Bipolar Disorder is Part of My Mental Illness Life but It is Not My Life

A few days ago I wrote a post titled “You Don’t Have Bipolar Disorder” which are the words my new psychiatrist told me after seeing me three times. He also told me I had borderline personality disorder, PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder.

After I was given my bipolar 1 disorder diagnosis 25 years ago, I researched it extensively. I did not want to have a mental illness and especially not bipolar disorder. I tried to fight it every step of the way as long as I could and was in denial far too long. Believe me if there was something I could find to prove to my doctors that I did not have bipolar disorder I would have found it. I couldn’t find anything to disprove my bipolar diagnosis. There was no mistaking it. I had bipolar 1 disorder. After many years I finally accepted my bipolar disorder and then began the long winding road to recovery.

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The anti-depressant Prozac given to me to treat my postpartum depression increased my anxiety triple-fold. I also had symptoms of mania, hypomania, mixed episodes and rapid cycling. I will never know what came first—the chicken or the egg. Did the psychotropic medications cause me to mimic bipolar 1 disorder symptoms or did I always have bipolar? The problem and the answer are the same. It doesn’t matter at this point. It is what it is and it was what it was. The point is that I had bipolar symptoms. I will never know all the answers for sure.

I am happy with my new psychiatrist and welcome his positive comments and new school knowledge. I am not positive if my new P-doc’s diagnosis is correct and it doesn’t really matter right now as I am not taking psychotropic medications. I am over five months psychotropic medication free and am still doing very well. He is monitoring my progress closely and I will stay medication free as long as I am feeling well. I think after taking psychotropic medications for over twenty years and having so many ECT treatments possibly somehow it has transformed my brain positively.

Nothing is cut in stone in the mental health world. There is no scientific proof, x-rays, cat scans or blood work to determine an absolute unfailing diagnosis. When I was given my mental illness diagnoses I was already taking a psychotropic medication that changed my brain chemistry causing severe side effects of increased anxiety, mania and insomnia. Antidepressants can cause bipolar like symptoms. Plus, bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder have many similar symptoms and characteristics making it more difficult to make an accurate diagnosis.

Unfortunately, Psychiatrists do not have all the answers and sometimes it is a guessing game at best. They do the best they can with what they are given. I don’t have bad feelings for my diagnoses as they occurred. There is nothing I can do about it today. I can’t change the past. I refuse to visit the what ifs. If I did I could put myself at risk for developing depression and that is the last thing I want to happen.

I have lived with mental illness for over 25 years and nothing can change that. Bipolar is only a label to help treat a mental illness. Bipolar is not who I am but it is a part of who I am and will always be. I feel relieved and feel a little lighter without the bipolar diagnosis if it is true. It lightens my load a little but it is only a word—only a label. It does not change my past or who I am.

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Mental illness diagnoses and labels are given and are necessary to help doctors treat patients, improve their mental health and ensure an optimal quality of life. My mental illness diagnoses and labels from the past helped me survive then. Currently, they increase my awareness of possible triggers, help me understand the cause of my symptoms and which symptoms to watch closely for and have taught me how to cope effectively and reach my optimal mental health and life.

Being diagnosed with mental illness does not always mean forever. Maybe it is like cancer in the sense that we go in remission. Maybe it never goes away completely, but the brain can change favorably over time and mental health can improve. Recently, I read an article that said people diagnosed with personality disorder can reduce their symptoms as they age. This improvement can be caused from changes in the brain chemistry and other treatments such as dialectical behavior therapy being effective for personality disorder. As we age we learn better coping strategies and skills that teach us how to overcome obstacles and struggles in our lives. Surviving many different life experiences helps transform brains and gain necessary inner strength. Maybe the same holds true with bipolar disorder as well. We just don’t have all the answers yet.

I believe I had bipolar 1 disorder and may still have it. Maybe my brain chemistry has changed over the years because of the natural aging process, many different psychotropic medications I took for 25 years, ECT treatments and God. All of the above combined and blended well together with my life experiences and brought me to where I am right now.

