After you've finally battled all the stigma out there about seeking help for your depression, the last thing you want to deal with is your actual depression. Then, your psychiatrist says the word, “bipolar.” What in the –? I don't know about the rest of you, but, among the first thoughts to drift through my mind was, “Is a bipolar diagnosis a life sentence of doom?”
To me, it might as well have been a bipolar diagnosis life sentence. Doom settled over me. Sure, I felt somewhat validated to finally have a “label” for how I'd felt all those years. But, that “label” only helped for a short time after I realized the MAGNITUDE of what it really meant. The word “bipolar” felt like I had something insurmountable to deal with for the rest of my life.
Is a bipolar diagnosis a life sentence?
Bipolar disorder IS a life-long ailment.
I won't sugarcoat it. If you're afflicted, the chances are that it's not just going to go away. I am no expert — outside of my own experiences as someone who has bipolar disorder. However, is a bipolar diagnosis a life sentence, period? Yes. You'll have to manage it for the rest of your life. It's a chemical imbalance, yo. Like, you can't control that. Neurotransmitters & stuff. Either your body is doing what it's supposed to or it's not. SO, it's a combination of medication & therapy. Take care of yourself. See a psychiatrist regularly & a psychologist even more regularly, most likely. Everyone is different.
BUT, bipolar disorder is NOT guaranteed doom.
When I started seeing my current psychiatrist roughly a year ago, “Is a bipolar diagnosis a life sentence?” was going through my head. Of course. I thought I was doomed.
But one of the first things he said to me was, “If you do nothing else I advise you to, at least protect your sleep.” He went on to say that sleep is something we all give too little value to, especially in today's world. Yet, sleep is EVEN MORE important to those with mental illnesses, particularly bipolar disorder, as we're discussing here.
Your brain needs that time to rejuvenate. You need that rest. Lack of sleep can be a trigger for depression (your lows) or mania (your highs or your tunnel visioned projects or your risky behaviors).
While SLEEP is the best thing you can do for yourself with bipolar disorder, there is something else to keep in mind.
That first visit with my current psychiatrist blew my mind, y'all! He gave me an analogy that will stick with me for the rest of my life — because I will literally use it for the rest of my life.
Is a bipolar diagnosis a life sentence? Well, yes… But listen to this: I am going to start talking about cars here, so don't let me lose you!
He said, even though I will have bipolar for the rest of my life, I need to look at it like driving a car with a manual transmission.
Everyone else gets to go about life with an automatic; they get to just switch gears without even thinking about it. With bipolar, on the other hand, I have to learn to recognize when I am slipping into depression or amping up into mania so I can MANUALLY shift gears (typically by changing my routine or adjusting medication).
I don't have to blindly accept what is happening as a passenger of my own life.
I can still “drive” but I need to pay closer attention to the road conditions.
That analogy stuck with me & helped me feel more in control & less DOOMED or marked as “defective,” for lack of a better way to put it. I went from feeling overwhelmingly like an irreversible mark had been put on my life with such a dark cloud over me to going back to feeling like I had a “say”. So this analogy gave me back hope… & hope is POWERFUL.
So, is a bipolar diagnosis a life sentence? Well, yeah. But it isn't all doom & gloom. It's something you have, not something you are… & there are all kinds of ways to manage & live fully, regardless. I promise.