In 2011, after going 85 hours without sleep and the ensuing psychotic break, my parents started taking me to a mental health facility during the day.
I did not like it.
My mind was fried, and I thought I was seeing things that didn’t exist. I couldn’t tell the patients from the therapists eighty percent of the time. I do not remember much, but I remember spending time with some of the therapists in their office.
I only remember the specifics of one conversation.
I was a genius and had my wisdom teeth taken out three days before move-in day my freshman year of college. That was one of many contributing factors to my episode.
In my aforementioned fried brain, I decided that the reason I stopped sleeping and was sick was because my wisdom tooth wounds got infected and the infection went up to my brain, so that’s why I was acting weird. My brain was infected.
It all made sense!
I didn’t go around telling everyone and their mother this theory, but I believed it for a time. My parents gave my conclusion zero credence (rightly so), but I wanted a second opinion. I didn’t see many friends those first several weeks, so I decided to ask the therapists at the hospital.
I went so far as to open my mouth and asked if they could see the infection. They told me they weren’t medical doctors, but they did say that anesthesia can induce psychosis.
That little tidbit of information has been in the back of my mind for eight years. I never did any research on it, and I accepted the bipolar diagnosis pretty early on, so I had no reason to think I wasn’t bipolar. I can look back on my years in middle school and high school and see the thread of bipolar disorder.
Fast forward several years.
A friend introduced me to the Enneagram, and I found out relatively quickly that I am a type Four. One author I’ve read describes Fours this way: Fours’ feelings have feelings.
Fours are highly emotive, and we experience a lot of emotional ups and downs. As such, it is common for Fours to be misdiagnosed as bipolar (I want to say especially as children). This piqued my interest when I first heard it; however, I’ve built a kind of identity around being bipolar, and I haven’t given it much attention.
For some reason, I haven’t put those two things together until today. And guess what?
Nothing dangerous or disconcerting. Simply thoughts of, “What if I’m not bipolar?”
I’ve accepted the diagnosis wholeheartedly. I want to be an advocate for people with the illness, but it won’t be as powerful if I’m not bipolar. And at least for today, I am leaning towards the theory that I do not have it (that could change in the next three seconds).
Before anyone freaks out, I will not be going off my medication or anything drastic.
It’s all very complicated.
There’s little doubt the medication has helped my mental state all these years. I am a much better and likable person since being medicated. In the past year or so, I’ve also matured exponentially, and I wonder if the medication has been sort of pseudo-masking my immaturity all these years.
I do not think I did it nefariously, but I’m sure I’ve subconsciously used my illness as an excuse for not having control of my mood swings and emotional immaturity.
In the past (as in just yesterday), I’ve chalked up my frequent irritability and temper tantrums to my illness. “I’m doing the best I can. I’m bipolar—I can’t help it. I am medicated, after all.” Instead of taking ownership for unhealthy behavior, emotions, and mental processes. It’s crazy how writing can help me notice things I’ve been completely blind to for years.
Like I said. It’s really complicated. In this blog, I’ve written about how I say I’m bipolar and some people will say, “But your illness doesn’t define you.”
Yes, yes, I know I shouldn’t let it define me, but I’ve built an identity around it; for better or worse. And dare I say it? I’ve developed a sense of pride around having a mental illness. This is possibly the most complex emotion because in this moment, a large part of me wishes I didn’t have the illness after all, which flies in the face of my wholehearted acceptance of it for eight years.
I see much work with my therapist in the future, as well as reading and research into bipolar and the Enneagram.
I can rationalize either scenario, and I’m not sure which side is going to prevail as the truth.