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Learning to Live After a Diagnosis

Accepting and Moving Forward

My brother. Taken by accident in a group of on purpose shots. 

Ever since I can remember, I have felt out of place. Whether I was with friends, family, at school, or wherever you go, I always felt like I didn't belong. I even convinced myself sometimes that I truly didn't belong. I'd go through periods where I felt at peace, like I fit in, but it would go as quickly as it came. Looking back, I don't think I even paid that much attention to it. 

I didn't always have problems. For the most part I felt normal, whatever that is. Like everyone else, I have been through a lot. I am not special in this regard. When I was 13, I went through one of the most traumatic experiences I have ever been through. Ever since then, I have had problems. At first they were tolerable, I didn't pay too much mind, though they were pretty bad. Progressively I got much worse. What I had thought to just be anxiety, then depression, then severe depression, then just severe anxiety, back to severe depression again, turned out to be something else.

My family has a history of Bipolar Disorder. It had crossed my mind before, that I could be bipolar; I had given thought to it, but I was so convinced that I couldn't be. I struggled a lot with eating problems and self harm. I lost 20+ lbs in under a year, and came close to being underweight. I was not healthy. I would be lying if I said I don't still struggle with these. 

These feelings would come and go, stay for a long time, then leave me alone. Just when I'd thought I was free, they came back. I thought I'd never get help. 

Like many people, I am a private person. I am 17 now, and have come a long way in sharing my struggles. I have two sisters and one brother, he being the eldest. He lives two states away. Last year was a turning point for all of us. 

I still remember that day. I had come home from school, I was just cleaning, and my mom called me into her room. I thought I was in trouble based on her distressed demeanor. I asked her what was wrong, and she told me, "Your brother is in the hospital." My mind went to physical, though a part of me wondered if it wasn't just a physical thing. She told me that he admitted himself into a psychiatric hospital, and him being two states away, you can just imagine how we were all feeling. The next part threw me for a loop. She asked me how I have been feeling.

I had to stop for a minute and just reflect. It's not that she has never asked me this before, there was just something different about the way she asked me this time. My mind went to 2016, when I went through one of the worst depressions I have ever been through, even coming close to killing myself. I thought back to the few months in the year that had gone by, and how many times I had a really low period. I could count them on one hand, which was good, but still not great. I thought about how two weeks ago I was ready to just give up. Being in a clearer mind at the time, I told her my legitimate concerns and expressed a sincere desire to get help. 

It wasn't too long before an appointment was made, but I still had to wait. 5 months. My appointment was in October, as that was the nearest available spot. It hurt to wait that long, but I tried my best to just take it. 

In those months between, I would go through at least 3 low periods, all lasting longer each time. Just a week before my appointment I was ready to just give up. I couldn't take living anymore. Though, it was not just my head, I had the added stressor of heartbreak, unlike any I've ever felt. I was able to get through the days until my appointment and finally it arrived. 

I was diagnosed with Bipolar II Disorder. It didn't surprise me that much, though it felt almost surreal. For so long I had waited, and now I had an answer. 

Since then, I have still have had my highs and lows. I call them spikes and dips. (And for a little laugh, abbreviated it is SAD.) 

The week after my diagnosis was one of the hardest. I thought I was doing fine, but I suffered many panic attacks, (not new prior to my diagnosis,) and I felt like I was going insane—a feeling I have known all too well. I confided in a friend that I was having a hard time accepting it, really accepting it. For so long I had dreamed of being diagnosed, just to be able to relate and identify with something, but wanting it, and receiving it are two different things. I was no longer myself, I was just Bipolar. 

She comforted me and reminded me that my illness was valid, that it was okay to be getting help, and that I would learn how to live with it. At the time it seemed so impossible, but moving forward 3 months I see it really was possible. 

Living with Bipolar II Disorder means that I can reach the lowest of the lows, but I won't truly reach the peak of the highs. For this I am grateful, because I don't think I'd be able to handle it. Each day is different. I have really come to know what it means to just take it one day at a time. On my worst days I remind myself that it will soon be over, and one thing that keeps me going is that I have gotten this far. I can't stop now. 

A favorite quote of mine is, "So far you've made it through 100 percent of your worst days. You're doing great." One of the most helpful things is hearing from others that I am doing alright. Take it day by day. I am not my illness, I am me. You are not your illness, you have an illness, you are you. And sometimes I think I am just making everything up, but I am reminded that my struggles are real, that my illness is valid, and that it is just another thing to live with. 

I couldn't have gotten to where I am today without my friends and family. I still feel so out of place in this world, but I remind myself that these thoughts are just my illness speaking. I wouldn't be alive today if I hadn't found the strength in me to keep on fighting. For that I also thank my God for helping me. 

Something I live by, is that I am not my illness. I am me. And one day I will be able to get through this life better than I'd imagined. 

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