No thanks. I’m so much more than that. The first thing to think about is language, I never say ‘I am bipolar’ rather I say ‘I have bipolar’ usually followed up with a rant about how much I hate this part of me. A part of me it is though, just like my size seven feet or my fine wispy hair which never looks smart.
It was depression with a side order of occasional anxiety before it was bipolar, it was even depression with psychotic symptoms for a while, if we were playing diagnosis bingo whilst I wouldn’t shout for a full house I reckon I’d get a tenner for a line!
What does it mean though? Can I not treat the symptoms without a label? I guess I could but for me naming it gives me something tangible to fight with; my arch nemesis. Me against bipolar and sometimes I have to settle for the small wins.
I can see for some people that may not be the case but I can only talk for me.
I was furious when I was given my bipolar diagnosis, mainly because I lacked insight and did not believe I was experiencing mania but partly because I had spent nearly a decade avoiding this. I knew deep down what was wrong, I’m a mental health nurse I should do, but I treated this at home when it reared its ugly head with sedatives when needed and other than once in that decade I managed to stay away from services for mania or hypomania. I did seek support when depressed but that’s ok right? Plentiful campaigns with the standard head clutched photo permitted me to seek help for that. Stigma gripped me anyway like a hug from an arm wrestling champion; I didn’t like the diagnosis depression either.
I wanted (and still want I guess) to be normal, labels are for jars not humans but at least with a name I know with whom I need to fight.
I know some people don’t believe in diagnosis at all and others would rename some labels which I wholeheartedly agree with but I can only speak for me and my experiences here, I guess this is more of a brain fart than a blog post!
When to tell people is my next worry, I’ve applied for a new job and can’t help but wonder at what point I drop this in to conversation, obviously not until successful but do I mention in person or let the occupational health report drop that little nugget into the mix? Would I worry if I had a physical health condition, I doubt it, my worry is that they would correlate my illness and my competence. At this point I’m back to ‘its just a label’ with an indignant tone! I guess a label is easier to share than a full explanation of my behaviours when poorly to a new boss (well fingers crossed!)…