I talked about a few things that change when you get a diagnosis of bipolar disorder in my last post.
Something I forgot to say is that perhaps finding out you have bipolar disorder can be a relief because you finally have the right diagnosis. Once you know what you are up against, you can learn how to get help.
If you see a therapist who did not see the signs for bipolar, I would consider getting a new one. Or, if you do not have one at all, you should get one. A therapist is there to listen to you and challenge you and explain things that maybe we do not know about your illness. If you decide you want to try medication management, then you will need a psychiatrist.
Medication management is a very real possibility for those of us with bipolar disorder. Some people choose not to use medication and that is their choice. For me, I have found it imperative. But let’s not expect miracles overnight. Medication that affects the mind usually requires weeks, if not months to work. We can be taking a medication that we hope will work only to find out that the side effects are too awful to continue or it just downright does not work. Do not let that deter you. The types of medications we may be prescribed is known as a cocktail because it is just that – a few ingredients in a combination that should help. I think a very cruel thing about medication is that it can suddenly stop working. I was on a medication for a couple of years and was rolling along just fine. Then it stopped working. A year or so later my mom, still holding tightly to the belief that this particular drug could cure me from the crazy, insisted I try it again. I did and you guessed it – nada.
Another thing to be ready for when we are newly diagnosed is that there will be side effects from our medications. Nausea, weight gain, weight loss, increased appetite, decreased appetite, low libido, tremors and constipation. These are just a few very real side effects of medicines for the mind. It is up to you as to what exactly you can tolerate. Sometimes once you become accustomed to a med, the side effects will lessen.
Let’s talk relationships. Some people will move to Splitsville and we just have to accept them and let them go. That is right, some people are going to let us down and not all of them gently. It is at this moment when we can all unanimously say, “People suck sometimes.” I lost the closeness of several good friends and it hurt, man did it hurt. I can’t say anything that will take that sting away. It is just best if we know and expect it. People are scared of what they do no know and they are probably not well versed in mental illness and bipolar disorder, to say the least that you have a major mental illness. The best thing you can do is direct them to a website, or talk to them if you know enough about your illness and feel ready to share.
We do not have to tell everyone. It is not required that you tell your boss that you have recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but we can if you like. There are two camps on this one A.) Tell our boss and give him reason not to give us the promotion or the big accounts or B.) Tell our boss and he will make reasonable accomadations like when we are in a depressive episode, he will give us a little slack on our days off. We also do not need to tell everyone we meet. I am pretty open about my struggles and wins, but there are still certain people I do not need to tell, at least right away.
I really could go on for days in an effort to prepare us for what is coming with this diagnosis, but that would just be too darn long. Keep your head up, beautiful. You got this.