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How My Bipolar Diagnosis Helped Me Confront a Painful Past

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I felt my walls crashing down on me the day I sat in my therapist’s office and she told me I have bipolar II. Never in my wildest imagination did I ever think I could have something like this; I knew I was a depressed person, but I thought that was just how some of us cynics are.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

• What is PTSD?

What I didn’t realize at the time was that my bipolar diagnosis would lead me to discover a painful issue which I was suppressing.

The nightmares started resurfacing — the pain and negative feelings hit me like a wave. Running away became too exhausting and my mind was forcing me to finally deal with the pain.

I decided I would have to tell my therapist my secret if I wanted a chance at survival. I spent the next five weeks in therapy not telling her my secret. I sat there with a voice in my head telling me, “Just do it, she will understand. Just do it, she will be able to help,” but nothing came out.

On the sixth week, it was different. I walked into her office and I saw a tissue box next to the sofa where I had always sat, which I never noticed before. We started the session with a mindfulness exercise and when she asked me what I was thinking about afterwards, I told her I had to cry but needed her permission first. She was stunned by my request and told me I had her permission to cry. And so I burst into a puddle of tears. Eventually when I calmed down a bit, I managed to somehow force myself to say the dreadful words I never wanted to hear come out of me: “I was sexually assaulted by a male friend when I was a teen.” I left the session shortly after she told me I took a major step in my recovery and that she was proud of my bravery.

Due to my dissociation which lasted for a decade, I went through a personal hell with anxiety and depression, and pushed everyone away. The stress and post-traumatic stress disorder even triggered my first hypomanic episode. My anger, irritability and general negativity about life saw no bounds. I hated myself for too long, and my subconscious told me it was my fault because I was drunk that night and complied fearfully.

I never thought I would confront my issue, let alone write about it. But in light of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April), I want survivors to try their best to tell someone about the sexual trauma they have been through — we are seeking validation, and we deserve it. It gets so much better knowing someone is listening and acknowledging our struggle; we didn’t deserve the pain and surely don’t deserve to live with it alone for the rest of our lives.

If you or a loved one is affected by sexual abuse or assault and need help, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 1-800-656-4673 to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

Thinkstock photo via Archv

Originally published: October 31, 2017
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