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What It Means to Receive a Bipolar Diagnosis as a Teen

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I am 18 years old and I have recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder type 2, a condition characterized by extreme low moods — depressive episodes — and extreme highs, in my case hypomania (a less severe form of mania). After multiple primary mental health referrals and a year under the U.K. community and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), I was told I was being treated for “complex mental health issues.” This infuriated me greatly because all I wanted was to know what was wrong with me. I wanted a name for it.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Fast-forward to six months later, and after many emergency room trips and suicide attempts, I am now under an adult community mental health team (CMHT). After several psychiatric assessments, I have finally been diagnosed with bipolar disorder alongside other mental illnesses. Today, I want to focus on my bipolar disorder diagnosis.

At the age of 18, I am quite young to have received this diagnosis with many people not being diagnosed until their 20s. In a way, I guess I am fortunate to have received an early diagnosis because it means I have a head start on finding the right medication and treatments to enable me to live a relatively “normal life” — whatever that is. Having a diagnosis has finally confirmed to me that what I have been feeling for the past nine years is totally valid and real. It has been a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.

Receiving a diagnosis has finally given me a name for everything I’ve been feeling all these years.

Having bipolar makes so much sense to me, it’s real.

Having bipolar does not make me weak, it makes me strong.

Having bipolar does not make me “crazy;” I just have an illness.

Having bipolar does not mean I’m broken, it makes me brave.

Having bipolar does not define me; it’s just a part of me.

That last bit is the most important: Having bipolar does not define me; it’s just a part of me.

My favorite teacher, Mrs. H., has told me that since the day she found out I have a mental illness. She has always told me that it is a part of me, but not all of me. She has always told me that it’ll set me up to do great things in life. She has always believed in me and told me to never give up. Mrs. H., if you’re reading this, words will never be enough to explain how grateful I am for you. How grateful I am for your constant reminders that my illness is not all of me but just a part of me and for your constant, unconditional love and support.

And to anyone else with any form of diagnosis, please remember, as someone once said: “Your illness doesn’t define you, your strength and courage does.”

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Getty Images photo via stsmhn

Originally published: February 12, 2019
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