Anyone who has been following my blog for a bit has probably picked up on the fact that I was only recently diagnosed with Bipolar II. Those who have known me for awhile will know that I have only been able to push for a diagnosis since my daughter was born. This means I went a ‘good’ (bad!) 28 years of not knowing what was wrong with me. Of that, it’s only been the last 17 or so that I’ve been aware there could be a problem. It was hard for me to determine amongst normal pre-teen angst, if only for the fact my parents alternated between threatening to send me to an asylum if I didn’t talk about how I was feeling (stunting/destroying my ability to do such until I was into my 20s), and telling me that there was nothing wrong with me, stop complaining. Is it any wonder I turned heavily to self-medication by any means?
And then, me and my self-medicating self went and joined the Air Force. I didn’t have any diagnosed mental health problems, so I managed to obtain a job and a clearance (neither of which would have been possible if I had had diagnosis; the military is very close-minded and ignorant in that regard). I continued self-medicating (but with alcohol, as it was ‘legal’), but the combination of being in a town I hated surrounded by people I loathed meant that my job was about the only thing that was keeping me sane. The thought of actually getting help for my increasingly severe depressive problems scared me. I did not want to risk losing the only thing that was keeping me sane in poisonous circumstances. There was even a year I got put into a job I was not suited for, and the Air Force did pick up on the fact I wasn’t doing alright then and forced me to attend their therapist. They eventually gave up and let me transfer back to a job that I got on better with and (I presume) convinced themselves that the issue was sorted, as they ceased threatening to boot me to ‘safe’ duty at the gym. Knowing how bad I was getting, it took me no time to decide to not re-enlist.
Even with that in mind, I still convinced myself I was mainly fine for years. Finding my husband boosted my mood and mental health to unknown heights, and I tried to tough out the return to misery. I couldn’t even tell you why – perhaps it was because I figured my problems were too minuscule to get help for, or that I was being a drama queen because I couldn’t control my mood. I know I was nervous about being medicated because I did not want to lose myself. I’m sure that’s familiar to any of my friends and readers with mental health issues, thinking that the core of self had to include wild mood swings and snappishness! I was scared that I was going to be told that I WAS a drama queen, fishing for attention (which did happen; I really need to be better at articulating the depths of my pain!). But by the time my daughter was born, it was obvious to me that I’d run out of internal resources, and that I needed to actually ask for help. I won’t say it’s been easy (all my paperwork got lost at one point, adding to the ‘oh you’re attention seeking’ insistence when I kept pushing the issue), but I would say that is has been worth it. Having a better idea of what I’m wrestling with, shedding light on the beast within makes it less scary. It’s no less dangerous; I’m going to be fighting for the rest of my days… but at least I have a better idea of why and where the claws are coming from.
Long and short, I’d encourage anyone who thinks there might be something wrong to be strong for themselves and try to get a diagnosis. I appreciate how hard it is in countries like the United States where so many people are bereft of health care (probably a reason my parents never got me diagnosed/told me I was fine), and then adding on the cost of meds… yikes. Still, there are organizations that try to help find affordable care, so take advantage of those as you can. I know that it’s hard – having to admit that you’re ‘broken’… it means accepting that society currently looks down on you, or thinks you’re going to go on a murder spree when you’re not. It means fighting for treatment and care in order to actually have a fair chance at a normal life. It’s such a hard battle atop the non-stop war in our minds that it can be discouraging… but it’s worth it for that little slice of stability.