed. 10 years of self-medicating harm as I tried to just hang on to life by the tips of my fingers. During that time was also that first divorce with a costly custody battle. I bounced back with a new job, life, and love. And then love was torn from me. Every time I thought I had my proverbial shit together there was a blowup. sometimes caused by me, and sometimes caused by life that was then exacerbated by my mental health.
That’s 2 — TWO bipolar diagnoses received and rejected.
2 – TWO marriages
3 – THREE children
6 – SIX different medications (approx. my memory is often shoddy at best)
and a whole host of jobs and career changes and moves. My word did I move a lot. LOL
Until next time. I am bipolar. And in finally embracing and accepting that I might finally be able to find some peace. Peace, Love, Punk, and Rainbows.