For as long as I can remember, I have always been a happy person. I have been told that as a toddler I would get overjoyed by the simple things in life. My experience in elementary school only made me further realize that I am a generally giddy person. To this day, I still get excited easily and this is a part of me that I am really proud of. Even though I identify with being a genuinely happy person, this does not mean that I haven’t faced any struggles in my life. Being able to find happiness suddenly became difficult for me during my sophomore year of high school.
My life started turning upside down the summer before my sophomore year of high school. I started feeling lost, alone, confused, and sad for no real reason at all. Deep down I knew something was slightly wrong with me, but I figured my feelings had to do with the stress that I was experiencing about going back to school and taking even harder courses. Little did I know that my gut feeling was right and that these feelings were nowhere near normal. As time went on, I noticed that I would feel really sad around my friends and family for a few weeks, but then I would go back to being able to laugh and be happy around my loved ones shortly after that. The first time this happened, I was so happy because I thought that I was finally feeling better. A few weeks after I thought this, I started to feel alone again. Eventually, when I would get out of my depressive phase, a part of me felt disappointed anyway knowing that I would hit rock bottom again in a matter of weeks. I did not know what to do or who to turn to, but I knew that I wanted something or someone to help me immediately.
I turned to my parents, who obviously saw a change in my mannerisms at home. They decided that it was a good idea to visit my primary care doctor to see if there was something physically wrong with me. When I visited my doctor, she told me that I just seem really stressed and that I should consider dropping my honors classes. Although I was going through a hard time, I knew that stress and the level of my courses simply weren’t the problem. I have been a good student all of my life and if I knew a class was too hard for me, I would ask a teacher for help or try even harder. The problem was that I was struggling because I lacked the motivation to even pick up a book. I went home that day feeling disappointed in myself and more lost than ever.
Sleeping was also a struggle for me. I would lie awake for most of the night, despite how hard I would try to fall asleep. It seemed as if my body wasn’t letting me sleep. I was very sleep deprived, which was very obvious to those around me. This insomnious cycle went on for a few months, so my parents took me to see a neurologist who suggested I get an MRI scan and an EEG performed to see if there were any physical abnormalities with my brain and sleep patterns. Later, I found out that there was nothing physically wrong with my brain and that made me feel even worse. I just wanted answers to why I was feeling depressed half of the time, but I didn’t find any until my parents finally took me to see a mental health professional.
Six months after I initially started experiencing symptoms, I finally got the answers I have been searching for. I was diagnosed with bipolar II disorder, which explained why I was feeling like myself for half of the time, but also depressed the other half. In the moment, I didn’t know whether I should feel worse knowing that there was something wrong with me that I couldn’t control, or if I should be happy because I finally had an explanation for everything that I had been feeling. Looking back, I am so glad that I reached out for help.
It has been 5 years now since I was first diagnosed. I have been taking a low dose of medication that helped me stabilize my mood and kept me from falling into a depressive state. I have been taking this from the time of my diagnosis up to this past November. This past summer, my psychiatrist had suggested lowering my dosage to start weening myself off the medication, so I did just that. In November, my doctor told me that she believes that I have somehow recovered because people who usually show symptoms like I’ve shown before do not typically respond well to as low of a dose that I have responded to. Since I haven’t been experiencing any depressive symptoms and have been doing really well, my psychiatrist believes that it is time for me to stop taking the medication altogether. Since stopping the medication, I have felt as stable as I did while taking it.
I share my story in hopes of inspiring others who may be struggling. Treatment is out there for everyone who may need it and despite the stigma that exists in society, it is always important to remember that you, your health, and your happiness comes first. The medication has helped me through my journey, but I strongly believe that I wouldn’t have made it through this struggle without all my supportive family and friends. Most importantly, I realize that I wouldn’t have made it this far without my own strength, dedication, and willingness to ask for help. So, for whoever reading this that might be struggling, I am here to say that it is okay to not be okay and reaching out when you especially need it is the strongest thing you can ever do.