I was diagnosed with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) by a neurologist at age 7, and have been taking medication for it up until this year; I took ADHD meds for a total of 10 years. I was a bright young girl, who especially enjoyed reading, but had difficulty focusing and staying on task.
I’ve had obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) for as long as I can remember. Of course, I didn’t always know it, but as I have become more self-aware as I’ve gotten older and have learned more about the disorder, I can recall being this way when I was as young as 5 or 6 years old. My OCD has fluctuated in severity over the years.
Halfway through my freshman year of high school, I went through my first major bout of depression. Later that year, while going through my second period of depression, I started an additional ADHD medication that was supposed to also improve my mood. It helped up until the following summer, when my depression returned. I increased my dosage of meds and that worked for a while.
Fast forward to this year, my senior year of high school. Earlier this year, my OCD and anxiety reached an all time high. They became debilitating. It was difficult to even get through the school day or leave the house. I was having several panic attacks a week, had countless racing thoughts going through my mind and was constantly filled with a feeling of dread and paranoia. My fear of contamination got out of control; I would use hand sanitizer approximately 200 times a day, and would change my clothes immediately after coming home from school. The anxiety made it difficult to enjoy anything or focus on an activity for long, and I was miserable because of it.
When I was finally able to get an appointment with a psychiatrist, I received a surprising new diagnosis: bipolar disorder mixed type. I was a little taken aback at first, but after my psychiatrist explained it thoroughly, it did make a lot of sense. It summed up pretty well my combination of depression, anxiety, focusing issues and paranoia.
I was prescribed new medication, and taken off my other meds. Even after one day of taking it, I already felt like a fog had been lifted. It’s now been two months on my new meds, and I’ve seen even more improvement. I’m able to enjoy the activities I used to love again. I feel much more comfortable socially and have broken out of my shell a lot more. It used to be difficult to think about my future, because I couldn’t even function in the present. Now, I am looking ahead with hope, and am quite excited for my future and to start college.
Getting a new diagnosis made me reevaluate my view of mental illness. I feel like bipolar disorder has more stigma than some other mental illnesses, which is why I was a little surprised when I received that diagnosis. I used to think bipolar disorder was just extreme highs and lows, and this can sometimes be the case, but there are different types of bipolar disorder and it can manifest in many forms.
Receiving a new diagnosis also made me realize how much importance I was attaching to my original diagnoses. I almost felt I lost a part of my identity, because for the longest time I was thought to have had ADHD, OCD, depression and anxiety. For 10 years I took medication for ADHD. However, I’ve come to realize my diagnosis doesn’t define me. The label is only used so I can be properly treated. My new diagnosis seems to be the most fitting, because I’m doing better than ever on my new meds. But I am still me regardless of whatever mental illness I have; it now happens to be bipolar disorder and it is only just a small part of me.