In February 2018 when I was 30 years old, I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder. It all made sense. My maternal aunt has it and my sister was diagnosed the year prior. All the years of misdiagnosis and antidepressants that most likely exasperated my condition, came to an end.
I had struggled since childhood and didn’t seek help until I was 23 and I was diagnosed with major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. I was diagnosed by my primary care physician who began treatment and advised I get into therapy. The therapist wasn’t a good match and within a year, I had gained 25 pounds from the antidepressant. Frustrated by the weight gain, I did what no one should ever do, and quit taking the medication. I learned to live with the anxiety and dark thoughts that consumed me.
It was in 2015 when my father passed away after a long battle with kidney disease. I relapsed. I lost close to 30 pounds. The pain of losing him was more than I could bear but it was another two months before I convinced myself to get back into therapy and another month before I realized I still needed medication. I have had the same psychiatrist for nearly five years now and I owe a lot to her. Three years into my care with her, she diagnosed me as having bipolar II. I felt enormous relief to have that diagnosis and it gave me more to be open about.
The biggest struggle for me is finding the right medication. I have tried five mood stabilizers in the last two years without much luck either due to side effects or insurance problems. What I want everyone to understand is that medication does help. It exits for a reason and so do YOU. Medication for mental health has one of the biggest stigmas ever. If we take antibiotics when we’re physically sick, then why not take care of our sick brain? Instead of giving up, keep trying. There is bound to be something that works.
Another struggle is the topsy turvy way your brain thinks. I suffer from dark depression and hypomania. Hypomania is when you find yourself not sleeping for days at a time, excessive feelings of elation and random bursts of energy. May people with bipolar II enjoy hypomania because they can get things done. Personally, I’d rather feel low then lose sleep and feel endless bouts of restlessness.
In 2017, my sister was in and out of the hospital for suicidal ideation. That May I created The Standing Strong Blog to bring people together and share their stories of living with mental illness. It has brought me much joy and I have made mental health advocacy my life’s mission.
Demi Lovato once stated that she “thrives” with bipolar disorder. That’s how I like to view myself; a strong woman in her thirties with a stable, long career in healthcare and a passion for stomping out stigma. I’m thriving more and more each day and coming out stronger than before.