So I've told you before that I was diagnosed with my first depression when I was 17, but there's so much more to my story that I haven't revealed.
First of all, the fact that I was diagnosed at 17 doesn't mean that it was my first depressive episode.
I had a very hard time fitting in as a child, and I think, knowing now what I couldn't know then, I could have been diagnosed as early as 8 years old.
That being said, my first diagnosis was still a very hard blow to my ego. I was opinionated and outspoken, I was perceived as strong and unshakable; but somehow I was depressed. How could I fall? I was Felicia-May Stevenson!
To me, this was a sign of weakness, and it was very hard for me to accept, but I most certainly did fall, and it was a long spiral to the bottom, and an even longer climb to the top.
I thankfully finished my senior year of high school, but I only attended French classes as it was the only course I really needed for my diploma. Having had good grades all through high school saved my but here. I started college, but that was short lived, as my psychologist called my mother, and suggested that I should quit for a while.
Oh yes, you read correctly. My psychologist called my mother! And people wonder why I don't trust doctors...
For the next few years, I saw doctors on and off, going through periods lasting months where I felt great, and then getting depressed again. I'd go on anti-depressants, start to feel better and then start to feel like the meds were somehow altering my personality, so I'd quit them again.
Eventually, when I was 23 and feeling really low, my doctor asked if I thought it would be OK to get a second opinion: he wanted to send me to a shrink. I eagerly accepted as I was going through hell and really needed someone to speak to.
And speak I did.
I remember that day, sitting across from him for the first time, feeling instantly comfortable with him: I opened up easily and answered all of his questions without hesitation. I remember glancing outside and being disturbed by the sight of a dead dear sprawled out on a pick-up truck. (gosh I HATE that)
Eventually the hour ended, and he gave me a prescription for something I'd never heard about and asked to see me again in a month. I remember feeling better as I left his office, as I had unburdened myself, and I felt a million pounds lighter.
Of course, the first thing I did when I got home was look this medication up online: Epival. I clicked on the first search result and started reading, and there it was; black on white, under indications it stated:
Divalproex belongs to the family of medications called anticonvulsants. It is used to manage and control certain types of seizures, like epilepsy. It can be used alone or in combination with other seizure control medications. It is also used for people 18 years of age and older with manic depression (bipolar disorder) to treat manic episodes.
Obviously, he didn't think I had epilepsy, and it dawned on me for the first time that I'd been sent to him for a diagnosis. He wasn't there to listen. He was there to label me: Bipolar!!!
I don't know how long I sat there, staring in shock at the screen, all color draining from my face. I had suspected in the past that this might be the case, but to have it confirmed was like my worse nightmare come true. Every time I'd come out of a depression, I'd had this hope, like this was the last one. I'd tell myself: "I will never fall into that dark hole again", but this changed everything: there was no hope. The darkness would be with me forever. That terrifying dark hole would never be far away, and I would always be one step away from falling in.
I don't actually remember much else about that day after that moment. I could have been running through an open field and suddenly hit a brick wall, and I don't think I would have been as shocked. It felt like I had been stamped, and my new label left me feeling only shame and humiliation.
When I first started this blog, this was a side of me that I didn't really intend on revealing, as I've never had the desire to become the poster child for my disorder, and I've been severely burnt in the past for sharing this very personal information about myself.
Then the other day, I visited this blog called Fighiting the darkness: My Secret Battle with Depression, and many things she said really caused a spark in me.
The description was the first thing that caught my eye:
"I hid my depression for 21 years. I'm done hiding."
And then on her about page:
"I was once told not to tell anyone about my depression, that it should be my personal secret. But I believe keeping secrets only adds to the stigma attached to depression, bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses."
How true. I also have been told not to tell people about my condition, but the same doctor also keeps trying to convince me it's not my fault. "If you had diabetes and got cranky because your blood sugar was low, would you blame yourself?" Well, no. But would you tell a diabetic he shouldn't tell people about his disorder?
There's so much more to tell about the 10 years that have come and gone since that first day, but this post is going to have to be published as a novel if I keep going much longer, so I guess my story will have to be told in several parts.
This will not become a blog solely about depression and bipolar disorder.
Because you see, while I have allowed myself for far too long to be defined by this label, it has recently occured to me that I am not bipolar. I am Felicia-May Stevenson and I struggle with bipolar disorder.
The difference may not be clear to you, but it's finally becoming clear to me.
Therefore, this blog will be about all of my sides. That means more funny illustrations, including one awesome animation I'm working on which I really think will be hilarious, more artwork, more fashion trends and more anything else I deem interesting enough to blog about.
Question is: will you find me interesting enough to stay tuned?