Dear Me, It’s You: I Hear We’ve Been Diagnosed with Bipolar

By Rebecca Lombardo | May. 17, 2017

 

Dear Me,

I know you’ve been through a lot in the short amount of time you’ve been on this earth. I know you’re keeping secrets and I know you’re scared and confused. It’s okay for you to feel that way. It’s okay to have a bad day or even many bad days. You’re allowed. And please know that I’m not trying to scare you when I say that you’re going to have a lot of bad days.

Unfortunately, what they’ve just diagnosed you with isn’t going to go away and it’s not just some phase. You have a disease—kind of like how diabetes is a disease. It’s just that yours is a disease of the mind, and it’s often highly unpredictable.

You have bipolar disorder. I guess that explains a lot.

You’ll have to deal with this for the rest of your life, and I need you not to panic. You have a lot of work to do. You’re about to attempt to win a battle inside your brain every single day for the rest of your life. Sometimes, all you’ll be able to do is sleep and sometimes you won’t sleep for days. You’ll see doctor after doctor and try what will seem like 1,000 medications, but in between all of that, there will be good times. Your life is not over—it’s just beginning.

There are millions of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It seems like nearly every day a celebrity comes forward to admit that they have struggled with it, just to let us know we can still achieve greatness. You can and will get through this with grace and dignity, even if you stumble a bit at first trying to find your path. 

-

The worst part about being diagnosed with a mental health condition is the ignorance and stigma you’ll face daily. There will be people who will walk out of your life or treat you like trash because you have a disease of the mind. A disease you didn’t ask for or contract doing something unsafe or illegal—it’s just how your brain is wired. But some people may never understand that or even believe it, no matter how hard you try to explain it.

Don’t let their ignorance tear you down. You have enough work to do just fighting the negative voices in your head. You will struggle, there is no question about that. Unfortunately, at times the pain will seem unbearable, and it will get to you no matter how steady you think you are. That is when it is the easiest to give up, but you can’t do that. Not now. Not ever.

Please, whatever you do, don’t hurt yourself in any way. You may feel alone at times, but you are never truly alone in this fight. There is always a light around the corner. There is always tomorrow.

Despite your struggles, there will be moments where you shine. And in time, when you’re more self-aware, your bad days will only amplify the good. You’ll learn to appreciate those moments even more because you fought to get there. I promise you: You can do this.

You won’t have all the answers all the time, but in time, you will learn what works for you and what doesn’t. It will be a struggle, but if you weren’t a fighter, you wouldn’t be here now. I’ll be here waiting.

Sincerely,

You

 

Rebecca Lombardo is 44 years old and has been happily married for 15 years. She lives in Michigan with her husband and cats. She is a published author, a Huffington Post blogger, contributor for The Mighty, and a podcast host. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 19. She has battled that as well as several other conditions for over 20 years. In 2013, she attempted suicide. Grateful that she survived, she decided to tell her story in the hopes that she could help others choose a different path.

Comments
Lisa S.
It really helps to hear how others cope, I have been struggling for 20 yrs. And realize only now that it's forever.
6/10/2017 5:35:31 AM

Doug
Hi, just found out about this blog through NAMI. I was diagnosed with Bipolar II when I was 29. I'm 44 now and am in recovery. It took almost 6 years to find the right *****tail of meds that worked for me. I have a wonderful, intuitive, psychiatrist who has all but fixed me. Before meeting her I was on short term disability from my job as a Financial Advisor. A very high stress job that I hated. It just compounded my bad days. After finding the right meds I have been able to go back to college, full time, to first earn my Licensed Practical Nurse degree, then went on to get my Registered Nurses license where I graduated with honors. I now work full time in a Neuroscience ICU in a very large hospital in Louisville KY. I love my job! I believe I am doing God's work and truly caring for the sickest of the sick. I RARELY have bad days, but they do come. I work through them with the help and support of my wife and children, plus my best friend who happens to suffer from PTSD. We have been friends since childhood and share everything. He is a great support system. I am also back in school full time to get my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree, I currently hold a 4.0 in that degree. I guess what I'm trying to say to everyone is DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE! It may take some time finding the right meds and you may need counseling, but you can persevere and be a success story! Good luck to everyone.
Your Brother In Christ - Doug
6/5/2017 5:55:21 PM

Rebecca Lombardo
Thank you to everyone that has read my blog post. I wish I was able to help each of you. Please know that I suffer from depression just like you. I am not a professional. My blog being posted here does not mean I can reach out to you individually. Please seek treatment in your area. Thank you.
6/5/2017 4:04:02 PM

