Dear My Undiagnosed Teenage Self,
Long time no see/speak. We last met when I opened some however-many-years-old journals for a couple of nice psychiatrists to examine. I featured some of the quotes in my novel; sorry to steal them from you. And every time I look at a picture of you, I just cringe. Firstly buddy, get rid of that awful side fringe. It doesn’t frame your face or flatter your puppy-fat chin, it makes your hair look flat. It looks awful. Seriously. Grow it out.
But that’s not the only thing I want to tell you today. I have some good news for you. You do have bipolar affective disorder! You’re not going crazy. All those years of agonising, confusion, recklessness and (well to be honest, an awesome as f**k, crazy, manic time), are over.
Well, probably not… but at least they’re manageable now, hey?
But I don’t want to talk to you about mania, nor about hypermania, nor about clinical depression, nor about how isolating and scary receiving a lifelong illness, disability diagnosis actually is. I am in no way qualified to give you advice, and the advice I give you would probably be wrong and slightly crazed. If anyone gives you advice – seriously – take it with a pinch of salt. You’ll meet lots of people who ‘understand’. Ask your GP. Not them. Just let the Lithium Carbonate do the stabilising trick and make sure you communicate healthily to your GP, boss, friends and family.
What I do want to talk to you about is school, because I know for you it’s a pretty big deal. So, you missed your final A-Level exam because you stayed up until 5am painting a picture of a cat? Big deal. People do stupid things. So, you told six boys you were in love with them in two months, whilst you already had a boyfriend? Well, that’s a pretty shitty thing to do, but mania is weird and it’s hard to rationalise. So, you once told people you were afraid the lightning outside would kill you and hid under a geography desk crying? I mean, I don’t really remember that and you probably don’t, either, but who doesn’t have a crazy day, right?
Or week, or month, or six months –
I want you to know that when you were crying for 3 weeks in bed, every single night, for hours on end, until ridiculous o’clock in the morning, that it was okay not to understand or know how to explain why. I want you to know that there will be lots of people around you who will accuse you of attention seeking. They will say they ‘know’ what bipolar affective disorder is, ironically telling you that you don’t have it. They will tell you it’s “not something that you want”, whilst you agonise and feel your heart in your chest collapsing into your body. They will talk about you behind your back when you go from self-harming to singing in the corridor at 3am, drinking copious amounts and spending lavishly on pointless things. They are afraid; they don’t understand; they are ignorant; they are not the people you want to talk to about this.
I want you to know that friendships are hard, even without bipolar affective disorder. I want you to know that it will take a while to work out that there is a connection between bipolar’s mood swings and your own behaviour. Appreciate those who try to understand, be cautious of those who immediately say they do (unless they whip out a box of lithium carbonate, then you can bond over how awful weekly blood tests are). I want you to know that it’s genuinely not your fault that you feel these irrational things. But let’s lay off the multiple, paranoia-ridden, needy, excessive in length apologies in people’s inboxes…
One day you will realise that you are in fact a delightful, creative, caring person.
And one day you will finally meet a kind psychiatrist and intelligent doctor, who will finally sit down with you and say: “we think you might have bipolar affective disorder.”
Until then, it’s a wild ride. Drugs, sex, sleep paralysis, overdoses, tequila, nearly pulling out of your degree to move to Australia to become an artist…
But it’ll be okay. I just wish I could tell you that in person. I know you find it all so hard.
You take care now. And get a haircut.
Love, your Diagnosed-20-Something-Self.
Charley is a 21-year-old full time English teacher, who indulges in an exceptional addiction to coffee. Charley was misdiagnosed 4 times over a period of 5-6 years (with a variety of disorders), before her diagnosis of bipolar affective disorder in May 2017. Her teenage experiences with mental health led to her passion for teaching and working with young people. To manage bipolar affective disorder, she takes a small dose of lithium carbonate everyday, has a variety of creative hobbies and is working towards running a marathon in 2018. She is also writing a novel and has a special place in her heart for travel.
Hello Me, it's You
Welcome to the brand new shiny Hello Me, it’s You blog! We are launching this blog with weekly content from different contributors, giving their opinions and experiences on all things Mental Health.