At the age of 28, I received a bipolar disorder diagnosis. However, I had a slight tendency toward perfection for years before I discovered I had the condition. I had huge bursts of energy and was constantly very busy. I was constantly thinking, and I had a very impulsive personality. On the other hand, I would experience times when I would feel down and be extremely depressed. I would perform the absolute minimum necessary to get by at work and withdraw because I was so overburdened. It was working nonstop until October 2018, when my life as I knew it came to an abrupt end.
I had recently acquired Oscar the puppy with my boyfriend. SHe had also recently begun working from home more frequently when I was remote. I was working nonstop, introducing Oscar to friends and family, and only getting three hours of sleep each night for days on end. Even though I was worn out, I couldn’t bring myself to stop myself from organizing and cleaning our apartment every night when I should have been sleeping. Later on, I discovered that this behaviour is a sign of a manic episode. My boyfriend once asked me to stop what I was doing and go to bed while I was in one of my go-go-go moods. He spoke to me, but I was totally unresponsive and didn’t even realize it. That had never before occurred.They came to our apartment to assist me in getting to the hospital safely.
Finding out I’m bipolar
I was given a sedative after being admitted to the emergency room, and I slept nonstop for 24 hours. The following day, I was driven to Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, where there is an on-site inpatient mental health program. I received a quick diagnosis of bipolar I, which means that I occasionally go through periods of extremely severe mood swings, ranging from mania to depression.
My aunt who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at a young age has done a good job of managing her mental health. She works diligently to improve her mental health, takes her medication, and leads a healthy lifestyle. Due to the fact that it wasn’t really a topic that my family discussed, I didn’t learn about her diagnosis until I was a senior in high school. But that changed when my other aunt began exhibiting bipolar symptoms at family gatherings. I had never before witnessed a manic person. She spoke at a mile per minute and had a lot of energy. Therefore, having family members who also had the diagnosis helped me accept mine.
I entered inpatient treatment after my hospitalization and took a leave of absence for health reasons. A psychiatrist started me on various medications during my stay, and I attended group therapy to begin my bipolar disorder treatment.
I switched to outpatient therapy after six days and made the decision to call my boss. Told him what had happened and what my diagnosis was. I took a 12-week leave of absence under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) before going back to work. This was essential to my recovery and a key step as I learned about my mental health and adjusted to my medication. I continued to work one-on-one with a therapist throughout my outpatient treatment to set boundaries and make lifestyle changes to help me re-enter my life in a healthier manner.
Having Bipolar Disorder
At the moment, I’m taking two different medications—one to aid in sleep and the other to help me control the mood-related aspects of my disorder. I never forget to take my medication. It makes me feel in charge.
In addition, I’ve altered my work-life balance in some pretty significant ways. I used to have no boundaries and check my work emails at all times. But these days, I walk for 20 to 40 minutes with Oscar every morning before checking my email. I turn off my computer by 5:30 pm, and I’m now more deliberate about work travel. It took some trial and error for me to settle on a routine that works, but thankfully I had a supportive boss who pushed me to uphold my boundaries.
My aunt, who has experienced numerous bipolar episodes, does not have a “simple” case of the illness like I do. She has had to experiment with numerous medications and therapies. I seek support from my other aunt, who has successfully managed her bipolar disorder since a young age. She doesn’t think twice to speak to me if she sees that I’m acting strangely, and I can always trust that she isn’t criticizing or demeaning me.
My family and I didn’t really discuss mental health all that much before my diagnosis. But now, it’s a topic we bring up frequently. I believe that talking openly about mental health benefits all of us. My bipolar diagnosis served as the stark reminder that I needed to put my mental health first. I now have a much better understanding of who I am, how my brain works, and how my emotions work after undergoing treatments, working with doctors and therapists, reading about my disorder, and educating myself on it. And that has made it possible for me to live life more wisely, better, and in tune with who I am.
I also made the decision to launch the advocacy blog Bipolar Brought Balance a year after receiving my diagnosis in order to keep a journal and share my experiences with others. My aim is to lessen the stigma associated with bipolar disorder. It simply forms a part of you. I want people who read my story to know that you can still achieve all of your life goals; you just might need to work a little harder at it on some days. However, receiving a diagnosis and taking action to manage and preserve your mental health can put you light years ahead of those who are unaware of the significance of their mental health.