– 5 –
My Polar Bear Disorder
“I just have this happy personality and a sad soul in one body. It feels weird sometimes.” – Anonymous
My psychologist, the brilliant woman that she is, decided to re-assess the situation and came up with a solution. She tentatively diagnosed Bipolar II disorder (aka bipolar type two aka manic-depressive disorder).
Bipolar II. Mood swings characterized by periods of low lows and high highs [but not super high highs].
It’s funny how, in hindsight, things can seem so clear. You mean all those times, across all those years, that I would get so excited and stay up all night planning how to save the world weren’t typical? It’s not ‘normal’ for people’s brains to fire so fast that they have to sit down to just keep steady? You’re trying to tell me that switching from finding beauty in a twist tie to really questioning the point of existence isn’t how other people spend their Thursday nights?
It’s also funny how much people will try to convince you everything is fine – especially in the absence of a medical test.
You don’t have that. You’re just a bubbly person.
Did you ever think maybe nothing is wrong and you just have to accept yourself as you are?
I know people with that, and you’re not like them.
Although my psychologist was 98% certain this diagnosis made the most sense and would lead to the best treatment path, she couldn’t make the responsibly make the diagnosis. About a month before the hypomanic episode that brought me back to therapy I had [with my doctor’s permission and oversight] tapered of one of my antidepressants. This meant my psychologist couldn’t tick of the diagnostic box stating my symptoms weren’t due to medication. The next step, in order to rule out a medical contribution, was to have a consultation with a psychiatrist. But in our
very much broken system, psychologists aren’t allowed to make direct referrals to psychiatrists. So, I made an appointment with my GP, so that she could make an appointment for my to see a psychiatrist.
Cue 4 months of waiting.
During this time I got a lot of advice, both solicited and unsolicited, on the topic. My boyfriend, [most] friends, and family were very supportive. In their mind, nothing had changed. I hadn’t hit my head and suddenly become a completely different person. This was who I am, who I always was. If anything, they just now had a name for it and a reference point to help me feel better.
Other people wondered if I was just suggestible to the idea and was manipulating my past experiences to fit this new theory. Re-shaping the situations to fit the mould. I wasn’t offended by this thought. I wondered that too. In the end, after many hours of researching and introspection, I felt that it best explained not only my current situation, but also my past situation and my resistance to treatment.
Fast forward 4 months.
I now have a confirmed diagnosis of Bipolar II disorder. Diagnosed by a psychiatrist. Otherwise known as a medical doctor. I’ll point out, ever so briefly, that this diagnosis was provisionally made literally 4 months earlier by my psychologist. I’ll just gently gloss over how that’s 4 months of targeted treatment I could have been receiving.
I called my parents and told them the news. Of course, having more or less figured it out a third of a year ago, they were pretty non-phased. Supportive, but non-phased. My dad, ever the jokester and situation-diffuser only response:
You’re a polar bear?
I did all the necessary paper and medical work to start medicinal treatment. Blood work to make sure I was healthy. ECG to make sure my heart could handle the medication. Height, weight, BMI, and blood pressure for baseline monitoring. I then enrolled in a group based treatment program offered by the Centre for Addictions and Mental Health [CAMH] called Bipolar Basics I.
I was very proud to call my parents and tell them I start Polar Bear School on May 3rd.