Many years ago I was told that it’s possible that I have Bipolar Disorder. I didn’t really think much of it at the time; my grandfather has it so I guess the diagnosis sort of made sense. I took the drugs given to me and continued along my path of denial and self-destruction.
A year or two later I began seeing a clinical psychologist (after months of being encouraged to by my psychiatrist), and so this journey of self discovery began.
The first year of my therapy was a joke, not because she was incompetent but because I was still hiding from myself. I never opened up completely and viewed the whole process as just another obligation I had to bluff my way through.
It was only when I decided to abruptly go off my medication a year ago (against both my doctors’ advice) that shit really started getting real for me.
I was in the preparation stages of making a huge move to Taiwan, so stress levels were already at an all time high. As the medication that I had been on for years began to leave my system I slowly started to lose my (already shaky-at-best) grip on life. My head became literal hell to be in. The mental and physical pain was immense.
When I finally broke down and went back to my doctors I begged them for a diagnosis, anything to help me make sense of the torment I was in. Very gently they told me (again) that it is highly likely that I have some form of Bipolar Disorder, probably type 2, and that it is important for me to be on medication at this stage of my life.
This time I listened to them, and actually felt relief hearing that what I was going through wasn’t my fault or just in my head.
I’ve been back on my medication for over half a year now, and am settled in my new home (as settled as someone like me can be anyway). However, something still doesn’t feel right.
I have begun to doubt my diagnosis. Not in the same way as before, I am no longer in any denial that there is something quite serious going on with my brain, but something about the label Bipolar Disorder doesn’t quite seem to fit.
I am by no means an expert on the disorder. I know a lot about it because of the research I’ve done since receiving the diagnosis, but I also know that it can be very tricky to pin down and can present itself in a thousand different ways.
During my exhaustive reading on the subject I inevitably came across Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). It was not the first time I had heard or read about it, but it was the first time that I started to look at myself through that particular lens. I identify with the majority of the symptoms, and have read that it can be mistaken for Bipolar Disorder or that the two often exist together. I don’t know why reading this filled me with such dread. Or maybe I do…
My psychiatrist once told me “you are not your disorder”. While I fully agree with her, it is rather difficult not to feel that way when the potential diagnosis suggests that your symptoms are an inherent part of your personality. I tell myself that no matter what my diagnosis I am still me, and yet the thought that I might have BPD still terrifies me.
Perhaps it’s because my older sister more than likely has it, and she was a turbulent and abusive presence in my life for a long time. Perhaps it’s the horrific stigma that personality disorders carry. Perhaps it’s a combination of these, and more. I don’t know. All I know is that I now have massive doubt inside my head about what my doctors told me, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t scared.