Diagnosis

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I was sinking, drowning in my depression for the two weeks leading up to my appointment with the psychiatrist. I was barely treading water anymore, my limbs weak with effort. My mind was constantly telling me to just stop and let go.

It’s June 2020 and I’m 42 years old…

My doctor takes me into the conference room looking at me with concern. I must look like a pile of shit. I probably haven’t brushed my hair and my eyes are red and my face blotchy from crying all the way to the clinic. It was everything I could do to keep my car on the road while my brain yelled at me to end it.

The psychiatrist is a soft spoken man, probably in his sixties. He has a notepad in front of him and he’s sizing me up as I do the same to him. He and my doctor recap what my symptoms have been and we go through a mental wellness checklist which I fail dismally. I half expect him to call an ambulance to haul me off to a mental ward.

He begins asking questions.

When did you first start experiencing depression? I answer that I was in my teens and he writes it down on his notepad.

Do you have anyone in your family who suffers from mental health disorders? I answered that my father was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder or something like that. We had been estranged for years but had only recently started talking. Pen scratching on paper again.

He asks if I ever experience ‘ups’ and he explains that there are two different kinds, mania and hypomania.

Mania is a severe episode that can last for a week or more where a person feels uncontrollably elevated and very high in energy. These symptoms interfere with daily life and can include high risk and impulsive behaviors. This didn’t really resound with me. I didn’t drink or do drugs, sure I had a tendency to overspend when I felt up but…

He describes hypomania as flying suddenly from one idea to the next, having exaggerated self confidence, rapid speech with increased energy and decreased need for sleep. When people are hypomanic they are usually very pleasant to be around, deemed the ‘life of the party’. Omg. That’s me, the class clown. I was like that sometimes. More scribbling on the notepad.

He asks about my depression. Are they short episodes, only a few days or are they weeks or more? I tell him that they range anywhere from weeks to months and that they have been getting more severe. I talk to him about the dark thoughts.

He continues to ask questions, writing as he speaks and listens.

He looks at me and exhales, ready to tell me my fate. He diagnoses me with Bipolar Disorder Type 2. And I start crying. Not because I’m scared of the condition or that I’m embarrassed. I’m crying with relief because now we know what is going on and we can treat it.

The psychiatrist tells me that people with an immediate family member who has Bipolar are at higher risk of having the condition. All in the same moment I’m furious with my father and terrified for the Bear. I can’t pass this on to her…

The discussion shifts to medication and all of the options. I’m trying to keep up with the clinical terms and drug names but it’s difficult. I’m just feeling too many emotions, the whole gammet. Medications. This is manageable, all I need is pills.

As the psychiatrist scribbles a drug name on his prescription pad, I’m getting ready to get off the rollercoaster. I’m done with this damn ride, we have things figured out. Right! Right? Right………?

It wouldn’t be until I got home and did some research that I would learn that it could take years, multiple medications and dosages to get things right. I sit my ass back down in the rollercoaster and cross my arms in a huff. Wonderful…

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