Diagnosis for many of us can be a dangerous place. And that’s okay. Facing ourselves; our fears, takes tremendous courage says Benjamin in his latest blog. 

When you’ve been dealt a hand you never played, life gives you a unique perspective. A bipolar disorder perspective. A lens that can be blinding, blurry and crystal clear, often all at the same time.

 

The question is, ‘what are you going do about it?’ This is always my anchor, my pole position.

 

Yet, we can’t start anything if we can’t fathom or agree on our starting place; our diagnosis.

 

Accepting our bipolar is a solar system of exploration and takes bravery and courage. But to have any chance of winning, you have to play the game – to do something about it; to take action. We win some, we lose some, and as the cliché ascertains, you have to be in it to win it. 

 

Know this, recovery and remission – winning – is possible. It takes time, lots of time. Patience. Acceptance. Persistence. But it can be done. I often get it wrong, but the times when I do get it right are empowering and actually make me feel hugely appreciative about being alive; by winning one thing at a time.

 

Diagnosis for many of us can be a dangerous place. And that’s okay. Facing ourselves; our fears, takes tremendous courage and conviction. It’s a dilemma. Do we know when we should suspect we have bipolar disorder? Do we want to know? Do we know already? Are we in denial? Are we worried about losing our jobs, our family, our relationships? Are we going to be discriminated against?

 

Truth can be a painful place, but once you’re free of uncertainly, you can do something about it. Not get rid of it of course, but be able to live with it mindfully and successfully.

 

Let’s be honest, having to deal with something that is not your fault is a bad hand. Terrible. Knowing you’re not to blame is a tough pill to swallow. Shame is the mind killer; a symptom of our diagnosis. It’s not easy.

 

For me, school was interrupted. Jobs dismantled. Opportunities erased. College was okay but university was uphill during every lecture, every exam. Holding a career together has been problematic and takes artistic endeavour, continuously. I thankfully now know what I’m doing. It’s taken practice. Lots of perspective. Lots of loss. Some wins.

 

I’m 45 and I had my official bipolar diagnosis at 36. I know, from hundreds of hours of therapy and stories from my parents, I’ve had it all my life, since around seven years’ old. At first, it was a 24-hour bug with lots of sleeping and isolation. Then, yuppy flu, followed by chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) / myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), then depression and even borderline personality disorder was tabled as a possibility. In tandem, I’ve had loads of alternative attention from acupuncturists, homeopaths, reiki masters, yogis and nutritionists to find out what was wrong with me, with no cigar.

 

Misdiagnosis is common. My symptoms could have been anything. At times, it felt like there was no hope. Bipolar UK has found there’s an average delay of 9.5 years between people first contacting a health professional about symptoms and getting an accurate diagnosis of bipolar.

 

The British Medical Journal confirms it, suggesting that, ‘bipolar disorder has a high misdiagnosis rate and is commonly misdiagnosed as other mental disorders…resulting in the mistreatment of clinical symptoms and increasing recurrent episodes.’

 

Agreed.

 

To glue it all together, I’ve had to experiment with loads of differing opinions and participate in conversations I really didn’t want to have. Including eight psychiatrists, nine different types of medication, a psychologist and at least 12 therapists over the years exploring psychotherapy, acceptance and commitment therapy, compassion focused therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectic behaviour therapy.

 

Diagnosis definitely has a role to play in making all this work, play out harmoniously.

 

Having bipolar is hard. For that we can all agree. Our journeys are long, complex and riddled with danger. But we do it, day in, day out. It is always with us. We cannot hide from it. We are not victims; we are warriors.

 

Accurate diagnosis is in many ways a panacea to living a fulfilled life in the company of such a debilitating mental illness. It is liberating to me, no matter how hard it was originally to accept and gain the acceptance of others.

 

I have bipolar disorder. I am finally diagnosed despite many challenges and misdiagnoses – like so many of you face over your lifetime.

 

I am determined to win. What are you going to do about it?

It's estimated that at least 5% of people who take their own life have a diagnosis of bipolar. The shorter the delay in diagnosis, the sooner someone can empower themselves with effective self-management and foster a positive circle with fewer relapses in both the short and long-term. Please sign our petition.