When did you learn you were bipolar? How long do you think you had it before it became obvious enough for a diagnosis? This has been a recurring question that I’ve been asked lately, so I’ve given it a lot of thought. Here are my conclusions.
My whole memorable life.
I know it sounds silly, but I really do think I have showed signs of it since I was a very little girl. I can’t pinpoint the traumatic experience that brought it on, unless being separated from my twin sister on my first day of kindergarten is proof enough for a traumatic experience. It is one of my very first memories of seriously being upset to the very depth of my soul.
I just know how I behave, feel, react, think, learn, and interact with society have little to no difference in its fluctuations, its intensities, and its dualities since I was five years old.
I guess I should be clearer.
- My anger would flip to extreme intensity. Yelling, screaming, and fighting were natural for me.
- My excitement was always extreme. I would become extremely hyper and run around overjoyed when it was just something like a birthday.
- My moods were volatile. I could sleep forever or stay up all night and be fine the next day with little to no sleep.
I was largely an introvert in elementary school and fell into depression spurts during sixth and seventh grade. I would take naps after school because it was so exhausting. I remember feeling hollow and lonely, but never suicidal. I don’t think my depression ever went that deep. I started to read young adult novels near the end of that time period and switched from depression to manic and book thirsty reader.
Eighth grade was a manic/hypomanic year. I started to make friends outside of just my sisters, and I began to have a lot of fun. Freshman year, I started writing my first novel. I stopped after 140 pages because it wasn’t making sense near the end. Hmmmm….
Sophomore year, I joined the yearbook class and became even more social. I went to a lot of school functions as photographer and reporter. However, junior and senior year, I fluctuated from mania to depression and back. There are so many examples those two years, but two regrets I have because of the mood fluctuations are the following:
- Mania prevented me from taking the time to apply to my favorite university, so I ended up missing the application deadline.
- Depression weighed on me when I signed up for my senior classes. I dropped yearbook because I was going to be Editor-in-Chief that year, but my beloved advisor was stepping down and a new inexperienced advisor was taking her place. I was going to have to show her the ropes, so I decided to try to enjoy my senior year instead of work my butt off.
I didn’t go into journalism in college mainly because of that one decision. Now, I realize journalism was the one thing I thoroughly enjoyed in high school. I still can’t fathom why I chose to be a high school English teacher instead.
So here I am. Bipolar for life. Diagnosed bipolar I at the age of 19. I received the help I needed during finals week of my sophomore year in college when I became psychotic for the first time.
When did I become bipolar? I have always been. It just took me this long to figure this all out. I always thought it was when I was 19, but that was just my first psychotic break. I never understood how to recognize the difference between a manic episode and a psychotic episode for me until now. I always thought I became psychotic when I was manic, which is not the case. I’ve become better in tune with my disorder because of all my research I’ve done on bipolar disorder.
When was your diagnosis of bipolar disorder? When was your onset of bipolar disorder? Why, if at all, are they different?