My diagnosis happened quite early, around the age of 12 or 13. It was the beginning of an extensive trial and error process that involved the trial and error of numerous medications that were meant to subdue an illness I hardly believed existed. When learning about bipolar disorder as a youth it seemed to me to be a diagnosis that illustrated normal human emotions, perhaps to an extreme but not necessarily anything beyond the human response to life.
I had trouble believing in the authenticity of my diagnosis and rather spent most of my adolescence attempting to thwart the diagnosis by avoiding anything I thought accompanied the illness.
I excelled in school, had very little conflict within interpersonal relationships and kept emotions hidden when they appeared to be a manifestation of the disorder. I found by ensuring concrete examples of wellness I was better able to defy the diagnosis or rather deny it all together. Unfortunately as much as I tried to live outside of the illness I was not able to prevent its full manifestation, which occurred at the age of 20. By the time I entered into my first manic episode I had come to the understanding that I was not afflicted with the illness whatsoever. What I realized soon after the first manic episode wrecked havoc upon my young adulthood was how impossible it can be to truly understand the scale of the illness until it fully takes hold. No amount of literature can prepare you for the actual experience of a manic episode, which unlike a depressive episode encourages the manifestation of a somewhat magical elevation of perspective. It was in so many ways hard to accept the elation of mania as a symptom of an illness.
It was much easier, however, to see the mania as a gift of enlightenment to be treasured.
As was the case for all my manic episodes it was harshly abated by the mandated use of antipsychotics and other medications meant to sedate and resolve the episode. I have found that despite the fact that my diagnosis predated my first episode by nearly 7 years I had not yet accepted it as a true affliction. After my first manic episode dealt its harsh truth upon me I was forced to evaluate my life under new conditions. A constant fear of its resurgence followed me as did the knowledge that I was not in total control of the illness and therefore was endlessly subject to the whims or its presence.
What was difficult then and what continues to be difficult to this day are often the times between episodes. When the diagnosis feels all but a part of me.
Instead it feels like a nightmare I once had not a pivotal piece of my past.
What I cannot deny now is the truth regarding preparing for one’s first episode. The truth is that as far as I can surmise thus far very little can prepare an individual for a manic episode.
Realistically I was only partially prepared for the subsequent episodes because of the memory of the first. I must imagine that each manic episode is unique to the individual experiencing it. Unlike many other illnesses that have concrete symptoms that affect all those afflicted the symptoms, which follow bipolar disorder are unique to the individual making the preparation for an episode all the more difficult.
One can only hope that this might be remedied but as far as I understand at this point the ways in which it might be reconciled are inconclusive. In the case of this particular disorder it would seem that the true nature of the illness can only be understood once experienced. Perhaps in sharing our experiences we may be better able to provide a platform of understanding for those yet to be fully submerged by the illness, yet even then the personal nature of bipolar disorder may remain and the full mastery of the illness may mandate the experience of an episode rather than the absence of one. This is to say experience a manic episode is not something one can generally prepare for unless they have experienced one before.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community