I began going to therapy in 2014 simply because I couldn't continue functioning the way I was going. In 2018, I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder at the age of 30.
I had lived undiagnosed for more than half of my life. My depressions were deep, dark, and seemingly endless. Diagnoses are tricky. In all honesty, I have received a few diagnoses over the course of my time in therapy: bipolar 2, borderline personality disorder, OCD, and C-PTSD (complex post traumatic stress disorder). One of my therapists has even suggested to me that I may have bits and pieces of each and that they may combine with other additional traumas to create the nuanced human person that is me.
The concept of being the middle overlap of a giant Venn diagram that includes bits and pieces of all these diagnoses is kind of where I have accepted I am at. Many of these labels have symptoms that look extremely similar: bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, especially. Both include rapid mood swings, relationship issues, trouble with self-esteem, and substance abuse. OCD, BPD, C-PTSD and bipolar disorder all share difficulty with a change in routine, intrusive thoughts, negative self-image, and a desire to control one’s environment to create safety. All include racing thoughts, trouble sleeping, and being triggered by rejection and criticism.
All of these labels can be overwhelming, especially when all that is really desired is healing. I started going to therapy because I just wanted to feel better. I wanted to get better. I wanted to understand what was happening to me and learn how to approach life differently so that I wasn’t struggling so much daily. I didn’t want to feel so out of control.
The label of bipolar 2 has been instrumental in my ability to see my symptoms as legitimate and to learn to advocate for what I need within my relationships with others; I feel strongly that it is the label that personally fits me best. It is the checklist on which I am checking off the most boxes. However, I am open to the fact that I am a complex human being who may also check some of the boxes on the list of BPD, OCD, and C-PTSD. It doesn’t mean any of those labels are more or less correct; it just means that they are all part of what makes me, me. And at the end of the day, my goal is to understand myself more deeply and completely.
Until acceptance of mental illness becomes a bigger part of the social lexicon, diagnoses can bring legitimacy to the lived experiences of those with trauma and mental illness.
Shortly after my diagnosis, I decided to make an Instagram dedicated to sharing my story. I hope to dismantle the stigma attached to bipolar disorder and mental illness in general.
I feel compelled to share my story with others as authentically as possible so that my path may later be a map for someone else to know they are not travelling the road alone.