Fifteen years. That’s how long I spent being misdiagnosed. Was it like slowly being tortured? Yes. I self medicated with drink and drugs for a better part of those fifteen long years and I will never know how much more damage that has caused but it’s done and dusted, in the history books. I was desperate to escape the vice grip of an indescribable demon that sat right between my ears.
Strangely enough as I write this it is almost a year to the day that I was diagnosed with Bipolar type one and Borderline Personality Disorder. Was I shattered and fell apart when my doctor broke the news? Oh contraire, I was beyond relieved to finally have the correct diagnosis, to be in the right hands, finally I actually saw light at the end of the very long, very dark tunnel. Who the fuck is happy about being diagnosed with Bipolar? I’ll tell you, a tortured soul, a soul on the edge of the ledge, someone who could never explain why she couldn’t keep a relationship or hold down a job, or why she got so sad sometimes she went mute for days on end, someone who could either be the life and soul of the party or the no show. I was unpredictable, unreliable and untrustworthy. Just like my moods.
But this story is only a beginning remember? Or perhaps more accurately several beginnings?
I have no crutches anymore, nothing to hide behind, no masks, I am Kerri and I am Bipolar. Please don’t think this is how I actually introduce myself or even how I identify myself, but it is the truest thing that has ever happened to me. It’s real. Real(er) than any friendship, relationship or job I’ve ever had. For the first time in thirty seven years I had a reason to look at myself in the mirror and ask, “who the fuck are you?” the Bipolar has inspired me to actually stop the farce and get to know who I am.
But of course, before you can get to know yourself you actually have to BE yourself.
It’s less confusing in words, trust me, when you finally realize you’ve been living a lie. It’s very hard to even know where to begin to unravel the yarns you’ve spun, I’m a year in and I still feel like I’ve only just begun. Thirty seven years. That’s how much confusion, self hate, deception and pure fantasy I have to deal with. What does Bipolar and pretending to be someone I’m not have anything to do with each other? I am not the Bipolar authority, but I guess it was my way of dealing with something that was “wrong” with me that I didn’t understand.
So now what? Isn’t Bipolar really shitty Kerri? Why, yes, yes it is. It’s a war made up of many battles past, present and future. Does the Bipolar win sometimes? Yes, it does. I don’t think I have to go into a textbook translation of what Bipolar sufferers go through, I’m sure anyone reading this blog already knows, so let me rather impart things you don’t know, which is my story’s beginning. I have decided, clever me, not to be the victim, even though I don’t judge those who do, let’s not fuck around, this illness takes no prisoners, you either win or lose really badly. So now I am Kerri, the Bipolar non victim and? Well I did warn you that this is only the beginning, I haven’t discovered the cure to my illness and that is not necessarily what I’m looking for anyway, I am being realistic!
I know it takes more than just medication to fight this, it takes a team, your doctors, your therapists, the nurse that injects me in my butt once a month, family, friends, but most importantly it takes a certain attitude to go into battle with Bipolar.
I am slowly learning to make eye contact with my demons and it takes every inch of my heart, mind and soul to do it, sometimes it overwhelms me, those are the times I need to take on the chin. But there are other times where I hold the glare and manage to win that little battle, and you bet I pat myself on the back! I scream it from the mountain tops!
I have promised myself, and a whole bunch of strangers, that I will never stop fighting and I will never stop looking for arsenal to take onto the battle field. Just remembering this is sometimes all the drive I need to get up and keep on going. So I encourage you to start your story, today, this second. Most importantly, I want you to know, I’m with you every step of the way friend, that might not mean much now, but if the day comes where you decide to fight back too, maybe you will remember this humble story and remember you were never alone. And never will be.
PS to be practical here are some things I have found super helpful:
- Exercise – do something you know you will enjoy/manage even if it’s just a walk around the block, and don’t beat yourself up if you find you just can’t, it will happen, roll with it.
- Balanced diet, everyone is different so there is no one food lifestyle that I will recommend but I will say eat more consciously be aware of things you’re eating that are not agreeing with your body or things you aren’t eating and should be, again, don’t force Brussels sprouts down your throat if they make you gag, eat healthy foods that you like.
- Slow down, literally in every way slow down, walk slower, talk slower, drive slower, move slower, respond to the world slower, this really helps turn down the anxiety and racing thoughts.
- Don’t mess around with your medication, rather speak to your doctor if you feel your medication needs tweaking.
- Try attend Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, its core principle is mindfulness – being in the now, it’s not an easy thing to apply, it takes time but if it sticks, awesome!
- Try attend Cognitive Behaviour Therapy – it teaches you about how if we change our thought pattern our response to Bipolar related triggers will be largely decreased, I am still attending these sessions.
- Try attend group Interpersonal skills Therapy, I am jumping the gun here as I am only starting this next week but the facilitators are the same ones who were involved in my DBT, so I am trusting this will be of use.
- Make realistic manageable to do lists every night for the next day, that you can slowly check off one by one, this helps manage stress while still feeling productive. I know some of you are in “unavoidably” stressful jobs, I don’t want to over simplify here, but if “too much” stress is unavoidable some re-evaluating might be in order.
- I also think one on one therapy with a psychologist that you like and trust is very important to help you unravel thinking traps that you may have created years ago that you aren’t even aware you do.