I sat in front of my laptop Googling feverishly.
I wasn’t searching for a hot pair of shoes or looking at one of my favorite blogs. I was looking for someone that looked like me, dressed like me, talked like me … felt like me.
See, by then I was months into what I called a “spiral.”
Sometime in the late spring/early summer, the familiar issues that have plagued me in the past began to creep out of hibernation. What I assumed was an unchecked ADD diagnosis was beginning to rear its ugly head and I was scared. By early fall I had lost two clients, was doing a horrible job managing my life, felt like I was at the bottom of the bottom and was reduced to searching the Internet for just one example of someone that I could identify with.
I found nothing that gave me a sense of clarity. I was young. I had a blossoming career in the entertainment industry. I graduated from Howard University and juggled three kids, but once again, I was falling short. I was better than this, right? People like me were not supposed to feel like this, so what was wrong with me? I may not have looked crazy but I sure did feel like it and I continued to spiral until I had hit what felt like rock bottom.
With nowhere else to turn I called my mother, admitted my situation (which was far more obvious to those around me than I allowed myself to believe) and let her make me an appointment with yet another psychiatrist.
By then I had visited eight psychiatrists, three therapists, and one life coach within the 11 years since my initial ADD diagnosis during my junior year of college. With such a checkered past, I went into this meeting with little hope for any real help.
As I sat there and divulged my life and struggles to this woman, she took notes of everything I said, just as they all had done. She asked the same mundane questions, just as they all had done. But something seemed different; she looked at me in another way. She looked at me like she actually cared.
She certainly cared enough to start from scratch and figure out a real plan to help me, and by the end of our hour-long session she said the five words that still ring in my head like it was yesterday: “I believe you are bipolar.” I was stunned. She continued to tell me that she believed the ADD was there but was a subset of the mood disorder.
It all began to make sense. The rollercoaster feeling in the pit of my stomach? Anxiety. The increased energy and seemingly uncontrollable, unfocused days that my friend and I dubbed my manic moments? Hypomania, a bipolar high. The exhaustion and despair that always followed? A bipolar low.
The frequent sadness and feeling of utter hopelessness? Depression. The spiral that I so naturally accepted? Emotional breakdown.
And yet I still felt resistant. I wasn’t bipolar! I had ADD. Tons of people have ADD. The only bipolar people I knew of were the women that you hear about on TV. The ones who hurt themselves or their children. I wasn’t bipolar. I had ADD, dammit.
But nope ... I could no longer deny it. I have bipolar disorder II. Wait, do I have bipolar II or am I bipolar? One seems to be a treatable diagnosis while the other sounds like a definition of who I am. (I will ask Dr. Davis later, I guess.)
I learned that for many there is no cure, no magic pill. Just management.
I’ve finally come to accept my situation. Mainly because the medications I was given seemed to actually work, though my symptoms haven’t disappeared. Yeah, I still pace in circles during the hypomanic moments, talking a mile a minute and am unable to focus on one task, but what used to occur two to three times a day now happens once a week.
I finally feel hopeful again, like those six months of despair were not in vain.
It’s been a process, and a long-overdue one at that. Now that I know the true nature of the symptoms, I can start identifying the traits of my disorder that I just assumed were parts of my personality. Several emotional breakdowns over the years, the panic attacks, the depression -- all things I’d woefully accepted because I had no clue what they truly were.
I may be bipolar (or have bipolar disorder; I swear I’m going to get to the bottom of that!) but that’s only a portion of who I am. I have hopes and dreams that extend much further than my latest manic episode. I’m a mother, a business woman, a creative and a pretty awesome person if I do say so myself.