It was July of 2010 when the dreaded diagnosis came. I had always had my suspicions and so had others, but denial was the place I lived in for a long time. That July was different.
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I received my diagnosis of bipolar II three years ago when I was 43. I don’t remember completely how my psychiatrist came to her conclusion as to what ailed me. I do, however, recall that she gave me a battery of tests that I dutifully filled out. Moments later was the “voila moment” .
My diagnosis was scary but had a sense of relief. I was not alone. Other people live with the same mental illness that I do. Truth: I just replaced suffer with the word live.
My mom diagnosed me with depression today, and it isn’t right now, but one day, eventually, it’s going to be okay.
Why did I get the messed up brain? It is so complex and scary to have a disorder that creates a chemical imbalance in your brain that preys on your mind.
Sometimes, it is an ongoing challenge, clinical depression or generalized anxiety disorder, and medication and talk therapy may help ease the symptoms. A person can live with this every day, and may learn to function relatively well. It could be compared to keeping tabs on your insulin level, but it's actually keeping tabs on your mood, your reactions, your thoughts, your heart rate, your stress level, and making sure they are within normal limits for situations you face during the day.
Situational depression or acute anxiety that occurs as a result of a trigger, a circumstance, an action, or something beyond your control is a different type of brain poison. This is the stuff nightmares are made of. Many people have the correct amount of chemicals in their brains to calm a panic response that may occur because of some actual or perceived risk. The people who don't can end up on a never-ending hamster wheel inside their heads that spits out lies, paranoia, chaos, and distress signals that their brains cannot control, much less stop.
The chaotic brain and its lack of calming chemicals to suppress the panic and feelings of "going crazy" creates physical responses such as hyperventilating, increased heart rate, uncontrollable crying, inability to communicate clearly, and feeling like you are coming out of your own skin. I would never wish this on anyone. Thank goodness for fast acting medications that help stop these attacks.
If you have been there, you know what I'm describing. If you haven't, count your blessings. If you know someone who experiences this type of hell, please be gentle with them. We do not mean to be mopey or scared or introverted during these episodes. It happens because it is our reaction to not feeling "safe." Being trapped with thoughts that are making you doubt your sanity or your ability to live another day is just about the worst feeling ever.
If someone you care about reaches out to you, please do not feel "put upon." We choose our "safe people" as if we are walking through a landmine. One wrong choice and we could be at the end of a lecture telling us to get over it, that other people have worse problems, and that we need to stop the pity party. I've been there, and I felt betrayed. I felt like I should have gone ahead and killed myself because my trust was misplaced and I felt worse than before I said anything. I learned to be extra choosy and I learned that not everyone can be trusted with certain information.
To my closest circle who reach out to me, asking if everything is ok, or if they could help, my gratitude cannot be expressed in words. My heart and my mind have caused me to cry a river of tears, and some of them have been soul cleansing. I refuse to believe the whispers that say "you're going to stay stuck." No. I absolutely am NOT. I have worked and prayed too hard during the past 25 years, since being diagnosed with anxiety and depression, to allow my mis-wired brain to defeat me. It's a process.
If you understand what I've written, then you know you are not alone. We are kindred spirits, sometimes tortured souls, but we can fight. Sometimes we have to let others fight on our behalf, until we get our bearings and conquer the demons that live within our minds.