I got diagnosed on my 35th birthday.
It wasn’t the present I expected. Truth be told, I watched the Stephen Fry documentary a few days earlier and said to my boyfriend “hey, that’s interesting, but it looks like I might not be depressed but actually bipolar”. You’d think I wouldn’t be too shocked with the diagnosis after that. But I was, extremely. I cried on my way home. This wasn’t meant to happen to me. I already had depression, surely that would be enough? And this period when I felt like I owned the Earth, when I walked the streets in my heavy army boots like they belonged to me, the time I spoke with gods and they responded, when I started a business fully convinced I’d make piles of money… this was all fake? All an illusion created by a bipolar brain? It was an awful lot to take, and especially on my birthday.
I don’t really celebrate birthdays, but I invited a friend over and bought a bottle of whiskey. I dried out more than half of it, while he was getting increasingly worried. I cried, I laughed, I cried more. This friend saved my life the morning after, when I woke up with mother of all hangovers and father of all depressions, determined to kill myself. I didn’t see a way out at that point. I thought: this was it, my life is done. The only sensible option seemed to slash my wrists and bleed myself to death. First, though, I called the psychiatric hospital that was meant to take me on board in a week, where they told me in a dry tone I am blackmailing them by talking about suicide and I should go call my GP. Then I called my GP who insisted I call the hospital again. Then I ran out of strength and started harming myself. And then my friend called and checked on me, and since I refused to tell what was going on, he came by and took me to a psychiatrist in person.
I have been given seroquel (quetiapine) which essentially sedated me to the point of not moving, which was obviously preferable to moving my hand with a blade in it. My boyfriend was in terrible shock, which is not surprising. But at that time I felt worthless; I felt reduced to a stigma-laden mental illness, doomed to become Britney Spears shaving her head and Amanda Bynes setting her dog on fire. This seemed to be the future and I didn’t want it. The one thing I wanted, health, was impossible.
Months have passed. I worked with a psychiatrist and therapist and slowly my viewpoint has changed. I realised I am still a human being, not just an illness. That there are options, even if they involve 15 pills a day. That I haven’t magically overnight turned into an un-dateable, un-employable piece of nothingness; that I am the same person, only with a diagnosis. That my diagnosis is a turning point, because now I can get help. It’s been a rough ride, but eventually I felt better. Much better, in fact. Then worse again (I have what is called ultra-ultra-rapid version of the disorder, meaning my mood swings can happen multiple times a day). Then better again. But I learned a lot, including the simple fact: it gets better, and no matter what you are going through, it will end.
An idea of writing a book happened to me very early on. I was reading everything I could get my hands on, from Kay Jamison Redfield’s classic “An Unquiet Mind” to Marya Hornbacher’s “Madness”. And while I couldn’t relate to many things described, I realised we all had things in common; we survived; we fought; we made mistakes, we fell, but got up again. My book is supposed to help you make less mistakes in the beginning period — provide you with a source of essential information before you move on to thicker tomes, and let you understand why doctors sometimes make decisions that seem odd. At the end, I believe in medical profession; they spent years studying disorders such as mine, it makes sense for them to know more than I do.
This is the first edition of the book. There will be updates once I learn more. I will keep you updated on the blog.