“You have nearly every sign of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder. Do you know what that is?”
I recently visited a psychiatrist at the discretion of my psychologist. I knew that the tendencies I had were unhealthy; and I knew that I was different from others, but I always chalked it up to anxiety and my personality as is. I guess the idea of being bipolar crossed my mind, but I never gave it much thought. Why would I?
I also knew my thought process was different from my peers–it always has been. I had an idea that some of the things I was doing were destructive. I have a bad habit of blowing all of my money without second thought or thinking of the consequences that may rise from it. At twenty-two-years-old, I’m a few thousand in debt from credit cards alone because of impulsive decision making. It’s not that I don’t know any better– but in the moment of being manic, I don’t think about the shit I could face from being rash.
The past few years I’ve gone through periods where I’m on top of the world and I genuinely feel like I’ve “cured” my depression while my anxiety maintains a normal level. I’m happy, carefree, and I love my life. I feel this way every few weeks. People notice and I love the attention when they say “You look happy,” and “You seem to be doing well!”
Then it hits.
The lows are always heavier than the highs. They last longer, they take up more mental space, sometimes they leave me thinking things I’m not proud to admit. When I’m crashing I don’t see anything half-full, rather I’m questioning if my life is worth living or not. I feel empty and voided. I always thought this was just depression and nothing more. It didn’t occur to me that this cycle of highs and lows was more than just a typical case of depression.
Don’t get me wrong– I’m entirely skeptical of this newfound diagnoses. It seems like everyone today has some sort of mental illness. I almost don’t want to talk about this because it seems silly– more than three million Americans have bipolar disorder. If nearly everyone seems to have some sort of mental illness, what is that saying about our society as a whole?
I’m not any different than I was before I visited the psychiatrist. I’m on medication now; sure, but I’m still the same person with the same beliefs and values. Generally speaking, I believe we let ourselves be defined by what we have and not who we are–myself included. Maybe that’s our downfall. Who we are is based off of experience and values, not what we take medication for.
I take mental illness seriously because it has affected me my entire life. I would not be half as compassionate and empathetic if it weren’t for the obstacles I’ve been dealt since I was small. As much as I advocate for mental health, and as important as it may be in my life, it’s not who I am entirely. I’m a daughter, a writer, a girlfriend, a friend. I’m a student, an animal lover, and a procrastinator. I am many things– not just some girl with mental illness.
All I can hope for is to wake up tomorrow a better version of myself, and if it takes a prescription to give me a little push, then so be it.
If all I am in life is bipolar, I think I’m doing pretty damn well.
So are you.