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Misdiagnosed for 10 Years... And Finally Receiving a Bipolar Diagnosis

Hello. My name is Moon and I have a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Relief was the first feeling I experienced after being told that I have bipolar disorder. My diagnosis came 10 years after being misdiagnosed with anxiety and depression.

Misdiagnosed until psychosis

Though unfortunate, a misdiagnosis of conditions like "depression" and "generalized anxiety Disorder" is common because anxiety and depression are common symptoms of individuals who have bipolar disorder 1 and late age (30 years old and older) manifestations of psychosis. Without early age episodes of psychosis, accurate diagnosis of bipolar disorder 1 may be delayed.1

After experiencing months of extreme stress and at the age of 36 years old, I experienced psychosis for the first time. The manifestation of psychosis led to a 5-day psychiatric hospitalization where doctors were unable to target a diagnosis.

Finally getting a bipolar 1 diagnosis

Although psychosis was one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, it was a key marker for a proper diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Had I experienced psychosis early on, I believe I would have received the diagnosis of bipolar disorder 1 earlier on in my adult life. Like many other people living with bipolar, my condition had been misdiagnosed for over 10 years.

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Highly stigmatized, bipolar is rooted in complexity due to the myriad of physiological, mental, emotional, and physical symptoms associated with this disorder. In my experience, bipolar is much harder to diagnose if limited to being labeled as just a "mood disorder." Also, the severity and manifestation of symptoms can vary in degree from person to person.

Bipolar can present in so many different ways

While one person may experience frequent bouts of mania, another person may experience frequent episodes of depression. It's different for all of us. Despite such complexities, once diagnosed, bipolar is a very treatable disorder.

My bipolar symptoms include insomnia, difficulties staying asleep, and appetite fluctuations. However, sensory overload and energy-deficit depression are 2 prominent symptoms of how bipolar manifests within my bipolar diagnosis.

Managing and treating my symptoms

To help manage these symptoms, after accepting my diagnosis of bipolar 1 in July 2015, I quickly adopted a lifestyle focused on medication, therapy, and sensory overload management. In my experience, sensory overload management, which is rooted in sensory stimulus reduction, helps reduce my anxiety.

In addition, daily medication therapy significantly reduces my bouts of insomnia and challenges with sleeping through the night. Closely and consistently monitoring and managing my symptoms from day to day has resulted in increased overall well-being within my bipolar diagnosis.

Bipolar disorder does not define me

Although bipolar has tried to define my life, I live undefined by bipolar disorder. I have earned several degrees, professional licenses, and certifications. In most recent years, I left the world of elementary education, where I once worked as an elementary school teacher. I am now the owner of Education Readiness Today, an education consulting business where my primary function is that of a private educator.

Committed to philanthropy, I currently work with a team of clinicians and "experts by experience" from Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and over 15 clinical centers across the United States, where I serve as a stakeholder advisor for the first and largest bipolar research grant in the United States. Most recently, I became a member of the Bipolar Disorder Learning Health Network, where members of this network will work together to make systemic changes in how those living with bipolar disorder receive medical care and treatment.

This or That

At this time in your life, how do you view your role in awareness about bipolar disorder?

You're not alone in your diagnosis (or misdiagnosis)

As a high-functioning person who has bipolar disorder, it is my hope that sharing my experiences with others also living with bipolar disorder inspires the adoption of a lifestyle inclusive of medication therapy, holistic therapy, and self-care, in an effort to live happy and fulfilling lives. And for those who struggled to get a proper diagnosis, too: You're not alone.

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.