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The Two Reactions I Received After My Bipolar Diagnosis


I was diagnosed two days ago with bipolar disorder. When my psychiatrist told me, it was such a relief. Finally there was a name to my continuous fight to be “normal,” to “act my age” in periods of hypomania and to “just snap out of it” when I’m depressed. I knew being diagnosed would help me have a future.

At 38 years old, I have been struggling since my early 20s. Although I found it hard to believe that everyone has dark feelings of being worthless and not wanting to be here, I still thought there was nothing wrong with me, that I was just weak and sensitive and silly and immature. When I saw the psychiatrist two days ago, I was pleased to have an answer as to why I was depressed (again). Of course, I was also thinking that this was an excuse, that I was not really bipolar, that it was a made-up condition to help weak people get through stuff other people just deal with.

I wanted to share the news with a dear friend. She is a fair bit older than me and did not agree with medication, with the diagnosis or with having a name for this mental illness, and was very clear about her thoughts on this. I tried to explain but realized it was in vain. I was hurt, upset and completely astounded. So I shut up.

Afterwards I spoke with another friend. She has BPD (borderline personality disorder) and was the one who introduced me to The Mighty. She went through the same suspicions, negative reactions and reservations from certain friends. She told me that some people just don’t understand. Some people can’t understand.

But she also told me that there are a lot of people who do understand. And there are people who share their stories and give support and help in the process of self-acceptance. And a lot of these people who share their experiences make me realize I am not the only one struggling with bipolar.

The first reaction put me down. But the second reaction was the one I held onto and took with me. And the second reaction was the one that made me write this. The second reaction is also the one that will enable me to stay positive and work through issues with my psychiatrist. And the second reaction will make me stronger.

Although it is early in my diagnosis, I hope to deal with perceived negative reactions in the same way — by ignoring them. I don’t need them. I need strength and support.

And through that strength and support, I hope to be able to help others. I hope to be able to give strength and support to those who have supported me and to those who need it, just as I have needed it these past few days.

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Thinkstock photo via Any_Li