While I can look back now and see I’ve been bipolar mixed since my early teens, it wasn’t until I was 35 that I was diagnosed after a failed suicide attempt. Why so long for a diagnosis? It was the stigma of mental illness that kept my family from sharing the family history of bipolar disorder through many generations, including all of my cousins. What I saw as normal was actually far from it. I was married with children, and successful living the American dream. The only problem was the constant state of depression with punctuated mania. I’m a classic bipolar with the whole list of traits and behaviors. Yet I managed to hide behind laughter, humor, often moving from friendship to friendship to hide who I really was and what I was feeling.
For years after my diagnosis I bounced from one therapist and doctor to the next looking for a cure. I finally found a therapist who treated my behavior and my sprirituality, something that was missing in my life. I also found a doctor who would work with me to find the right medication for me, as we’re all different. I work closely with my treatment team to openly and honestly share what’s happening to ensure we’re able to work together to provide and adjust my treatment to manage my disease. Now at age 47 I live openly with my mental illness among my friends and family to help end the stigma.