Today I talk openly about my bipolar disorder, but for a long time I didn't tell anyone about it. First of all, I didn't really understand the illness, let alone want to share this big secret with people. Though, at times, it was hard to conceal. Whenever I was stressed or overtired or feeling enormous pressure, I was at risk of going through another manic episode. That's what happened when I started college at a reputable liberal arts women's schoolwhich will remain nameless.
Doctors couldn't agree on a diagnosis
Back then there was very little medical consensus on bipolar disorderand there was very little patient consultation on which treatment would be preferred. The medication I was given snowed me. I couldn't function. I was sleeping during the day, wide awake at night. It was horrible. My family was extremely supportive, but it was a very confusing time. My condition was not officially called bipolar at this time because I hadn't had enough episodes for a clear diagnosis.
My next manic episode happened when I was 25. I have since had seven or eight episodes, and they usually happen when I undergo a major change: my mother's death, a new job, or a longer commute to work. Although I find it hard to remember my behavior during my manic stages, I know I have a bundle of symptoms: I tend to lose my sense of humor, I find it hard to follow directions, I can be unreasonably suspicious, and I cry easily. I am happy to say that my episodes have grown less frequent as I've aged and become more aware of my personal triggers. Bipolar can be different for different people and come on differently at different times in their lives.
Bipolar disorder ran in her family, but she didn't know it
The genetic component of bipolar is something that I cannot control. And like many families, I didn't even know that mental illness was in my family until much later in life. A few years ago, a genealogist contacted me while he was researching my family for another individual. He told me that my great-grandmother had killed herself and that she likely suffered from some mental illness. This came as a complete shock to me, and I'm certain that my father (he passed away years ago) didn't know about this either. Knowing this information about a relativealthough tragicsomehow helped me understand and accept my condition a little more. It also reminded me of the importance of managing my condition.