By: Tricia Cherie
A few months ago I found out I was bipolar. It took an intense depressive state to convince myself that I might have some underlying issues. I couldn’t sleep at night, stayed in bed all day, didn’t shower for days, started believing my existence was pointless, and was drinking every day to get drunk.
I was convinced that my alcoholism was the cause of the mood swings and irritability I had grown comfortable with. It was easy to blame my addiction for why I was drowning in complex emotions. After one visit to an AA meeting, I stopped drinking for a whole week (which is a long time if you have been drinking every day for a year).
After my sober week, I was still feeling the same way but somehow worse. After fighting the opinions of friends and family for so long, my vulnerability and once-thick skin was growing transparent. After so much internal struggle, it took one call from my mom. I refused to go to another AA meeting, so my mom, desperate to help me, told me in a stern voice, “Call the number on the back of your insurance card, find out what counselors and physiatrists are covered, and call me back right away.” I couldn’t help but agree; I really didn’t want to go to another AA meeting—it just increased my self-deprecation. What my mom didn’t know was that I had had a horrible encounter with a physiatrist two years ago. But at this point, I was desperate.
I showed up to my appointment at 8 a.m., hungover and blurry-eyed. I almost didn’t leave my apartment in the first place. I tried to convince myself that I would just come up with a good lie to tell my mom, and that would be that, but I knew deep down I needed help. In the paperwork there was a simple question of “What brings you to our office today?” to which I replied simply, “Sad.”
My doctor listened to me ramble, switching from topic to topic and ending all of my stories with, “It’s not a big deal. It is what it is.” She took the time to carefully listen to my disjointed dialogue, and when it came time for her to tell me her thoughts, she told me, “You’re dealing with a mood disorder, Bipolar II.” I felt validated but also embarrassed. She prescribed me some medication and commended me for being brave enough to confront my overwhelming emotions.
After being on my medication a few weeks, I have felt leaps and bounds better. I have had the energy to get out of bed and haven’t been dependent on alcohol, but more than that I have started to believe in myself again.
My mental health problems will always be there, but there is no reason for me or anyone else to be ashamed. If you have intense feelings of depression or mania, I can only suggest one thing: call the number on the back of your insurance card. You deserve to be happy and at peace with your own life, and so do I.