Bipolar blogger Natasha Tracy offers exclusive insight into the world of bipolar disorder.See all posts »
Acceptance of a Mental Illness Diagnosis
Accepting that you have a mental illness can be difficult and it takes time. It's the first and possibly the hardest step to feeling better.
Imagine that you’ve been having a really bad few months. Imagine that life has been turned completely upside down and you no longer know what is happening. Imagine that your emotions have become your enemy as you fight to understand why such strong ones keep popping up for no reason. Imagine going through a Kleenex box a week because of the rivers you cry. Imagine racking up a credit card debt that you can’t pay on things you can’t afford and you aren’t even sure why.
Then imagine a doctor telling you, you had a 1-in-5 chance of dying.
Welcome the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. You take the worst moments of your life, multiply them by the worst news of your life and voilà, you’ve discovered what it’s like to find out you have a mental illness.
It’s not fun. And it’s really no wonder that people don’t want to hear it, don’t want to believe it and basically want to ignore it.
Getting the Bipolar Diagnosis
For many, getting a diagnosis of bipolar disorder is the worst thing imaginable, but for others, it’s actually a relief. After all the terrible things that have happened, there is finally an answer: there is finally a name for what you have been going through. You’re not just crazy.
Of course, for others, the bipolar diagnosis is the worst thing that has ever happened to them and denial, anger, blame, and other very strong emotions set in.
A Bipolar Diagnosis is a Little Death
That’s because learning that you have a life-long disorder, like bipolar disorder, is like a little death and you have to grieve what you have lost. You have lost your “normalcy.” You have probably lost a med-free life. You have lost a therapy-free and doctor-free life. You have lost everything outside the limitations that the disease has placed on you. You have lost a lot.
And so the stages of grief are inevitable—denial, guilt, anger, bargaining, depression—all eventually, hopefully, leading to acceptance and maybe even hope.
And let’s not forget the people around the person with the fresh diagnosis experience this death in their own way too. Bipolar can take a lot from many.
Working Through the Bipolar Diagnosis
But like I said, at the end there is acceptance and hope. Hope that you can turn things around. Hope that all the craziness that has surrounded you will end. Hope that life can return to normal. Hope that bipolar disorder can be handled just like any other medical disorder.
But it’s important to understand that it takes time to get to that place. It takes time to go from the worst news of your life to a place where you hope to see it in the rear-view. It takes time to see medication and therapy as an answer and not just another problem. It takes time to see a life-long illness simply as another part of who you are and not all of who you are. It takes time to see the hope through the chaos.
So give yourself a break as you work through the stages. Acceptance take time and work but you will get there when you are ready. Until then, try to work with your doctor in the best way that you know how and know that many have been where you are and come out the other side.
I did it and so can you.