How My Bipolar Diagnosis Fixed My Life

My experience being diagnosed with bipolar and how this has effected my life.

Photo of me 

Getting Diagnosed

I was a student at Conestoga College working on getting my diploma in Woodworking techniques. I was on my third co-op placement, and same as the first one, it was not going very well. I was having trouble concentrating, and unlike the last two weeks of barely being able to get out of bed to get to work, I could barley sit still. I had doubled my dose of my anti-depressant after I became suicidal, and was feeling the effects. I started having panic attacks at work, and my parents were noticing there was something off with my energy level when I talked to them over Skype. It all came to a head on a Friday afternoon when I had yet another panic attack and I decided that there must be something wrong with me and went to the hospital. I got put into the waiting room when I got there and spent the next five hours with an almost dead phone waiting. I was finally taken back and, after some more waiting,  was seen by a mental health crisis nurse. She sat me down and began asking me questions, and very quickly she was asking me how much certain things applied to my life. I honestly have very little memory of the whole day so I don't remember any of the questions specifically. She told me that the most likely reason for everything that was happening and the only one that explained all my symptoms were bi-polar. 

This was the moment in my life everything changed. I had always hoped that something that was fixable was wrong with me. My whole life I had hoped that there was some pill that would magically make me like a normal kid, would stop the bullying, that would make me likable. I wanted to know why my life was so hard, or at least find a way to make it all better. With this diagnosis, everything in my life made sense. My parents were called and explained of the situation by the nurse. Now both my parents are family doctors who had been as lost as I was about my symptoms. Medications that I was on seemed to work to well, and then suddenly not at all. They were as happy about the diagnosis as I was.

What Changed in My Life

After I was diagnosed, I left the hospital with a prescription to help with the manic episode that I was having and an appointment with a psychiatrist to help get me on better medications. One of the major differences between bi-polar and depression is that you almost always need medication to treat bi-polar, it's a genetic disorder. Depression is caused by the situation you are in and can be remedied without medication most of the time. This doesn't mean don't take your medication, just that there are other things that can be done with it to help. 

Due to the effects of changing medication and how I had been before I was started on it, my co-op fired me and I lost my position in the diploma program I was in. To fix the problem I was graduated from the version of the program that had no co-op. As much as I was very mad about how all of this turned out, I decided that I was going to use the opportunity to change the career path that I was on.  Instead, I am going to study Film and Television Production. And I now have a part time job that I am working on along with writing a book. On the right medication, I stop being late and changing my personality every couple of weeks, my temper is longer, and I am finding it easier to keep track of my life. Not to say everything is perfect—far from it—but it's working on it.

Guilty or not guilty?

The strange part about being diagnosed with a mental illness that you have had your whole life is that everything that happened in life up to this point happened while you were cycling through the highs and lows. Looking back on life, it is sometimes very easy to see decisions that were made when you were manic or depressed. These are decisions that you made but with the new information you have now, you can see why you made the decision. There is a feeling of guilt for these wrong decisions that you have after making them, and now you find out that you made the decision you did because of a mental illness. Is the decision really so much your fault when it is made because you are depressed or because you are manic? Being either of those is completely out of your control and how it effects you is, as well, but you are expected to take responsibility for those decisions by some people. Finding the inner peace on how much those decisions are your responsibility and how to move on is difficult. I have not figured it out, but am working on it. 

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