The Mighty Logo

What It Was Like Hearing Those 2 Words: Bipolar Disorder

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

You thought it was just another appointment with your therapist. One that will consist of questions upon questions about your week and emotions. And for a time there, it was. Just like any other appointment. Full of the underlying diagnoses of depression and anxiety. Just like any other appointment. Then she says it. The words that will change your life. The words that will flip it inside-out. “I believe you have bipolar disorder.” Not just like any other appointment.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

Your breathing starts to quicken. Your heart beats a mile a minute, like it’s trying to break out of your chest and run away. Run away from the hard reality of this situation. You want to run away with it because you definitely don’t want to be there either. Stuck in that tiny room with that diagnosis. Not just like any other appointment.

There’s a calm while you process the meaning of those two little words, bipolar disorder. Then all hell breaks loose as tears cascade down your face and you begin to hyperventilate. You don’t want this. You didn’t ask for this. You don’t even know how this could have happened. But you do see it. The signs that all point towards bipolar. You want to ignore it and protest. Surely your therapist has made a mistake. There’s no way you could have bipolar disorder. That’s a serious illness. All you have is a little depression and some anxiety. No big deal, right? Wrong. Every mental illness is serious and anyone could have bipolar disorder. It doesn’t save itself for a certain person.

You feel destroyed. How am I going to live now? My life is forever changed. Yes, your life is forever changed, but everyone goes through change. Your change just happens to be a bit different. This does not mean your change can’t amount to something beautiful and new. A diagnosis is just a diagnosis; and though bipolar is now a part of you, it does not have to define you. You’re the only one who gets to decide what defines you. You are still the same person you were before… with a few added adjustments. Your life will now hold some higher than highs and some lower than lows. Bipolar disorder. Manic-depressive disorder. You.

Medication is now your new best friend. You’ve taken it before for depression, but now it’s not just a sadness repellent. It’s a life saver. It saves you from all of those red flags. The impulsivity, the risky behaviors, the agitation, the poor sleep, the ascension into mania, and the final crash into depression. Though it saddens you to rely on them to function properly, you take your meds like clockwork. Every morning and every night. They are your life preserver. Without them you lose control, you are not yourself. With them you finally have a smidgen of clarity. This is not a weakness. This is you surviving. This is a strength.

Day by day you work on accepting the diagnosis thrust upon you. The one you never wanted but will forever have. You being to realize you are not alone in this. There are others who can relate and sympathize with your struggles and with your victories. Day by day you realize this is not the end, this is a new beginning. You learn bipolar, though daunting at first, can be managed. You don’t have to live in the uncontrolled world you have lived in before. Day by day you move forward. One awkward, uncomfortable step at a time, you move forward.

It’s been a year since that diagnosis. You are back in school, you have a job, you have people who love you, you have control. You finally realize, though you still have a long way to go, you can do it. No matter what obstacles stand in your way, you cannot only survive in this world, you can thrive in it. And that’s exactly what you’re going to do.

This does not depict everyone’s struggles with bipolar disorder. Everyone has different experiences. I have written about my own personal experience. But what I have written I believe to be true. You are not alone, you can survive, you are strong, and there is hope for a better future.

Thinkstock photo by m-imagephotography

Originally published: March 26, 2017
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home