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To Myself, the Day I Was Diagnosed: Bipolar Is Not the End, but the Beginning

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The doctor just left your hospital room, and left you with some information that’s hard to absorb. He said those two words and both your and your parent’s hearts dropped through your stomachs onto the cold hospital floor. Bipolar disorder. It runs through your mind over and over like a bad memory. You’re in shock, that’s understandable. Your parents aren’t speaking, and that freaks you out. But don’t worry, they’re in shock too. Don’t worry at all, it will be OK.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I know you’re scared, and I know you’re confused. The same two questions are swimming in your head, how and why. You don’t know how this happened, but now you know why. This diagnosis is the answer to so many things you’ve experienced since you were an adolescent. The mood swings, the unexplainable irritability and the risky behaviors. Now you know why. And I know that brings you a little bit of comfort. It feels good to know why, because now you can figure out how to feel better.

You feel like you’ve lost a part of yourself that has been replaced with something alien. But that’s not true. You are still you, and you are not this illness. Yes, this illness is a part of you, and has been for some time. But it’s a very small part. You are still smart, funny and charismatic, but you’re also just a little bit more sad and a little bit more happy than everyone else at times. And that’s OK. It’s OK to be a little bit different, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. This diagnosis is nothing to be ashamed of, it’s something to accept and then in time, to embrace.

You are calm now. You know it’s treatable; manageable. You’ll be starting medication today and counseling next week. It’s important you continue with both. Both will keep you stable, and help you feel better. The coping skills you’ve learned in the hospital will, too. Just use them, and use your strength. You are stronger than you think, and you can get through this. Your new diagnosis is not the end, it is a new beginning. A new challenge, and you’re great at overcoming challenges. You will overcome this shock and this fear. You will overcome.

It’s sinking in now. You. Are. Bipolar. But you are also strong. Stick to your therapy and medication regimen, and cope in healthy ways and you will be OK. Repeat that to yourself. You will be OK. You are strong, and you are not alone, and you’ve got this. Don’t worry, don’t be scared, and remember, you’ve got this.

Originally published: June 28, 2016
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