I still can’t believe how nervous I was when I walked into the doctor’s office that day. There are few times in my entire life when I have felt more anxious than I did at that moment. Chelsea was right next to me the whole time, sitting in the waiting room until I was called. After what felt like an eternity, it was finally my turn. We went into the room, and the doctor entered not too long after. “How can I help you today?” he asked. I told him, “I think I have bipolar disorder”. He began asking me for details – why did I think I have this disorder? I started talking and, according to Chelsea, I spoke for about 20 minutes straight.

Before that visit, I thought I had depression, but I never fully understood what that meant. I had been going through life as if everything was always on fire – the parts of life that should have felt mundane instead felt inexplicably difficult. Until Chelsea told me on a particularly hard day that “you shouldn’t have to feel like this”. I didn’t start taking my depression seriously until I started entertaining the idea that I might have bipolar disorder. There were a few reasons why I thought I had the disorder, including 2 therapists who told me they suspected I might have it. But what made me take it seriously was a very difficult few days I had just gone through just a few days before my visit to the doctor.

I had been riding a high. Life was great. I was feeling super productive, energized, and social. My brother came over on a Friday and we ended up talking about our family. A switch went off in my brain during that conversation, and I ended up getting more and more agitated over the course of the weekend. I slept a total of 6 hours that entire weekend, being unable to sleep at all Sunday night. I texted my parents at 6 AM on Monday morning saying that I wanted to talk to them, and I ended up yelling at them nonstop for about 3 hours. The rest of that day and the next were filled with angry ranting texts and more phone calls. Then a severe crash came on Tuesday night, when I could finally reflect on my actions over the last 36 hours with horror. I reached out to my parents and apologized. I couldn’t believe what I had done. I felt like a Monster. Emotionally spent, I told Chelsea, “I have to believe that there is something wrong with me – otherwise, I’m just a Monster.”

As I mentioned, there were a few people in my life who had hinted to me that they suspected bipolar disorder. I took that thought more and more seriously following those horrid two days, got some information from Dr. Google, and decided that I needed to go see my real doctor.

That’s why I found myself in his office that day. Like I said, once I started talking, I couldn’t stop. Chelsea later told me I was speaking so loudly and quickly the whole time that it seemed like I was desperate to get all my thoughts out at once, as if I wouldn’t get another chance to do so. My doctor is excellent and had already been very helpful and supportive as I dealt with my mental health. He knew all about my struggles with depression and anxiety, but bipolar was a new thought. I could see he wasn’t completely convinced, and I think that worsened my feelings of anxiety and compelled me to talk even more. My hypomania, the flip side of bipolar disorder, was out in full force, and there was no stopping me. When I finally slowed down, he asked me a few questions. I gave answers cautiously, trying to see which direction he was leaning in. At one point, I got agitated and I could see a shift in his demeanor. He must have reflected on my mental history and weighed it together with the behaviour he was witnessing, because he finally said “I think you may be right. I think you might have bipolar disorder”

When he said those words, I went numb for a just a second and then I was struck by a type of joy that I had never felt before. It wasn’t exactly happiness, but more like a deep ocean of relief washing over my mind. The story of my struggles didn’t start with those two fateful days with my family – it was a lifetime of struggling in ways others didn’t seem to. I used to ride the highest highs that would lead to utterly destructive behavior and terrible crashes. I felt depression so deep that I couldn’t get out of my bed for months. Sometimes, the highs and the lows came at the same time, making every moment of those days an agony I couldn’t shake off.

I had heard the doctor say “might”, but it didn’t matter to me. I felt like a million bucks. I felt like I had just won the lottery. Pick your favorite cliche, and that was me. I had walked into that appointment terrified that I was a Monster; I had started to believe that I really was the worst person on this planet. For others who have felt like that, you need to know that it’s not true. Bipolar disorder explained so much about my life. I wasn’t a Monster; I was mentally ill. I always say that being mentally ill doesn’t absolve you of your actions – I have to live with the things I did. – but it does explain a lot. The diagnosis helped me recognize what was in my control and what wasn’t, and it helped me move forward.

When we finished at the doctor’s office, Chelsea and I headed home. We hadn’t talked much on the way to the doctor because of how anxious I had felt, and we didn’t talk much on the walk home after as we both digested the news. We got home, sat down on the couch and started to talk about our plans for dinner. About 13 seconds into that conversation, I started crying and so did she. The dam had burst, and even as a champion crier, I probably set a record that day. She had been there through some of the worst of it, and she was the one who gave me faith in those times. Our relationship had grown because of those trials, but it had suffered. Now we were sitting there in ecstasy, filled with relief and hope.

I know it’s probably a funny thing to read – that I was “ecstatic” to have bipolar II disorder. I don’t want to glorify mental illness because it’s extremely difficult and I could easily give 500 reasons why. The ecstasy came from finally knowing the truth – I had bipolar II disorder, had unknowingly left it unchecked for the majority of my life, and it had wreaked so much havoc. But now that I could name the Monster, I could take the bastard on. I was equipped to take on the enemy. It took a while to really take it on – a struggle that had been (and would continue to be) lifelong can take some time to tackle head on.

It would take another year or so for a psychiatrist to formally diagnose me, and for me to start the journey of recovery that brought me to where I am today. In that moment, however, I didn’t care about what was to come. All I knew was that I wasn’t a Monster, and I felt like the luckiest man in the world.

Image credit to Håkon Grimstad

One thought on “Mania, Depression and Anxiety Walk into a Doctor’s Office”
  1. So wonderful to read such a positive and hopeful post from you, dear Sanat. Although essential and powerful, I can only imagine how painfully difficult the last one was for you to write and share. Interesting how our own inklings and potential self-diagnosis often end up to be true. I wonder if your self-awareness and analytical mind can be a double-edged sword. Do you often find yourself stopping to assess, is this me or my illness manifesting itself? It strikes me when reading this that for all of us in your orbit, like your parents, brother, and Chelsea, bipolar disorder doesn’t create a ripple effect but rather a tsunami! How lucky to be surrounded by such amazing people who clearly care about you. As Chelsea told me, ‘It’s a BIG love’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discover more from The Worst of Me

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading