The second doctor I saw was a psychoanalyst. I liked Freud's writing, and was curious about trying out his method. He had a relaxed, intellectual vibe, which was exactly what I was looking for. He diagnosed me immediately as bipolar 2, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. He prescribed the regimen of medication that I'm still taking today. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to keep seeing him, as he was not covered by my insurance plan. But finally having an accurate diagnosis allowed me to start teaching myself more about the illness. Some things surprised me. For example, I hadn't been aware that what I was having were "mixed episodes," an experience of the high and low symptoms of bipolar disorder at the same time. The depressive symptoms just stuck out to me more because I'd lived with them longer, hence the misdiagnosis in 2008.
More importantly, I learned that there are important differences between bipolar type 1 and type 2. One is the difference between "hypomanic" and "manic" episodes. People suffering from bipolar type 1 have manic episodes, which are very intense and may have symptoms of psychosis, such as hallucinations and severe disorientation. Type 2 sufferers have hypomanic episodes, which are less intense but last longer than manic episodes, and are characterized by a painful, distracting, and nearly constant state of anxiety, with frequent and extended bouts of depression.
So while manic episodes are more intense, bipolar type 2 actually has shorter and less-frequent breaks from depression and anxiety. In other words, unlike what some people have ignorantly said to me before, neither type is "less intense" or "better" than the other. They're both terrible.
Here are some other things that really fucking annoy me that people tell me sometimes. I don't have any patience for people who tell me things weren't that bad before, or now, or that "everybody gets sad sometimes," or that I should just "suck it up" (oh man, do I hate that facetious "up by your own bootstraps" shit, no matter in what context it's used). I can't just flick a switch in my mind and go from Garbage to Good.
I also don't have any patience for people telling me that medication ruins your creativity or makes you a zombie. There's the old romantic stereotype of the "tortured artist," which implies that there's some worthwhile trade-off for having a mood disorder -- but van Gogh was broke, miserable, and unknown during his life, and he wound up killing himself.
In my own life, I've found that the stereotype isn't true AT ALL. I'm making more and better work than I ever was with a disoriented mind, often paralyzed by depression. I'm more social, so I'm actually sharing my work. I'm a comedian, and I host a show and perform regularly in Brooklyn. I also share my writing through my Medium and Twitter accounts, and it's reaching more and more people. Before, even if I thought it was a masterpiece, I wouldn't show more than a couple people.
I continue to adjust my medication regimen to this day. While sometimes I have those days that are so bad it seems like the meds aren't doing anything for me, I know they've improved my life dramatically. They gave me the very minimum of what I needed to start making huge changes in my life, and they enabled me to meet the people who would help me make lasting improvements to my life.
So look up a professional, try your best to describe your experience in as detailed a way as possible, and try out whatever therapy they suggest. Be patient before you decide it's not for you, unless you're having a clearly negative side effect to whatever it is. Talk with the professional you're seeing about trying something else. Repeat this until you find something that works, then stick with it, monitoring it carefully, with the support of people that care about you, making small adjustments as you go along.
Mental illness closes a lot of doors for people, and while getting professional help can't open them all for you, it will open some. And that will be enough for you to get positive things going again.
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