#WorldBipolarDay: I'm More Than a Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with "rapid cycling bipolar disorder type 2" in July 2011.

Since then I've tried combinations of 7 different medications at varying doses in an attempt to find a medication regimen that's effective. Under the guidance of an experienced OBGYN and a psychiatrist with a background in pharmacology, I took 2 out of 3 of medications during my last pregnancy and while breastfeeding. Lamictal has always been the stabilizer that works the best and is my favorite. It's the only medication that's given me minimal side effects. Last year I ditched Prozac for Lithium, and while I still cycle between episodes of depression and hypomania, adding Lithium has 1) made them milder than what I'm used to and 2) given me longer periods of stability between each one. 

I've had 2 therapists and 3 psychiatrists. I was hospitalized in October 2012 for suicidal ideations.  

My greatest fear is that despite treatment, this illness wil still find a way to take me from this life before I'm ready.

HOWEVER.

I'm an artist. 

A mother.  

A wife.  

A USAF Veteran.  

A survivor.  

An advocate.  

A devoted Prince fan.  

I may grapple with the symptoms and reality of this illness, but I'm not ashamed of it. It defines parts of me but not others. It is a part of who I am but I am not it. I'm more than this diagnosis, and day in, and day out, I make a conscious choice to fight for my life and my health every day. 

So here's to 5 years since I walked into the VA mental health clinic in Philly with my baby strapped to my chest, sweating and anxious, ready to end my life, but walked out with answers and a treatment plan instead. 

Here's to those of you doing what you can to stay healthy and present in your lives every day as you manage this beast of an illness. We can do this. I believe in us.

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*Last year I was privileged to share about my experiences living with bipolar disorder for a new website for patients and caregivers called  More Than My Diagnosis.  There you can find videos from actual people living with mental health conditions discussing topics such as self-care, treatment, managing day to day life + relationships + working, and what it's like to live with a chronic mental illness. It's an incredible resource-check it out and share it with someone you know who might benefit from it!*