Backpacking and Bipolar II. Taking Manic Depression on tour.
So if any of you reading this are yet to be diagnosed as mentally ill in some way, and you’re just curious, please allow me to try and save you some time.
I’ve often read people speaking about “not wanting to be ill”. I too remember saying that I really didn’t want to be known as mentally ill. The simple truth is that ‘want’ has no place in this equation. If you’re ill you’re ill. It is that simple. As soon as you suspect yourself of being ill, you are no longer acting in ignorance. You’re either willfully trying to deal with your illness like an adult, or you’re willfully entering into denial, like someone not taking responsibility for themself.
Before I went to the doctor’s office for my first appointment I was terrified that because I had been suicidal periodically and depressed that I would be put on some kind of mental illness register. I became convinced that like some kind of sex offender the governments of the world would have this illness follow me around to job interviews, customs inspections, background checks e.t.c
Firstly – this doesn’t happen. Your medical records in a first world country are sealed tightly.
Secondly – Even if it did, you will enjoy a far greater quality of life on that register than you would when you eventually became overwhelmed enough that you killed yourself. With Bipolar II especially, there is an extremely high risk of suicide. Presumably because it’s difficult enough to diagnose that people never know they have it. Im twenty seven and I know I’ve had it for at least nine years. I could have been ill for longer. Belligerently trying to hammer my way through life, whilst intermittently being laid up with depression only made me feel worse. To identify and begin coping with my illness has been hugely empowering and validating.
Ultimately, you cannot judge whether something is good for you by using the judgements of third parties. If you’re deciding to avoid confronting a potential mental illness because of what your parents/friends/neighbours say or think, then you’re putting yourself on a myopic collision course with a life threatening illness. It won’t matter what they say if you aren’t well. Your primary responsibility is to making yourself well. Everything else falls in behind it.
Do yourself a favour and take this seriously. Seek and demand support, especially in the form of medication. Pressure your doctor to put you on a dose that isn’t subclinical as soon as possible. Find support from someone dealing with the same illness who has been coping well with it for years. As with all things, take advice from the people living the kind of life you’d enjoy.
I’m rooting for you!