I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety at 16. At 17, my CAMHS team decided there was something else the matter, and launched an assessment for an ASD (Asperger’s) based on nothing more than the fact I found it difficult to give eye contact. At 18, the CITT I had been seeing towards the end of my time with CAMHS suggested a personality disorder, again, with little evidence to back this up, and at 18/19, the first suggestions of a bipolar disorder were mentioned, with Cyclothymia being suggested by two different psychiatrists as recently as a month ago. Three weeks ago I was hospitalised and diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder after having a ‘manic’ episode. I hoot that ‘that’s diagnonsense!!’ when the ward sister presents me with a form to sign that states this.
It’s taken a while to get here. Six years exactly, in fact. I’ve read sources that say it can take 8 or 10 years to get a correct diagnosis of bipolar disorder, so I guess I’ve done ‘well’.
At the minute I’m still coming down from the high- some days I’m still ‘easily excitable’ as one nurse put it yesterday, and this instability of mood (although completely normal in coming down from a high, according to my psychiatrist) is one of several reasons that is making it hard for me to believe that there is anything ‘wrong’ at all. In fact most days, I downright refuse to believe there’s anything the matter.
Each time I’m called to the treatment room for meds I kick up a protest, insisting that I’m ‘perfectly calm, so calm, so settled’, and therefore don’t need my meds, and each time the nurses, with varying degrees of irritation, insist I do, that the meds are the very thing keeping me ‘perfectly calm’, that the doctor wouldn’t prescribe them if I didn’t need them, and that I can bring this up with him in the morning, but first- and so they hand me a dixie cup full of pills. But that’s all part and parcel of the mania, I’m told. It ‘worries’ the nurses when I say it, when I rant that they are making me boring and dumb, killing my buzz, killing my personality, ask for the hundredth time if they’re really honestly sure I don’t just have an overactive thyroid or something instead. They worry because I am displaying a ‘lack of insight’. It’s ‘normal’ to believe you aren’t ill when you’re manic.
And I’m having a hard time believing I’m really bipolar.
I’ve had a good few chats with the nurses and the consultant this week. Earlier in the week I had a bad night, cried to one of my favourite nurses who told me I was struggling to see that I was sick at all, and to trust the nurses, my friends, my family, because they’ll see I’m getting ill before I will. On Thursday a Health Care Assistant lectured me on the importance of taking my meds, like it or not, I needed them, they were keeping me well. Yesterday another nurse told me I wouldn’t last a ‘wet weekend’ on the nursing course I’m hoping to start this year, that my lecturers and mentors would pick up on my mood straight away; the consultant agreed, said I wouldn’t be allowed to set foot on the ward if I began the course the way I was/am at the minute. Last night another favourite nurse told me definitively ‘I saw you, you were manic’, asked me if I trusted them, told me I needed to believe it, shitty an illness as it is, hard as it is to hear at 22, I have it- but, it can be dealt with, it can be well managed, I just need to take my meds and they’ll be no reason for me to be in and out of hospital for the rest of my life.
Today I am calmer and I can sort of, kind of see where they are all coming from. I can sort of, kind of accept what they’re saying. Because the nurse last night was right- I DO trust them. I trust the nurses on that ward an awful lot- they’ve seen me at my lowest, have picked me off the ground countless times before, so why won’t I let them help me this time?
I mean, I still find it all a little hard to believe, a little far fetched, a little uncomfortable to hear words like mania and bipolar disorder applied to me- it all sounds so severe. And that’s the thing with mania- you can’t see or believe that the things you are doing are severe or risky. ‘Clouded judgement’ as the nurse said last night. I can’t help but feel like they are making me out to be sicker than I am- all this nonsense about not being allowed to drive for 3 months, and needing lithium and haloperidol and to be in hospital for weeks- it all feels beyond unnecessary. And the nurses exclaim ‘you WHAT!?’ when they find out I have been dancing on the roof of the hospital, and I shrug my shoulders and grin because really, what.is.the.big deal? And I can’t accept that there is any reason to be concerned because well, nothing the hell happened. I am me and I feel flipping EGGCELLENT thank you very much and I have transcended reality and I am in the clouds and I am invincible and people are dull and grey and stuck in their little boxes in their cardboard houses and they are all just waiting waiting for life to happen instead of living it like I am. And what’s so bloody wrong with THAT?
A lot, apparently. It’s ‘unsustainable’. And days like today, when I am feeling that bit calmer, I wish I could believe the nurses, wish I could readily accept that I have this condition. Because the thing is, for around five years now- since my diagnosis first was questioned, I’ve wanted to know what the hell was going on inside my head. And for the past number of months in particular, I’d suspected I had some form of mood disorder, but now that I have this label, now that I’ve been told definitively, I am in fact bipolar, I’m finding it hard to accept.
I can’t stop thinking back to what my sister said when she found out ‘well that makes a lot of sense’, because I think she is right. It does make a lot of sense. I just don’t want it to be true. I just want a normal brain, thanks.