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To the 19-Year-Old Girl Who's Still Waiting for the Right Mental Illness Diagnosis

Hey, Kiana, it’s me! Well, actually it’s you. It’s the older and slightly wiser you, four years into the future. I’m writing this to hopefully shed some light on how you’re feeling at this moment, and hopefully to help you in your future.

It’s 2013. You’re 19 years old. You’re attending Pierce College for lack of anything better to do. You’re not quite sure if you want to graduate, but you sure don’t want to sit around the house all day. You’re trying to juggle two jobs: one at Victoria’s Secret as a sales specialist, and the other at the school working as the lab technician. You love both jobs, which is great! You are still single, and you have your eye on this particular boy. Let me tell you now, don’t fall for it. That boy is nothing but trouble, trust me. 

I want to talk to you about these next few years. Right now, you’re in this weird place with your emotions and how you experience your everyday life. You’re struggling pretty badly right now, and it hurts to tell you it won’t start getting better anytime soon. I will tell you this, though: even if you don’t think so, there are so many people who love and care about you. Your best friend, your favorite professor, your family and some of your acquaintances care about you. They don’t like to see you hurting, even if they don’t necessarily say it. So, if not for you, be strong for them.

You’ve been taking different medicines left and right. You’ve mostly been taking anti-depressants which, if you haven’t already figured out, don’t really help you. You’ve had countless therapists and doctors tell you contradicting things about what they think is wrong with you. I know you want to know why you are the way you are, and why you feel the way you do, and no one is telling you anything different. Oh, you’re just really depressed, they say, we just have to keep raising the dosage of your medicine. Before you know it, you’re putting tons of pills in your body and making yourself think they are helping because you’re so desperate to feel better.

Let me save you the trouble, and another year of misdiagnoses. Are you ready?

You have bipolar disorder. Shocked? I know you are. You go back and forth with the mania and depressive stages of the disorder. Sometimes you switch from mania to depression and back to mania, all in the same day. Sometimes you experience depression for an extended period of time, almost lasting two months. One thing is for sure: you love the mania. You may not have known why you feel so creative, so energetic and invincible all the time. You never sleep, and you always want to write and listen to music and do anything that keeps you occupied. The only issue with the mania, as you have already come to find out, is the stupid (yes, stupid) decisions you can make while in it. You spend money carelessly (usually resulting in buyer’s remorse when you come down from cloud nine), your sex drive is at an all time high (I’m proud of you for controlling that, by the way). I could go on about a few different scenarios, but at this point I know everything is resonating with you.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, the definition of bipolar disorder is: a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in moods, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. You experience the manic (high energy, no sleep, irritable) state and you also experience the depressive (low energy, loss of motivation, sad) state. Specifically for your case though, because everyone’s bipolar is different since it’s a spectrum, you experience a mixed state as well. The mixed state is just what it sounds like, a combination of the two, can be extremely dangerous. That’s usually the state that things like suicide and self-harm come in to play. You don’t want to start down that road, so get help if you’re feeling that way, OK?

Earlier I mentioned something about the medications you’ve been taking. Along with everyone else with bipolar, traditionally SSRI antidepressants can trigger manic episodes. You’re probably thinking, “Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me that?” Well, since diagnosing bipolar is so difficult, usually doctors will just try anti-depressants to see if anything changes. For you, though, it only made it worse. I know you like the mania, but you can’t live in that state forever. I’m sorry it’s taken so long for someone to tell you this. Better to hear it from yourself, right?

The experience you’ve had with bipolar is strictly from the media. For example, remember that one LifeTime movie you watched about that girl who supposedly had bipolar disorder? Guess what? That’s not bipolar. People with bipolar disorder don’t wake up one day, suddenly flip and decide to kill their husband because he didn’t do the dishes. Bipolar, along with any mental illness, is stigmatized and wrongly portrayed in the media. It causes those who have the illnesses to hide away, and feel ashamed of themselves because if they dare to say anything about it, the judgements flood in. You are so much more than your diagnosis, and once you realize that, you will become stronger and you will accept yourself.

I can’t wait for that day. Prepare yourself for these next few years, because you will need all the self-support you can muster. Your family and friends are by your side through it all. Stay strong, babe. You can do this.

With all the self-love,


The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to your teenaged self when you were struggling to accept your differences. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.