My journey to a better life?
I wrote this article in the hope that it might be of some help to others who are experiencing similar challenges with their mental health. It can be hard, it will take a long time, but getting a diagnosis could change your life for the better.
When I was first diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder, the feeling which overwhelmed me was not sadness or shock, but relief. Relief that after all this time, over half of my life, I had finally found an answer.
I had known that I was someone with “depressive tendencies”,and these had finally come to a head in October 2017. That summer, I had jumped into a job I didn’t want and quickly quit. I was now left feeling like a failure, as someone who had wasted their life. By Christmas 2017, I was suicidal. I was mostly tired. Tired of failure. Tired of expectation. And tired of living.
The mental health system is a long and arduous one to navigate. Since I was 17 I had gone to doctors looking for help and answers, but only medication was readily available.
Therapy, diagnosis, and long-term support were pipe dreams. I went to A&E desperate for someone to take me away. I thought that if I was in hospital I could be somehow protected from time and life.
The next summer however, stress triggered a new type of behaviour, hypomania. I no longer relied on sleep. I was fidgety and so full of energy. It was as though I was a genius and everyone else moved and thought in slow motion. I felt my brain whirring.
It literally felt hot, like an engine beginning to overheat.
I realised something was wrong when I started looking for jobs. I was fed up of being poor (if working for my dad had some advantages, salary certainly wasn’t one of them) and living with my parents so I decided that money - at any cost - would make me happy. So when a recruitment consultant tried to recruit me as a recruitment consultant, they had me at “£40k”.
I told my parents, and my dad was puzzled. “You don’t want to be a recruitment consultant though,” he said. And he was right. The overheating engine ground to a halt. I was awake, I was aware and I knew I wasn’t well.
I saw an article in the paper about Bipolar 2. I didn’t know it even existed, but when the interviewee explained his symptoms, the words felt like mine. I went to the doctors again, heart racing, ideas bouncing round my head. I’ve never felt insane before, but I really truly felt insane here.
The GP started asking strange questions. “Do you think you’re the king?” How did she know?! I believed I was somehow special, like my existence was more than everyone else’s, as though I was destined for glory or a higher purpose. My guess is that at this point, they were finally convinced I was ill. A couple of months of questionnaire phone calls, meetings with counsellors, a consultant psychiatrist, and finally I was given a diagnosis.
It’s odd to think back through my adult life and question whether each stupid choice, each moment of depression or joy was a hypomanic or depressed period. Was I hypomanic when I got a tattoo of Fyodor Dostoevsky on my arm? Was I hypomanic when I got a kitten at university? Possibly, probably, I’ll never know.
But now I’ve got an answer, it feels easier to manage, like I know the puzzle. Hopefully now, I can learn how to live with bipolar.