Exposed ~ I am More than My Diagnosis
My Diagnosis~There are things in our lives that we
want need to keep to and for ourselves. It is an innate self-preservation instinct. But there is a time and place for everything in this world. My time has come. I need to come out of the shadow of my past. I have spent most of my life being transparent, except for those few occasions when I am not. Those are tucked away in the dark recesses of my life that cause me shame. Shame of who I am. Shame of a disease. Shame of being nothing more than a diagnosis. Shame for something that I have little to no control over. The world is a judgmental place. There are people who will lie in wait to see you weak or vulnerable and take that opportunity to tear you down. This is my fear. But I forget sometimes that there is also a community out there who will lift you up and support you. Either way, I don’t want to be known for my diagnosis. I don’t want to be pitied, belittled or dismissed because one small part of me is broken.
Diagnosis; I am Broken.
I’ve probably been broken for most of my life; as an abused child of an alcoholic, parlayed into a self-loathing teenager who felt worthless and unnecessary even amongst the facade of popularity and despite appearing to be happy. I became a master manipulator convincing even myself that I was OK; that I was healthy. I hid beneath the remaining remnants and debris that were my self-esteem. You can only smack a little kid so many times before they begin to think they’ve done something wrong. Surely, I must have been doing something wrong to deserve this treatment. The tears eventually stopped and gave way to hopelessness. The physical, verbal and mental abuse had taken its hold of me and the tearing down process had begun without me even knowing it. I only knew that I felt small. I felt unworthy.
I went to college and began drinking a lot, eating near to nothing because I was terrified of the freshman fifteen. The thinner I got, the more people told me that I looked sick, the more I relished in every bit of it. Eating disorders let me feel in control and gave me validation. I know, it sounds crazy. I was. All of my relationships spun out of control, my highs drove people crazy. I was a ball of hyperactivity that you could not contain. It was pointless to try to rein me in; it would only result in me turning on you. No point in trying to help, I thought I had it all under control. Besides, I didn’t deserve this kind of unconditional love. I was unworthy. I went through life like a Tasmanian devil. The lows presented as extreme irritability, mostly with myself but then again I have never been clinically depressed. But the irritability with myself not being able to come down from my brain’s chemically induced high was excruciating. I had a tendency to scream about things, all things and if that were not bad enough, I couldn’t sleep. I had extreme insomnia. Then I met the Big Guy, who cared too much and loved me so unconditionally that he stood in the face of me pushing him away, resisted my distance and saved my life. He gave me a reason to want to be better. He gave me the support and courage to be stronger than the disease, to get the help I needed without judgment or ridicule.
Diagnosis: Bent but not broken
As I started spiraling into the abyss of my own insanity, but having no name for the feelings of propulsion and irritability, a routine visit to my new gynecologist, turned into a life changing, soul saving experience. I boomed into her office, as I did everywhere that I went in those days, landing with a thud. When I walked into a room, my personality demanded you sit up and pay attention. I was loud, exuberant and, quite frankly, exhausting, even to myself. She paid attention and she saw that beneath all of the loud, reckless, spontaneity there was a woman who was broken and in desperate need of repair.
Twelve years ago, she recognized in me what she had seen in her own daughter, symptoms. What are the chances that I would get a doctor who could recognize that pressured speech, random piercings and tattoos could be cause enough to prompt her to ask about my driving, spending and sexual history. She patiently recorded my answers, her kind and gentle face watching my every move as I machine-gunned responses at her. I could see the knowing and understanding in her eyes. But of what was she understanding and knowing? Finally, she told me what she suspected was the answer to my question of why I was like this. She referred me to a psychiatrist and though I had only gone in for a pap smear, I was given the chance to be unbroken.
I am more than my diagnosis. I don’t want to be just a diagnosis. But isn’t that what always happens. Respect from your peers turns into whispers behind your back, your every success and failure are attributed to the disease. Nothing is ever the same. With the diagnosis, you are changed forever. In the end, I have embraced my disease or at least learned to not let it be the only thing that defines me. I am more than my diagnosis. I am coming out of my mental health closet. I am Bipolar I. I am the face of mania. In this world, I am many different things but I am no longer broken. My diagnosis is not all that I am.