Tag Archives: diagnosis

After Diagnosis

“Hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue as to where all the important bits are supposed to go.”
Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down

I’m past the initial discovery of being diagnosed Bipolar. I’m past the newness of it, the excitement of having answers to life-long questions. I’m into the now what stage. I’m into the now I have to live with this diagnosis stage.

This stage is difficult because it’s all the reality, its realizing that I’m sick and have been for years.  It’s rethinking my identity, looking at myself with new eyes, accepting a label I don’t fully understand.  It’s learning new strategies. It’s explaining to family, the one’s that want to know, and avoiding answers to the ones that don’t. It’s shielding myself from certain critics.

It means asking myself new questions. Why is answered now. This is the phase of why me? It’s a time of questioning my future potential, and hoping it won’t be limited by this illness and the stigma attached to it. I’m almost at a loss, because I just don’t know how this will all play out.

My therapist has suggested that I have a new way of viewing my choices. I’m supposed to view with them with a sense of stability and question, “is this the bipolar or the rational me making this choice.”  I kind of find this insulting, though I understand the point of it. In hindsight I know I’ve been bipolar since I was sixteen years old, and this is my normal. This is me, I’ve drawn from my experience for over twenty years. It’s what I know. It’s the things I love about myself and my weaknesses, it’s all intertwined and almost impossible to separate completely. I know I need to make changes, and I’m fine with that but I’m not going to totally disconnect from who I’ve been for most of my life.

It’s a time of medication trial and error, wait and see outcomes. It’s putting my life in the hands of a professional, and hoping their chemical cocktail offers some relief. It’s a time of both hope and grief. Where I just have sit with it for a while and try to really comprehend this new life I have in front of me.

It’s a time of praying and hoping that this illness doesn’t have negative long term effects on my marriage and children. Both in terms of genetics and the mistakes I’ve made with them while struggling.

I’m in the rebuilding phase, without the benefit of a blue print, but none the less moving forward.

 

The Art of Self Medicating

What do you call a meeting for people with Bipolar Disorder?

A.A.

It’s my joke, and I’ve earned the right to tell it, it’s both funny and sad.

I struggle with both Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder and according to statistics I’m not alone. Apparently, alcohol is the self-medicating drug of bipolar disorder choice, it’s reported that 60 % struggle from both.

I was Bipolar first, but didn’t have a diagnosis. The alcoholism diagnosis came in the form of an ultimatum from my husband, it was my family or the drink. In hindsight, when someone gives you this scenario and you need time to think about it, it’s pretty evident there’s a problem.

However, in my mind it wasn’t that simple or obvious. Drinking was when I felt ok, I laughed, I socialized, I had something to contribute and I had a lot to forget. I felt like I was being asked to choose between my sanity and my overwhelming daily reality and frankly that was no choice I wanted to make.

I want to say that I graciously made the right choice immediately, but I did not. When you are drowning, it is hard to let go of an imagined life preserver. I struggled with this dilemma for a few years, not all of it bad mind you. I wasn’t an all-out drunk, I was more of a binge drinker (AKA …following the cyclical torments of Bipolar Disorder) so I could handle myself for months at a time, drink occasionally and at times responsibly. But over time drinking was no longer fixing my problem, it was complicating my life to the point that I could no longer deny it.

Self-medicating, unfortunately causes as much if not more damage to ourselves and our families. We do it, unknowingly and knowingly. We realize that something within us is broken and need/want to fix it but aren’t sure how and why.

I’d like to interject at this point about my children. They have been such a paradox in my life, their existence has caused me the greatest amount of anxiety, and stress both personally and in my marriage.  But without their existence I don’t know that I would have chosen sobriety and even life for that matter. I want things for them that I feel I don’t deserve, so I push ahead for them.

I want to say just not drinking helped me, but A.A. touched me, it’s an incredibly beautiful example of courage. I needed to hear REAL, BOLD HONESTY. A.A. was no bullshit, no pretenses, it was people being real publicly. It’s uncomfortable at first to hear people openly talk about their lives and I cringed every time someone raised their hand to share. But after a few meetings it became my salvation. I felt so fortunate to be able to hear peoples’ stories, their grief, heartache, self-discovery, and second chances. In this one room, for this one hour, once a week, I didn’t feel alone, I felt connected to something tangible. Maybe it’s something you can only comprehend and appreciate after having desperation eat away at your heart and mind for years.

After 40 days of sobriety things began to become clear. I had developed some healthy habits in place of drinking; exercising, writing, reading my Bible but I was still just the shell of a person looking to fix within me that which was broken. Time went by. I prayed, I cried, I annoyed the hell out of my husband, pastor and friends and finally I was given an answer. Three individuals/professionals in my life approached me separately within a seven day time period and told me/diagnosed me as having Bipolar Disorder II. And I’m now beginning the next phase of this journey.

I want to say to you, that no matter which side of the bar stool you’re on, no matter where you’re at in your life… there is hope for this illness. Sometimes it comes in the way of blatant honesty around a table with strangers. Sometimes it’s the courage you find for the ones you love. I implore you to take that first step and begin your journey of wellness