Kick in the Teeth

I’ve spent the past few days looking at inspirational quotes and the like. I’m not sure why I enjoy reading quotes, but I do enjoy it – therefore I’ll continue to read them. Anyhow, I read a quote today from Walt Disney and it really resonated with me. It reads:

You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.

For me, it relates to my bipolar diagnosis. I have had a sneaking suspicion of the diagnosis in my early 20’s but I stubbornly resisted it. I never truly accepted it as a possibility other than explaining to those who saw me in the throes of an anxiety attack, hypomania, or depression that I think I “might have” bipolar disorder. Even that however was rare, and I would almost proudly tote that I had anxiety and ADHD – and that’s all. Still, in the back of my mind I knew I had a family history of bipolar and the chances of me having it too increased because of this, so I didn’t think about it too much.

I’m unsure of a definitive reason as to why I wanted to not be bipolar back then, but I do have some theories and assumptions. There’s a certain stigma to bipolar, and at the time I believed that the majority of people who heard one may have bipolar would in turn treat them negatively. The term gets thrown around a lot in a colloquial manner when one gets angry quickly, or sad, etc. The phrase I hear most often “I’m a little bipolar today.” would be a perfect example. However, even with the minimization I felt as though if I were to be diagnosed, and I had to say “I’m bipolar” and mean it, that the world would view me differently. My assumption of other’s opinions about the topic is relating the disorder to someone violent, psychotic, or dangerous. I don’t know if that’s always the case, or why I held this view on the world’s reaction. Perhaps it’s how I viewed the disorder myself.

Shortly after the onset of the aforementioned symptoms , I had developed my own coping skills to deal with them. I learned the signs of an oncoming anxiety attack – and how to pull myself out of a depressive state into a functioning, if sad, emotional state. I began to play the piano more, and freestyle or improvise my own songs, emoting my emotions musically. I forced myself to walk around and interact with others during depressive states to keep my mind occupied – sitting still for too long would allow my mind to slow and the depression to takeover. Hypomania, however, I always found pleasurable – and I developed no coping skills in regards to it.

Fast forward six or seven years into my late 20’s (i.e. very recently) and my coping mechanisms began to fail me. Until this point, while my moods still swung rapidly but I could always reign them in to allow me to function, for the most part. Others would simply just describe my personality as “quirky”.

I remember the exact moment I decided I needed to finally go see a doctor about it. I was feeling fine at work, about to head to an event I was really excited for. On the drive I started getting anxious and self-concious about it. When I got to the event, where I’d ordinarily be able to reel those emotions back in, I was unable to do it. I spent the event shy, and worried that everyone was judging me. In essence where I normally would have interacted with a lot of people and earned a decent amount of business – instead was a bust.

I’ve gone on quite a tangent here, but back to the main point – I went to the doctor, was officially diagnosed and began medication, which helped. I started therapy but I resisted it and eventually stopped going to therapy altogether. This eventually lead to my breakdown – or “the kick in the teeth”. I completely lost control of my moods, and ended up on medical leave checking myself into an intensive outpatient treatment program. Which as it turns out, has so far been the best thing thats happened to me.

I’ve still got a lot to work on, but I’m no longer ashamed – and I’m learning how to take control of my mind again. I’m pretty optimistic on the future.

Note: I’m currently hypomanic – my apologies if this doesn’t make much sense.