It’s my birthday. No, not my actual birthday. It’s been 1 and 1/2 years since my diagnosis of bipolar disorder. So yes, I call it my birthday because I’m celebrating my recovery.
Tuesday December 16, 2013. That’s the day that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I can tell you exactly how the weather was, what time of the day it was, and how I felt after it happened. Relief was my first emotion. I was relieved because I had finally found the answer I had been searching for for years – a reason behind all of my problems.
My story is just that. It’s a story. A collection of past events of my life. If I told you everything, or even most of what lead me to get to where I am today, I’d be writing a novel. So, I’ll skip the beginning and head right to the middle.
In high school, I wasn’t the popular one. Well, really, I was never the popular one. But that never bothered me. I never really cared for the stereotypes of school, how you had to fall into a certain category. Well, I fell into the “nerds.” I was a straight A student and never got into any trouble. I loved school, I still do, and I never went out – I stayed home and studied instead.
I was bullied through my entire high school career – there are times now where my Mom tells me that she remembers me telling her about it which I never knew that she would keep that with her. So once high school was done, I was off to University. My first year of university was fine. I got good grades and I made a lot of new friends. So I finished my first semester of second year, and come second semester I had noticed a lot of changes. I had become depressed. I had dropped all of my classes because I couldn’t handle them anymore. Not realising that this wasn’t the case. It was a cry for help. Later that night I ended up in the hospital (I don’t remember much of that night other than my Mom calling the ambulance and the paramedics staying with me until I had a bed in the ER.)
I saw the crisis team, was assigned a nurse and hooked up to the heart monitor as I had chest pain and then I was discharged. I saw my psychiatrist a few days later to let him know of what happened and figure out our course of action.
With the help of my Mom and Dad, I had taken a year and a half off of school to get help for my struggles. I had been in and out of counselling for that time and was seeing my psychiatrist. After not noticing a difference in my mental health, I had expressed my concerns to my Mom and psychiatrist, but they both agreed not to make any drastic changes just yet. That’s the thing with mental illness – it’s a lot of trial and error. There’s not a specifc test you can take to tell you what your diagnosis is. It’s all based off of your symptoms. But I knew from the beginning that I had bipoalr disorder. How? I still to this day have no clue. But I am forever grateful that I knew.
Let’s fast forward to December. I had seen my psychiatrist and told him that after all of this time I still hadn’t noticed and difference and told him we need to figure out if I actually have bipolar disorder or not. So, that’s what he did. He had changed my medication and said to call the office if there were any changes before my next appointment. One week was all it took to notice a difference. I had mood swings so frequent that it actually scared me. One minute I was happy, smiling and laughing while the next I was crying and depressed. So I called my psychiatrist and got in to see him.
That day my Mom, Grandma and sister were there at the office. I told all of them to come into the room with me. The doctor sat down and told me that it was bipolar disorder and explained it all to me. I cried. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I felt like that my prayers had been answered and that there was an actual reason behind my problems.
So, I went back to counselling to finish up with loose ends. There were still some supressed issues that I had that I never talked about. I had quit drinking alcohol for a year to help better focus on my health. I have learned some much about myself in the last year and a half than ever before. I know exactly who I am and what I need to do to take care of myself, and, more importantly, I love myself. That day, I took back my life from all of the struggles I had. I took control of my life. And I will never give that control to anyone or anything ever again. That is the day I finally started living my life.
If there’s anything I want you to take away from my story, it’s that no matter how far you feel rock bottom is, there is always hope. You will get to where you want to be. You are a warrior. I have battle wounds and scars that will be with me forever, but they are a reminder of how strong I am. Do not be afraid to speak up about how you feel or think. If I hadn’t, I don’t know where I would be today. So, speak up and tell someone if you’re struggling. Not for anyone but yourself. You owe yourself that much. Because you are worth life and you are beautiful.
Alex Newton is a nursing student and mental health advocate. She grew up in a small town and plans on moving to London, England one day and open up her own health practice. She has a cat named Maya who she adopted whilst going through some difficulties. She’s a daughter, sister, and warrior who enjoys a nice cup of tea.
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