Waking Into Spring and Mental Health Awareness

Hey there! It's been a long time...

Photo Credit: Photo by Idy Tanndy from Pexels

It’s been almost a year since I’ve sent a newsletter and I do apologize for that. The pandemic leeched my creativity and I found it very hard to write or be creative. I’ve also been tackling my mental health and trying to get healthy in the process. I’m not sure if I’m ready to start sending these regularly again so we will just have to play it by ear. Today, Mindful Monday, we’ll be discussing my mental health in honor of the just-passed Bipolar Awareness Day.

If I weren’t already on antidepressants, getting a definitive diagnosis of bipolar 2 would have sent me into a nosedive right into a pool of depression. Realistically speaking, I am still coming to terms with the diagnosis I received two months ago.

At the turn of 2020, I decided to finally adult and take care of my mental health, after a life-long struggle with depressive episodes and panic attacks. My initial diagnosis was major depression with panic disorder. At the time, the major depression diagnosis came as a relief, finally, I felt vindicated, and I had confirmation for what I’d known for years, I suffer from extended depressive episodes. My psychiatrist speculated that possibly treating the major depression alone might have thrown me into full-blown mania so she prescribed olanzapine along with Prozac to mitigate those symptoms. I ignored the part about mania because the bipolar disorder wasn’t on my radar. All I knew was there were times when I rode the high of life, was super productive, didn’t need much sleep, and was the life of the party; then it would all come crashing down and I’d have a prolonged time when I’d retreat inward away from the world and wallow in my thoughts.

Now, I understand that was the hypomania then depression at work. Even still, it remains a struggle for me to come to terms with this truth of having a lifelong invisible illness that is incurable. There are times when I feel like a broken doll with the inability to be whole, and other times, I reminisce about my life and I see where the illness affected me. Even now I ask myself why I accepted major depression over bipolar 2 and the answer is clear—one carried a negative stigma of being crazy and the other is more acceptable by society—because everyone gets a little sad sometimes.

One day at work I was standing in the front office next to my coworker and she was describing a woman to me, in her description she yelled out that the woman must be bipolar because of her demeanor, I immediately stiffened as this was shortly after I’d found out and said to her, “but I’m bipolar.” Her response, “no you’re not,” as if she’s an expert on the subject and she ignored me and continued on. Bipolar 2 or any mental illness should not be used as a throwaway adjective to describe someone.

Bipolar 2 disorder involves a major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks and at least one hypomanic episode (a period that's less severe than a full-blown manic episode). People with bipolar 2 typically don't experience manic episodes intense enough to require hospitalization.

Currently, I am stable and thriving, however, I still have moments where I feel the ebb of panic or depression. My cocktail of meds has had the adverse effect of making me gain weight and so I’m dealing with insecurity and not being comfortable in my skin. It’s a hefty price to pay for stability and I’m learning to be okay with it.

I’ve been journaling lately, seeing my therapist, and making healthier choices where vices are concerned. I want to put a face to mental illness. It is high time we normalize talking about mental issues that affect everyday people. The more awareness there is the less there will be a stigma. I am still working through my own internalized stigma where mental illness is concerned.

I live with bipolar 2 disorder, I’m medicated, I have full-time employment, I have a secondary business and I keep up with my friends. There is a way to have a great life while being mentally ill and every day I learn that.

Best,

Candidly Cole