The Diagnosis

doctor pointing at tablet laptop
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I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my life. Well, I didn’t know it most of the time, just thought I was “over-reacting,” “over-sensitive,” and “angry” pretty often. But also, I was highly motivated, educated, and confident as fuck. You’d think, as I assumed, I was a just a social worker with functional depression and anxiety (and addiction, but that was my little secret).

On Mother’s Day 2017, I was hospitalized for a suicide attempt. In an effort to desperately have my then husband understand the pain I was in, I took a handful of ibuprofen. He abruptly called my kids (aged 17 and 21) over to witness this–so i would realize my ridiculousness and stop the madness. In guilt I spit them all out and asked my adult son to drive me to the ER. They 5150’d me. I was prescribed Lexapro and Ativan for depression and anxiety.

It wasn’t til my uncoupling with my husband the second time around  a year later, (yes you probably read that confusing sentence right. More about this later, but yes, I got back with an ex hubs for a seven additional years after a five year hiatus from him) in addition to a highly stressful job in Child Protective Services, that I landed in a depression that had me so frozen that I could not get anything done. My motivation went from 40% to about 3%.  My work began to suffer, by house began to go array, and my ex began to lose patience with me. I began to unravel. I took a six week leave from my job. Ex hubs moved out. AND I WAS ECSTATIC.

I explained to my psychiatrist that I was so super freakin’ happy that Ex was out of the house that I felt manic. Dr. asks, “Uh, why did you use that word?” What word? “Manic.”

We discussed other times I felt ecstatic/manic. Shit…I recalled spurts of ADHD tendencies and project excitement beginning in my 20s. I’m in my 40s now. We took a manic questionnaire. She asked about my mom’s diagnosed symptoms. She confirmed that I had bipolar II.

Bipolar? WTF. How could a social worker do her job successfully with bipolar? Holy shit, everything began to make sense. The fights with the ex, the yelling at the kids, the ambition to give no fucks, the days I could not get out of bed, the cancelled plans with and subsequent loss of my friends, the isolation from my family, all of everything wrong with my life had to be due to my diagnosed bipolar II.

I mean, shit, I was 41 years old when I was diagnosed. I lived 41 years with “one hand behind my back,” according to my therapist. I fell into a deeper depression. What if I had both hands, how would my life look? Was I really emotionally abused by my family of origin, or was I “being bipolar” during my childhood?  Was I genuinely able to get an AA, BA, and MSW in six years as a single mom and working full time or was I stubbornly riding out a hypo-manic episode, killing myself along the way. Did I fuck up my kids’ chances of being happy adults? Of course I was attracted to a job that is so stressful it’s often described as an “abusive relationship.” And not surprisingly, I decided to go back to a toxic relationship. Was this all because of this new diagnosis?

The shame, the blame, the guilt–all sucks. More so, I blamed myself for not knowing better. “I’m a social worker,” I would often tell therapists and psychiatrists, “I should have known better.” Right? No, I’m told. I’m still struggling to believe that.

One thing I know is…I’m human. I’m a mother, daughter, friend, neighbor, social worker, and…a person. A person who just learned she has bipolar II. Game changer, but still a person and…human.

Phew. This is going to take some getting used to.


If anyone have similar diagnosis stories to share, I’d love to hear them.