I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder six years ago, and this is the first time I am openly talking about it.
It wasn’t easy admitting to myself that I needed help. I thought that everything was just normal—a bad case of mood swing or PMS, maybe. But it got worse. I would overthink about everything. My negative thoughts were triggered by talks on family, career, and the future in general. It didn’t help that my college batch mates seemed to be going on with their lives just fine, with their careers looking promising and their personal lives stable that time. I thought to myself, “If I’m not going to be successful then I’d rather die. What’s the point of living an ordinary life?”
I had these thoughts for months. I became extra temperamental that feeling upset and down felt like a normal thing. There were nights when I would suddenly just cry myself to sleep, only to wake up feeling normal again. My mood swings became complex and extreme—sometimes I’m very energetic, bubbly, carefree and talkative; sometimes I am short-tempered, impatient, reclusive, and a crybaby.
Mental illness runs in our family. My aunt tried to commit suicide by overdose when I was in the same room with her, so I knew my chances at getting it were high. But telling my mom and sister about it didn’t seem right to me, it just made me more anxious. From there, my condition got worse. I was literally feeling prickly inside, a little suffocated even. I knew I had to do something about it.
I sought for professional help in secret. I searched for several doctors and counselors online, and one of the most recommended psychiatrists seemed familiar. It turned out she was my late aunt’s doctor. My initial hesitation to go through treatment subsided when I finally opened up to my family, who gave me the comfort and support I needed.
I am doing a lot better now. I run my own business, which requires a lot of physical and mental attention. I still get manic-depressive episodes from time to time, especially when pressured at work. Thankfully, my anti-anxiety medications help me manage. Compared before, my episodes have diminished and I can function better even when I’m manic or depressed.
There is a scientific explanation to everything and a step to getting better is acknowledging that. The purpose of my medications is to control the chemical imbalance in the brain. During my initial years into diagnosis, I would have a weekly session with my psychiatrist, which felt more like I was talking to a friend rather than a doctor. That helped me process my emotions and understand bipolar disorder. My visits changed from weekly to twice a month, then once a month, and now almost twice a year.
I’m glad I sought professional help. Our society has a misconception about mental health, with some not considering mental disorders an illness. The stigma of being labeled crazy deters the discussion about it. It’s important that people talk about it and encourage others to open up, spark a conversation, and seek help.
I’m bipolar, but I manage. I am happy to be the person that I am now.
If you are suffering from emotional or mental crisis or know someone who is, reach HOPELINE thru 804-HOPE (4673) or 0917-558-HOPE (2919).
October 10 is World Mental Health Day. If you have stories to tell, comment here or tag us on Facebook or Instagram @iamclaireph.