Friday, November 4, 2016

A Letter To Myself On the Day I Was Diagnosed

HAMC Day 4:  Do you remember the day you were diagnosed?  Perhaps you were scared, felt alone and surely you had tons of questions. Write a letter to yourself for the day you were diagnosed, knowing all you do now.

Dear Maya, 

I know this day is a mixture of virtually every possible emotion. I know that right now you are both relieved that you finally can put a name to what's been happening, and scared of what that means for your future. I know you aren't completely surprised by your diagnosis, and at the same time frustrated as hell that every other health professional you've seen for the past eleven years ignored you when you told them that you were battling more than just situational stress. 

I know you have a lot of questions. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but those questions don't end. Every time one is answered, another is presented. Each time it seems like you understand your diagnosis and how it affects your brain, your emotions, and your body, it'll throw you a curve ball.  I'm sad to say that I don't have all the answers. I'm still figuring them out myself. As you'll come to understand, maybe already have begun to from experience, mood cycling by nature is unpredictable. Depression might present itself one way one month, and a completely different way the next. Hypomania may mean being extra productive one week and completely distracted to the point of utter frustration the next. Some cycles will last a two weeks and some will last two hours. They say the only thing constant is change. Whoever "they" are, boy are they right. 

Be prepared for the meds. They're doozies. The dizziness, the nausea, the disorientation, the numb lips and tongue. But it gets better. You get to used to them. Of course, each time you do, the dose increases until you reach your proper daily does, but eventually, I promise it doesn't feel so crappy. Most days, you'll take your meds as nonchalantly as you brush your teeth. Trust me on this one and stick them out. Therapy too. Keep going. It'll be well worth your while (and money - by the way, start saving up for those costs now). 

There's good news too. Life will settle down. You'll always cycle, but you'll learn to live with this illness. You'll learn to use it as an opportunity to help others. You'll discover pieces of yourself that you never knew - creative, artistic pieces that help you express your emotions when it seems you can do so no other way. And believe it or not, this illness will help you learn who to keep in your life, and who to separate yourself from. Not everyone will accept your diagnosis easily, but more people than you think will understand. In fact, you'll find understanding and empathy in people you never imagined went through similar struggles. 

You have a long road ahead. I know it's confusing. There are so many facets to consider now that you have a starting point in knowing your diagnosis. Take them one at a time. Focus on the most crucial first. Learn everything you can. Arm yourself with information from trusted and unbiased sources. Ask questions. Build a support network. Create a plan of action and go from there. You will battle this for the rest of your life. Some days will be worse or better than others, but it will always be there, lurking in the background, even when you can't feel it directly in the moment.  And some days, weeks, months even will really suck. But you will get through it. When you're not sure how you can possibly keep going, just remember to put one foot in front of the other. You'll be ok. 

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