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Grieving a Diagnosis

When I first received a bipolar I diagnosis, I felt a wide range of emotions. My feelings were aligned with the stages of grief. Instead of grieving a loved one, I was grieving the loss of myself. I was grieving the person I thought I could be without a mental health condition.

Not ready to accept a bipolar diagnosis

At first I was in denial. I had dealt with depression for a good part of my life and felt comfortable saying that I was a depressive person. Then I received the bipolar I diagnosis after having a manic episode in my late 20s and being hospitalized.

When I was released from the hospital, I didn't want to admit that I had a serious mental health condition. I thought that the mania was due to a strong reaction to my antidepressant, not knowing that antidepressants can trigger manic episodes for people with bipolar disorder.

I thought I was fine... Until I had another manic episode a year later. I couldn't deny it any longer. It was true, I had bipolar.

Angry at my diagnosis

I was angry after that. I was angry about having a diagnosis that could slow me down, that could have a big impact on my life. I hated having to take medication and knowing that I would need to be on medication indefinitely in order to stay well. It felt cruel and unfair.

I think there was some bargaining there too. If only I had taken a different medication earlier in when I was depressed... If only I hadn't had the depressive episode that triggered the need for medication... If only I had found a medicine that worked. If only, if only, if only.

Sinking into depression

The stage I stayed in the most was depression. I was so sad that I couldn't be the me that I wanted to be. I was afraid that having bipolar meant that I couldn't live a good life.

I wouldn't find love and happiness, I wouldn't be successful, I would be a burden to those around me. It took time, and patience, to realize that I could still live meaningfully with a mental health condition.

Finally accepting my bipolar diagnosis

Finally, there is acceptance. Accepting my bipolar diagnosis meant that I could learn to live with it, that I could let it be a part of me without letting it define me. It wasn’t the end of the world, after all. I could still have a good life and live with bipolar.

As I grew to accept this truth, I became more comfortable with sharing the diagnosis with others. I became a self-described bipolar warrior, fighting against stigma in the community. It felt good to share my story and to receive validation that I would be okay.

But it's OK to feel grief

I've lived with a bipolar I diagnosis for almost 20 years. The symptoms still ebb and flow and it took a long time to find the right combination of medication to keep me well. Still, I'm able to live a happy and productive life.

I do occasionally look back and wonder what my life would look like if I hadn't become manic, but the grief has dissipated. To those newly diagnosed: It's okay to feel grief with a new diagnosis. It's okay to feel all of those emotions. Hopefully, it will grow into acceptance and the grief will eventually fade away.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.