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Bipolar and Identity: We Are More Than a Diagnosis

I made a choice 2 years ago to be as transparent as possible when it comes to discussing my bipolar diagnosis and all that comes with it. When I am struggling with a depressive or hypomanic episode, I talk about it.

I wasn’t always this comfortable talking about it, though, and there are times where I still get frustrated or have a sense of reservation when sharing this information in more personal settings.

Disclosing bipolar in paperwork

A few weeks ago, I went to the dermatologist. The intake forms asked me to list all the medication I am on. I listed all medications including those I take for my bipolar. I did this without hesitation. Next on the intake form was to list what you take your medications for. I was apprehensive. I didn't know why.

I share my mental health journey openly on social media platforms. I often find ways to view bipolar in a comedic light. I am a firm believer that perception is everything and if we can change our negative perception of bipolar, then we can live with it proudly. Why, of all people, was I nervous to now share this information with a doctor?

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I listed bipolar 2 as one of the conditions I live with. I turned in the paperwork and put the feeling out of my head. It wasn't like I was going to have to talk about it out loud. There was no reason I could see that it would come up since I was in here to discuss my skin, not my brain.

Talking about my bipolar diagnosis

I was eventually called back to see the dermatologist. We discussed my skin and a treatment plan. I was prescribed a new medication. My first thought was fear that it might interact with my bipolar medication.

Before the doctor left the room, I asked him if this new medication had negative interactions with any of my other medications. He asked me the name of the medication. I told him. He then asked what I was taking it for.

I felt like I had swallowed a rock. I felt my face flush. I then mumbled out the word, "Bipolar."

I didn't need to be nervous

The doctor took a moment looking at some paperwork and then reassured me it would be fine and then he was on his way.

He didn’t point and laugh at me. He didn’t ask me about the deepest depths of depression I have experienced or the heights of hypomania I have reached. He treated me exactly how I should be treated, like a human.

My entire identity is not bipolar disorder

We are our worst critics sometimes. Sometimes we put our entire identity into one thing instead of acknowledging that we are identifiable by many things. In the moment with the dermatologist, I had put my entire identity into my bipolar condition. As if that was the only thing making me who and what I am.

Bipolar is something I live with, not something I am.

We are so much more than a diagnosis

If someone asked me to tell them about myself, I would tell them that I am a mom, a wife, a mental health advocate, a writer, and a speaker. Eventually living with bipolar would come up, but it wouldn't be a main identifier.

We are so much more than a diagnosis. We are humans and many of us exist with mental health conditions among other things. It is ok to love ourselves for exactly who we are and all the things that make us that way.

For now, I will continue to remind myself that bipolar is not the single most identifying piece of me, but rather is one piece amongst thousands of pieces that make up who I am.

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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.