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  • Laura Wilkinson

How a Diagnosis Helped Transform My Life | The Column

When I was younger, I remember wondering if all the tears that uncontrollably came every day were “normal”. What about the constant darkness and inability to feel anything other than sadness? Did everyone feel like this?

Depression is so all-consuming, it’s like this big cloud that infects your mind and robs you of the ability to see past the pain and mental torment you feel in that exact moment. It’s such an abstract entity too – it’s not like you can go for some magical operation to get rid of it (I’d be the first in line if this were possible!). I feel like trying to describe what depression feels like to someone that has never experienced it is like trying to explain colour to a blind person – pretty impossible.

Depression to me is: that lump in your throat that never goes away, hair that hasn’t been washed for a week, tiredness, having zero motivation, racing thoughts that make your head feel like it’s going to explode, and just generally feeling utterly numb and empty inside. For years I lived with these feelings that I didn’t know had a name – it tormented me daily.

The moment that changed so much

Then finally, after years of mentally suffering, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

All the conflicting emotions I’d felt for years were explainable – there was nothing wrong with ME, it was my brain that was ill. My diagnosis was one of the best things that could’ve happened to me, because it meant that I could not only understand myself better, but I could begin to treat my illness. Treatment looks different for everyone – it’s what works for you. For me it’s three little pills every morning, and each day I am so thankful for them because it makes the days more manageable. The symptoms never disappear completely, and they never will, but having a diagnosis has helped me immensely.

Waking up every morning now is still a gamble; I never know which end of the spectrum I’ll be on – manic or depressed – but my life is more stable since being medicated. I have learnt to be kind to myself, I have learnt to enjoy the moments when I feel alive and appreciate all the good in my life.

I can wake up knowing that if my mood is low, it won’t last forever. Every day I choose to be grateful for what I do have; I notice the little things in life and appreciate them – a smile from a stranger, fresh air, fuzzy socks in winter, uncontrollable laughter, random bursts of inspiration, long conversations, my favourite memories, and all the lessons I’ve learnt, and continue to learn, from my diagnosis.

What I learnt from this experience:

  • Being diagnosed with a mental illness can be a good thing.

  • Finding the right treatment for you as an individual is essential.

  • There is no shame in taking medication for a mental illness.

  • Acknowledging your emotions and struggles can be liberating.

  • Having a mental illness doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.

  • The lows don't last forever and there is always something to be happy about, no matter how small!

  • Gratitude turns everything into a gift

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