I grew up thinking my mind was one way. When I was younger I didn’t much consider the workings of my brain because as a child that kind of meta thinking is not something that you do. However, as I got older I became more aware that sometimes brains worked well and sometimes they didn’t. I always thought my brain was one of the brains that worked well. I always worked hard and did well in school. I had a drive to do well and be the best at everything. When I finished my undergraduate degree, I graduated with honors and I completed my speech career as one of the top speakers in the nation. But the first fall semester of my masters program, it seemed like a switch was flicked.
The summer before starting my masters, I was a bit depressed (at the time I just called myself down in the dumps). I thought it was because I was taking soul sucking summer classes to finish my degree and working an exhausting job. I assumed I would get better once my masters classes began and I started studying things I loved again. But it only got worse. My depression became very scary dark. I had trouble getting out of bed in the morning and I began to contemplate suicide. I couldn’t wrap my head around this. Why was it happening? My life was going great. School was not stressing me out. If anything, I was less stressed now than I was during the entirety of my undergraduate program, but here I was.
I knew I had to get help, so finally I made an appointment for a psychological evaluation. As the psychiatrist (psychologist? I know they are different, but I always get them confused) started asking me questions, I sat there unable to fully convey the turmoil inside me. I have never been good at talking about my feelings, much less sharing my darkest thoughts with a complete stranger. When she finally realize how serious my situation was, she referred me to the other kind of doctor, the one that can prescribe medication. Her first open slot was a month away, so I booked an appointment and desperately tried to hang on hoping that she would be able to help me before I lost all my strength to keep going.
Each day of that month was a struggle but finally the day came. I went into the appointment hoping for answers and although I got them, I wasn’t happy with the result. Before going to the appointment, I suspected I might be bipolar. There is a family history of it so I am familiar with the signs. But I hoped that I wasn’t. I hoped that it was “just depression” because then it might be something that could go away after awhile and I might not have to constantly be medicated. When she confirmed I have bipolar and generalized anxiety disorder (ADHD was later added to the list), I broke down in tears. I imagined the rest of my life stretching before me marked by a parade of never ending pills, constantly relying on them to just be functional. I barely heard her description of the medication she prescribed me and the long list of side effects I could potentially look forward to.
It is strange to think you have control over your brain and then suddenly see that control slipping away from you. I feel like I am getting it back the longer I am on medication. However, not everything is fully figured out yet. This diagnosis has definitely changed the trajectory of my life and I’m hoping that is a good thing.
It feels weird to share these thoughts online. I don’t always like people in my personal business, and writing about this event is difficult. You might ask, why then did you start a blog talking all about your personal stuff? Sometimes, I don’t know. I started writing this for a class, but there are several reasons I am continuing to post. One reason is so that others don’t feel so alone. Especially with mental illness, there is so much silence surrounding this issue. That’s not good; mental illness is a medical condition and it’s not shameful. Another reason I post this is so that I grow. I need to teach myself to be more open. Also, let’s be honest, maybe five people read this blog anyway, so how public is it really?
If you want to explore more into my experience with the bipolar diagnosis, you can check out this video I made. It gives you more of a look into my perspective and what it is like to struggle with a mental illness.