Bipolar Disorder is Part of My Mental Illness Life but It is Not My Life

A few days ago I wrote a post titled “You Don’t Have Bipolar Disorder” which are the words my new psychiatrist told me after seeing me three times. He also told me I had borderline personality disorder, PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder.

After I was given my bipolar 1 disorder diagnosis 25 years ago, I researched it extensively. I did not want to have a mental illness and especially not bipolar disorder. I tried to fight it every step of the way as long as I could and was in denial far too long. Believe me if there was something I could find to prove to my doctors that I did not have bipolar disorder I would have found it. I couldn’t find anything to disprove my bipolar diagnosis. There was no mistaking it. I had bipolar 1 disorder. After many years I finally accepted my bipolar disorder and then began the long winding road to recovery.

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The anti-depressant Prozac given to me to treat my postpartum depression increased my anxiety triple-fold. I also had symptoms of mania, hypomania, mixed episodes and rapid cycling. I will never know what came first—the chicken or the egg. Did the psychotropic medications cause me to mimic bipolar 1 disorder symptoms or did I always have bipolar? The problem and the answer are the same. It doesn’t matter at this point. It is what it is and it was what it was. The point is that I had bipolar symptoms. I will never know all the answers for sure.

I am happy with my new psychiatrist and welcome his positive comments and new school knowledge. I am not positive if my new P-doc’s diagnosis is correct and it doesn’t really matter right now as I am not taking psychotropic medications. I am over five months psychotropic medication free and am still doing very well. He is monitoring my progress closely and I will stay medication free as long as I am feeling well. I think after taking psychotropic medications for over twenty years and having so many ECT treatments possibly somehow it has transformed my brain positively.

Nothing is cut in stone in the mental health world. There is no scientific proof, x-rays, cat scans or blood work to determine an absolute unfailing diagnosis. When I was given my mental illness diagnoses I was already taking a psychotropic medication that changed my brain chemistry causing severe side effects of increased anxiety, mania and insomnia. Antidepressants can cause bipolar like symptoms. Plus, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder have many similar symptoms and characteristics making it more difficult to make an accurate diagnosis.

Unfortunately, Psychiatrists do not have all the answers and sometimes it is a guessing game at best. They do the best they can with what they are given. I don’t have bad feelings for my diagnoses as they occurred. There is nothing I can do about it today. I can’t change the past. I refuse to visit the what ifs. If I did I could put myself at risk for developing depression and that is the last thing I want to happen.

I have lived with mental illness for over 25 years and nothing can change that. Bipolar is only a label to help treat a mental illness. Bipolar is not who I am but it is a part of who I am and will always be. I feel relieved and feel a little lighter without the bipolar diagnosis if it is true. It lightens my load a little but it is only a word—only a label. It does not change my past or who I am.

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Mental illness diagnoses and labels are given and are necessary to help doctors treat patients, improve their mental health and ensure an optimal quality of life. My mental illness diagnoses and labels from the past helped me survive then. Currently, they increase my awareness of possible triggers, help me understand the cause of my symptoms and which symptoms to watch closely for and have taught me how to cope effectively and reach my optimal mental health and life.

Being diagnosed with mental illness does not always mean forever. Maybe it is like cancer in the sense that we go in remission. Maybe it never goes away completely, but the brain can change favorably over time and mental health can improve. Recently, I read an article that said people diagnosed with personality disorder can reduce their symptoms as they age. This improvement can be caused from changes in the brain chemistry and other treatments such as dialectical behavior therapy being effective for personality disorder. As we age we learn better coping strategies and skills that teach us how to overcome obstacles and struggles in our lives. Surviving many different life experiences helps transform brains and gain necessary inner strength. Maybe the same holds true with bipolar disorder as well. We just don’t have all the answers yet.

I believe I had bipolar 1 disorder and may still have it. Maybe my brain chemistry has changed over the years because of the natural aging process, many different psychotropic medications I took for 25 years, ECT treatments and God. All of the above combined and blended well together with my life experiences and brought me to where I am right now.

I write optimistically not because my life is perfect but because my life is perfectly unperfect. Surviving so many struggles helped me turn my wounds and blemishes into beauty marks.

“Look for beauty in the blemishes of life.” ~Susan Walz

“Turn life’s blemishes into beauty marks.” Susan Walz

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