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Friday, 16 September 2011

So The truth about me is... I have bipolar disorder

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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.

Fear not! 

This will not become a blog solely about depression and bipolar disorder. 

Au contraire! 

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? 

Much Love, 


  1. Mais oui, je continuerai à te lire, j'apprends des choses de toi que je peux maintenant ratacher à tes sautes d'humeur quand on te gardait l'été et que, par exemple, tu refusais de manger ce que l'on te servait...

    Mais au delà de tes côtés que tu qualifie de sombres, tu est une artiste, et donc, légèrement déchirée, tortutée, ce qui aiguise tes antennes, làche pas là, tu te diriges vers une carrière, je leprédis!

    Monnonk anonyme

  2. Reading you brings me down memory lane. I doctor labelled me as bipolar when I was 25. I'd been suffering from depression since as far back as I can remember.

    For years people tried to convince me of horrible things about myself, telling me "well it's because you are bipolar hat you don't remember..." I went on all kinds of drugs. About 5 years ago I asked to be properly evaluated by a shrink. I did not feel the drugs were helping me and worst I felt they gave me the wrong label.

    Anyways, your blog definitely is fascinating, I am not afraid of darkness or any other aspect of you..

    Keep it up.

  3. Bravo! I applaud your honesty and bravery. We are only as dark as our deepest kept secrets.

    I'm sure we could have quite the conversation about the quacks out there. I think insensitivity and God complex are part of the curriculum in med school.

  4. J'aimerais ajouter à ce que j'ai dit tantôt, cette part d'ombre qui tente de prendre le contrôle parfois, utilise la pour créer, technique du judo, tu t'empares de la force de l'autre et tu l'ajoutes à la tienne, très efficace pour maitriser un adversaire...

    Presque tous les grands artistes ont du composer avec des démons et cela a donné des chefs-d'oeuvre!

    À +

  5. @ Mononk Anonyme: Tu es vraiment trops gentil. Je ne peux pas te dire comment tes beaux mots m'encourage, et me font du bien. Par contre, à propos de quand j'étais petite... Je trouve que Marie-Eve mérite beaucoup de blame... HAHAHA! Je l'aime beaucoup maintenant, mais dans ce temps là!!! Les atrocités qu'elle a fait vivre à ma poupée, les films de peurs qu'elle m'a fait écouter!!! HAHAHA! Pis pour la bouffe, je ne m'en souviens pas... peut-être que c'était juste pas bon?! LOL Je taquine... j'ai tellement de bon souvenirs de ces semaines là, et je n'oublierai jamais comment Francine était bonne pour moi... toi aussi j'imagine, mais je pense que tu partais travailler beaucoup. Je vous aime tous les deux depuis toujours, et plus je vieillis, plus je comprends pourquoi xx

  6. @ Anonymous, I don't know who you are, but I'm touched by your kind words, and for sharing part of your story. Thank you so much for reading. Spread the word if you can! xx ("I'm french, we send two kisses, one for each cheek)


  7. @ Diana: "I think insensitivity and God complex are part of the curriculum in med school."

    LOL!!! Luckily, my family doctor is amazing to me, (despite the fact that he doesn't know exactly what to do with me) but I've met some pretty special shrinks in my day!

  8. I was recently diagnosed. I'm 34. It sucks at any age. Found you thru Twitter!

  9. Very brave of you. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Felicia-May, I'm so touched that my blog spoke to you. Your feelings about being diagnosed is so similar to mine - it felt like a death sentence. Keep blogging! You're helping end the stigma attached to our illnesses and that is such important work!

  11. Glad to have you Pamela, hopefully my story will help you to see that you are not alone, and my blog will allow you to remember that you are not the disease. You are still you.

    Thank you Jamie for your kind words, I sure appreciate it if you followed me, or anything else you might do to bring attention to my blog.

    Of course, let me know if I can do anything for you!

  12. I myself am a teenager and feel exactly the way you described. I am such an out going and loud person and it seems mad to think that i could possibly have depression. I haven't been diagnosed but i think i know that i have it, its been a few years and the feeling has never gone away. I too read the fighting for darkness blog and it made me see that feeling like this does happen to other people. Im reassured by this post that it doesn't matter if your the most loud and outgoing of people, you can still be hurt and attacked by depression. Thankyou for making me realise that although the climb to the top may be long, it doesn't have to be lonely, there are people to help. L

  13. Ia099 I'm so sorry to hear that you are struggling, but so glad that you found me and that I might be helpful to you. I'm on twitter @F_M_Stevenson, do feel free to give me a shout any time you need someone to talk to. You really should see a doctor though, the right meds might help make your life much easier. Big hugs.

  14. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I find it so helpful to hear about how other people go about dealing with their bipolar. It makes me feel less alone in my own struggle to deal with bipolar. I wanted to share a website, ,that offers a lot of great advice about treating the highs and lows of bipolar. I hope this is helpful for others out there dealing with bipolar.

  15. Hi Felicia...just like you, I'm struggling, and I not allow my self to be defined by mi diagnosis. people do stigmatize this condition. I've been described as a brilliant, productive, amazingly analytical and colaborative employee,sensitive,productive, loving, emphatic and an exceptional single mother... I've been also tagged as unbalanced,intolerant,inmature, negative, pessimist,stubborn and insensitive... go figure... dont think I need to put out a sign on my desk about my condition. Guess either they have already noticed, o think I'm just pretending. The fact is, this has affected my career, since they just dont trust me, or think Im too unstable, for what ever the reason. I'll follow your blog first because I feel I fit in here, and second because I just started a serious relationship with the only man to whom I have admitted my condition and has accepted it and is my biggest support ever... guess why??? 'cause he himself is bipolar toon and he told me first... So if there are any words of advice, let them come. We are seriously in love, but we are mature enough to know we will need support for others, cause it might turn ugly at some point. BTW, Im 40, diagnosed at 34... but felt like this since I was born. Nice to meet you all.

  16. Thank you anonymous, I'm glad you found me.

    It's good that you're aware of the problems that could come, it may help you to prevent some of them. I think the best thing we can do is to train ourselves to walk away when we feel like we are going to lose control.

    Feel free to drop me a line any time, I'm not an expert but I've been known to be pretty wise ;)

    Kidding of course, but I do seem to have great advice for other people... now if I could only put that in practice for myself! LOL

    Join me on twitter @F_M_Stevenson