Depression was not my final diagnosis. After my suicide attempt, I was referred to a psychiatrist. After an extensive interview – a whole history of my depression – my psychiatrist determined I was not just depressed. I was bipolar.
There are many misconceptions about bipolar disorder. The term is often misused to describe someone who is simply flaky or indecisive. It’s so much more than that. Bipolar disorder produces debilitating mood swings that alternate between extreme depression and euphoric mania. Many people with bipolar disorder attempt suicide at some point in their life.
Between the two poles of bipolar disorder is hypomania, a milder form of mania. A person with hypomania may feel very productive or have an increased sense of confidence. It can devolve into depression or become mania.
I was diagnosed with Bipolar II. My manic highs (classified as hypomania) weren’t as high as my depressive periods were low. The hallmark of my hypomania was irritability and rage. My anger was scary. When I wasn’t yelling at strangers for the littlest things, I was carving my anger into my arms with razors and safety pins. Yes, I even self-mutilated. I had no idea how to deal with the intense anger I felt, and alternately, the despair of depression that crushed me.
Thankfully, I haven’t had a manic attack in 3 years. My psychiatrist prescribed a course of medicine tailored to me. I take Seroquel (a widely prescribed drug for the treatment of milder forms of bipolar disorder) and Prozac. It took a few months to figure out the right amounts for me. At one point I felt completely emotionless and numb. I feared I would never be normal again.
However, today I can say that I am better. The medicine takes some getting used to, but I am markedly different. I still get sad, of course. I’m human and these emotions occur. But I have much more control now. And although I will have to be on some form of medicine for the rest of my life, it is well worth it.