Today was the day I found out I have Bipolar 2 disorder. Today I had answers to my questions. Today my life changed forever. It’s not as though my life hasn’t changed forever before (getting married, having kids – it all equates to lifetime changes), but this feels different.
This means medication.
This means therapy.
This means I could have passed it down to my kids.
This means answers.
Coming to these realizations brought on a wide range of emotions for me, ranging from sheer panic of passing this to my kids and being on medication for the rest of my life, to contentment that I finally have answers to my rhetorical question “what’s wrong with me?” after two years of searching.
In the past two years, I have tried exercise, meditation, journaling, therapy, and various medications, all while thinking I was suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety. My diagnosis made sense at the time; after all, I suffered from extreme anxiety after having my second son followed by some debilitating depression. This all caused me to talk to my midwife within a week of having my second child.
My midwife, being the rockstar she is, determined that medication would help with my anxiety. This is when I started on the path of going back and forth on taking it, fighting with myself very much about using medication. I was nervous that the medication would affect my baby negatively (since I was pumping and bottle feeding). I was nervous that it would change me somehow. After talking through it a few more times and trying journaling, meditation, and exercise over the course of months, I decided to start taking the medication along with my other self-care practices. And guess what? It didn’t change me in any way, aside from reducing my anxiety and improving my mood. It also did not affect my baby (that I noticed).
Later, it appeared that my antidepressant wasn’t working as well as it once had. I was having more severe bouts of depression. This is when I worked with my midwife to try a different medication. Since I had been on an antidepressant before, I wasn’t so concerned this time about it changing me, so I started it right away.
It helped with my depression, but I noticed that even after 6+ months of being on this medication, I was still having extreme ups and downs. I thought I should feel more “normal” and less up and down, so I reached out to my midwife once again. This time she suggested reaching out to the Nurse Practitioner in Psychiatry.
When my midwife suggested a psychiatry appointment, I didn’t know what to think. At first, I thought I didn’t need it (not because I don’t believe in it, but because I thought I could help myself in other ways), so I held off on making an appointment. Then I started to feel manic and then subsequently depressed again, so I made the appointment. This time the appointment stuck.
This time was today. Today was a turning point. Today I faced my fears head on and admitted I need help. Today started a lifetime of changes. Today marked the words “Bipolar 2 Disorder.”
The appointment today made so much damn sense as to why I struggle on both sides of the spectrum. Why sometimes I don’t have to sleep much and still have energy for days, and why sometimes I feel like I could sleep for a week straight and it still wouldn’t be enough. Why sometimes I can sew (one of my favorite hobbies) for hours and hours after work and why sometimes I can’t get off the couch. Why I am SO irritable with my kids sometimes and SO patient with them other times.
Ultimately, I am grateful for a diagnosis. I am grateful to have an action plan. I am grateful to have answers. I am grateful to know that, although not curable, I can lead a normal, healthy, and happy life.
So now that I have my diagnosis, I start the long path of finding what works for me and ultimately another long path of questions that potentially don’t have answers, such as: Do I tell people who I know will be judgmental, knowing full well that I will need to ignore the negativity? Does this mean something for me professionally? Will the medication I am about to try work? There are about 102 more questions circling through my brain at any given moment, and it gets intense at times.
Even though I have so many questions, I know a few things are completely true and valid. I am a mom who has Bipolar 2 Disorder. Mental illness is real, and my disorder does not define me. I am a person outside of my mental illness. A person who enjoys family time, true crime podcasts, sewing and writing.
If you feel that you may be struggling with mental illness, I want you to learn from my mistakes and get help as soon as possible. Life doesn’t have to feel like a struggle day in and day out, even if it currently feels that way. There is someone out there that will hear you and understand you, even if it’s not the first person you talk to. Try again. I promise there is light at the end of the tunnel — even if that tunnel makes a couple of loops around the station!