With all the stigma surrounding mental illness, it’s hard to want to open up about it.I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 Disorder w/Psychosis, Rapid Cycling, PTSD (from childhood trauma), Severe Anxiety, and Seasonal Affective Disorder in 2011.
I’ve been (like most) on several trials of medication over the years. Luckily, I believe I found what works for me. In-between that time I went through a period of instability. I bounced from full-blown mania, depression, and even hypomania.
I never quite felt comfortable addressing my mental illness until I had a better hold on it. I also felt uncomfortable telling others as I grew to hear a lot of discouraging feedback by others who came out.
Immediately following diagnosis, the only one’s whom I told were my husband (who ALWAYS comes to my doctors appointments), and my mother. My mom was very concerned, and offered me all the support she could offer.
This was much appreciated, as I felt I was walking down an unfamiliar dark path. Any and all support was welcomed.
My husband found out as I did via a psychiatrist appointment. He was also super supportive, and to this day has taken on the roll of my caregiver. I feel very fortunate to have his love and support!
Back to my reasons to why I’ve originally shied away from totally opening up about my diagnosis.
Here are my 4-reasons:
- I was afraid of how my diagnosis would be received
- I didn’t want to be labeled
- I didn’t want to be pitied
- I was afraid of losing friends/family
Not knowing how someone is going to react is difficult, and quite frankly nerve-wracking. But I stood up and started my journey to tell those closest to me about my diagnosis.
Its been 4-years now since my diagnosis. I have told a few family members. One particular was my close aunt and uncle.
To my utter surprise they weren’t surprised! They told me they suspected something was different and not quite right with me for years. Gee, I wish they spoke-up years ago!
They were very supportive, and told me not to worry so much about my diagnosis. That it just adds to my already special personality. I hope that was a compliment.
Due to my severe anxiety I don’t socialize much, so no real friends I felt the need to confide in. So, that just leaves..my dad.
My dad and I have had a strained relationship for most of my life. He and my mom separated when I was quite young. I visited him on weekends growing up. Though, we saw less and less of each other as I turned 13. It also didn’t help that my mom moved us 11-hours away from him. Our main source of communications became social media, and the occasional phone call.
Still, I felt the need to tell him. Especially knowing bipolar disorder is hereditary it might be important as I knew my dad suffered from depression. I may have inherited it from him or someone on that side of the family.
I was a bit nervous but thought the few people who I told were receptive certainly my own blood father would be supportive too!
I called him, and we talked for about 20-minutes just catching up. Then I sprang my news. He actually took it surprisingly well! He had questions as he wasn’t to familiar with bipolar disorder. I was more than happy to answer them. It felt nice to talk to him, and even more he offered me support!
I felt like a weight had been lifted off my chest. I had told everyone important to me on my list about my diagnosis.
But, it doesn’t end so smoothly there!
Within a few weeks from telling my dad I guess he told his wife (my stepmother), and my sisters. You see they ALL stopped following me on ALL the social networking accounts we were connected to. They un-friended me on Facebook, stopped following me on Instagram, etc. As I would discover it was due to my mental illness.
This was the first time I would experience stigma. I half expected this from a friend, certainly not my family.
Lesson learned, you never know how anyone is going to react to the news. Certainly keeping my wits about me moving forward. However, I’m much stronger then I am weak when it comes to being defensive about my diagnosis.
I am a little trigger-shy with telling just anyone. I’m quite selective. For me it’s not important in my life for everyone to know. If I feel it important I think I wouldn’t have a problem telling someone. I will just be prepared for the response, whether it be positive or negative.
Moving forward I’m not sorry for telling my dad, regardless of the outcome. My life is my life with or without him. The way I look at it is it’s his loss, ultimately! He will forever miss out on the our relationship and that of his grand kids. His choice.
It’s always difficult deciding who and when to tell about your diagnosis. It’s a personal journey. But I won’t let fear control my next move. Being prepared for whatever the outcome, is recommended. I shall live my life regardless of others.
I live a happy life with my husband and kids. No person can change that. There will be a few bumps in the road but ultimately it’s my life, my choices not anyone else’s. Regardless of my outcome I’m wouldn’t change a thing!
I won’t say it isn’t hard coming out with my bipolar disorder diagnosis to others but I’m proud of me for doing so. I’m also not ashamed of my diagnosis either. Nor am I going to let others opinion dictate my moving forward in life.