48: Q&A – Experiences with diagnosis

lunamorgan asked “What was diagnosis like? How did you get it all sorted, because from what I’ve heard, it’s really hard to get a proper diagnosis of bipolar, what with most people not seeing doctors during manic phases.”

There were stages to my diagnosis, and it probably didn’t help that I moved from Beverley into Hull a couple of months after I first saw a my GP because I was disconnected and depressed.  Well, it did and didn’t help: part of what kicked the depression off was that I wasn’t happy in Beverley, so moving to my new place kind of helped that… but I digress already!

In October 2001, I went to see my GP, ostensibly because I’d strained something in my hand, I think, but also because I was bursting randomly into tears on the train home, feeling completely disconnected from everything, apathetic… all the classic symptoms of depression.  My GP was absolutely lovely, very sympathetic, talked me through it all, and prescribed me Prozac.  I don’t think he asked any further questions which would have indicated symptoms of mania as well… but if he did, I didn’t answer them correctly because I was depressed at the time, not really clear in the head – and at any rate, I’d never realised that the symptoms of mania I had were a problem.  Even the serious hallucinations and paranoia, for some reason.  I conveniently forgot about all that once I wasn’t going through it any more.

Anyway, although I felt weird about being diagnosed with clinical depression – unsettled, worried, unsure what it all really meant – I think it helped me just knowing that there was something “real” wrong with me.  The Prozac was also somewhat helpful, though it did make me pretty groggy and slow (mentally) a lot of the time.  I decided to move out of where I was living and get a place in Hull, nearer my work.  Everything was going to be rosy.

Of course, it didn’t quite work out like that.  Within a couple of months, I was manic, and not in a good way.  I now know that being on the anti-depressants was only helpful while I was depressed.  With nothing else to counteract them and keep my mood from going to high, it shot straight past the on-top-of-the-world mania I’d had when I moved, and into hallucination territory again.  Really, I guess I was in a mixed state, because I was also freaked out about leaving the house, and I also now now that I tend towards anxiety and agoraphobia when I’m down.  Fun times!  It all came to a head when I was due for a doctor’s appointment at the GP I’d transferred to, and I was having hallucinations that the buildings around me were moving and changing (rather like in Dark City, only in the daytime and with a tragic lack of Rufus Sewell).  This was, I’m sure you understand, frightening and creepy as all hell.  I was late to my appointment.  The receptionist told me I’d have to go away and make a new one for another day.  I went outside… and had an enormous freak out of truely epic proportions.  Let’s just say I was a bit hysterical.  I got to see the doctor that day after all.  I was scaring the other patients.  And myself, because I couldn’t stop.  I don’t do public displays of extreme emotion, in general.  Well, not ones that include hysterical crying and injuring myself.  Thankfully, this has been a one off in my life so far!

Anyway, the point is, I saw the doctor, and he referred me to the mental health services and gave me a sick note.  It took a couple of months for me to get my first appointment, during which time I was off work and mostly living on my sofa from what I remember.  The very first appointmetn I has with the psychiatrist, she diagnosed me with bipolar.  I didn’t believe her.  I thought she’d just picked it out of a hat because I was creative / musical.  I was actually probably displaying clear symptoms of being in a mixed state in that appointment, with hindsight.  I was prescribed some anti-psychotics (to help with the mania and anxiety) to take alongside my anti-depressants (which had been changed to Venlafaxine by that time), but they violently disagreed with me breathing, so I only ever took the one dose.  Next appointment, she put me on Depakote instead, which I’m on to this day.  It took nearly a year, but finally I came to terms with the diagnosis when I started recognising manic episodes.  It was knowing what to look for, and also having friends on LJ who were bipolar talking about their experiences which made me see it.  One day I went to my appointment and said “I think I’m manic today”.  My psychiatrist smiled and agreed.

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1 Response to 48: Q&A – Experiences with diagnosis

  1. Amanda says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience with mental illness. I’m sure it can’t be easy, but it must be helpful to know you aren’t alone. I am a fellow knitter and looking forward to where all of your links will lead me. ICLW #43

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