I write optimistically not because my life is perfect but because my life is perfectly unperfect. Surviving so many struggles helped me turn my wounds and blemishes into beauty marks.

“Look for beauty in the blemishes of life.” ~Susan Walz

“Turn life’s blemishes into beauty marks.” Susan Walz

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Copyright © 2018 Susan Walz | | All Rights Reserved

11 thoughts on “Bipolar Disorder is Part of My Mental Illness Life but It is Not My Life

  1. Great post, I love how you’re helping to spread awareness on mental health. What would you say is the biggest misconception about bipolar disorder?

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s a good question. There are many misconceptions. It depends on who you ask but probably that people generalize that everyone is the same. That is far from the truth. They think everyone becomes angry often or violent. We might hurt others. That is so far from the truth as I could never hurt anyone and never wanted to – just myself. Probably the worst is that people think we can control symptoms when we can’t. I think the most hurtful is being blamed for getting it and for some symptoms. Stigma is horrible. It exists. It’s there and it hurts. Thanks for reading and for your great feedback and question. I hope my rambling answer made sense. Hugs, Sue 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s such a big deal to be diagnosed, but it feels even weirder to be “undiagnosed!” The way you talk about it, the Bipolar Disorder is still a part of your story, whether or not it’s what you have. I like how you word it, “part of my mental illness life.” That’s a nice way to think about it. Thanks for your insights!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Congrats on going med free! Are you taking any supplements or any lifestyle changes that are helping to keep you level? This is something I’m focusing on my blog as I have had terrible experiences with the medicine so I’m determined to find another way. I’m always encouraged to find other people making the alternative way work for them


  4. Nailed it! This has largely been my experience too, over the past 23 years. I’ve been off anti-depressants now for a year and a half. And, I have now been depression free for the same amount of time, also the first time in 23 years. I attribute that to the education and totality of my experience over time. I gave up being a victim. I focused on cause and not the perpetual “medicating symptoms” path.

    For me, causation was more of a deep spiritual malady. A dislocation of mind, body and spirit. Or, more pointedly, childhood trauma. My reaction to life experiences as an adult was trauma based. I believe that that’s what trauma is.

    It’s just been my experience that labels are for doctor’s and insurance companies. The Drama of the Gifted Child by Dr. Alice Miller, satisfies things for me and is more in line with my life experience, versus anything that came out of hours and hours of meeting with doctors. Essentially, she says, on one end there is depression and on the other end there is grandiosity. Non-trauma humans live life in more of a narrow band. They experience having the blues at times and they experience having periods of feeling lifted at times. Trauma based humans, however, will experience a much wider band of emotion, from deeper levels of depression and then, conversely, upward movement toward grandiosity. As an example, being 1 of 6,000 people laid-off from your job due to a merger and over lapping skills, is probably just that to most people. But to me, oh boy….. I’m a loser, pond scum, I don’t deserve to breath air and I’ll never be employed again. That’s trauma.

    Life got better for me when I focused on and addressed the cause, versus coveting a professional diagnosis and relegating myself as a victim. Life got better for me when I no longer obsessed over my current meds and what combination may or may not be working. Ugh!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for sharing your story with me. I appreciate it and can relate to it. Your story does sound very similar to mine. I am very happy you figured out what works best for you and that you are doing well. Doesn’t it feel absolutely amazing and freeing to be psychotropic medication free? I am glad you can experience that joy, peace and freedom. I find it interesting what you said about trauma and that trauma may be the cause of my symptoms for so many years. It took me a long time to realize that my trauma significantly and negatively impacted me more than anything else. I think now that I am psychotropic medication free my brain does not have a drug band-aid covering up my pain. Now I must learn to handle it and deal with it head on. This is necessary for recovery. Much love and hugs, Sue


  5. Nice post. I am asked to blog about bipolar disorder, mania and psychosis. I am confused between these 3. Are they the same? or if they are different then what exactly are the differences? I was hoping that since you had symptoms of bipolar disorder and mania both; maybe you will be able to guide me a bit. If not I don’t mind.


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