Iris
Hi, my mother in law was Diagnosed about 3 years ago. She is 50 years old now. Unfortunately her family didn't understand her illness my husband "her son" tried to help her but his dad didn't let him. Now she is missing for 4 days. She runaway from her house. We have not being able to find her. Could you help me to understand her better and what places would be ideal for her to hide or feel safe. She has no friends she is on her own with no car, money and phone. Please help me!
6/4/2017 6:03:01 PM

Jodi Reilly
Lisa,
Thank you for taking the time to share your story. My husband has bipolar 1 with ptsd, explosive anger issues. He struggles everyday with the diagnosis. We are on the 3rd medication and hoping it works. As the spouse of a bipolar individual, I can tell you that it is a struggle for me as well. Not sure about whether or not I will be picked at or yelled at for no reason. I know that it is the disease and not him. The hardest thing to deal with this far has been the infidelity, that he still will not admit to. It has crushed me, and I don't know what to do at this stage.
6/2/2017 7:51:24 PM

Carissa
This is amazing - thank you! I think everyone diagnosed should be given this at the time of diagnosis.
6/2/2017 6:48:52 PM

Christne
I have not left my home in over a year except for food and doctor, I am suicidal and I am too calm. Does this mean I have succumbed?
6/2/2017 6:35:36 PM

Christne
I think I am reaching for help
6/2/2017 6:34:13 PM

Christne
As I write this I have just come to relise the very last person on this earth I thought I could trust who is also a co signer on the home my sister left me, is actually moved in with his girlfriend and forcing me to sell to take half of the equity. I do not know where to turn, this is the only home I have known in 15 years. I am losing it all what hurts the most is I am losing all trust in human nature and not sure I can do life like this for much longer
6/2/2017 6:32:04 PM

Virginia Alvitre
Thanks for all the comments about bipolar disorder. I have bipolar disorder and panic disorder and can relate to what was said. I got diagnosed at 28 years old and am now 60 and realize that it takes a lot of time and patience to get the right combination of meds. I was blessed with having some good doctors in my life. I knew all my life that I had mental problems but getting diagnosed was actually a relief. At least bipolar disorder has viable treatment options and although I am disabled I can still have a decent life.
6/1/2017 8:57:17 PM

Melissa C.
We are not alone in this battle, with the right doctor/meds and support we can move through the waves of chaos this disease so often brings and achieve whatever we want our 'normal' to be.
6/1/2017 6:53:48 PM

Andrew
Thanks for the insightful letter! I found your experience similar to mine. At some point, one realizes that this is real and will last forever. Once I accepted that and quit trying to call it something else, things got better.

Things still aren't great. I'm full of a self-loathing and self-doubt that weren't part of my life before. I deal with them as best I can and try to lead a meaningful life for my family and me. I'm still employed but my job demands seem to increase each day. It's easy to loose your identity in this disorder. I refuse to say that I am bipolar. I have bipolar disorder but there is a lot more to me than that.

Probably the most difficult part is the medication side effects. I've lost hair and gained weight. Many find it really humorous. I usually laugh along. I'd rather say something else and maybe I will one day.

Thanks again for the letter and all the reminders it contained. Thanks for your bravery too!
6/1/2017 5:13:20 PM

Joan
Hi. I was diagnosed with bipolar at 40, after a traumatic event. I work in the mental health field and the challenges of helping people with similar illnesses helps me feel hopeful. Friends and family have been great supports through the years. My faith and trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle seem to work, along with medication and a great psychiatrist and okay psychologist. Although I just lost one of my pets which has caused a setback in my mood. He was my pick me up after a long work day! I try to pray to feel better.
6/1/2017 2:27:15 PM

Denise Elliott
I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder two years ago. I'm 51 and always knew something was wrong. I also struggle with a eating disorder plus fibromyalgia. I take depakote, Wellbutrin,risperdone and gabapentin. I have to take my medicine every day. I still have highs and lows. Like today I'm depressed. That letter spoke to me and made me feel not so alone. My family doesn't understand it my brother refers to me as the crazy sister. It hurts really bad when he jokes like that. I know this is a illness that I'll have forever and I have to stay strong. Luckily I have a boyfriend who loves me deeply and understands.
6/1/2017 1:19:07 PM

Rebecca Lombardo
Thank you all so much for reading my article. Please feel free to follow me on Twitter @BekaLombardo if you would like to talk further. Thanks!
6/1/2017 2:59:27 AM

Juanita
Hi I have bipolar 1 with PTSD.I am 61 and had been diognosed 2 years ago after many years of not knowing what was wrong with me.At this time I am seeing a wonderful phsychiatrist at Grady.We have been through about 6 different mood stabilizerss.They just do not work after about a few days.I have had lithium and others but had found out that I'm alergic to Nicole.i cannot take anything with metal ect.My doctor had priscribed Lamictal witch was great but my hair had started to fall out.I am now on Gaberpentan I do not like this med I'm shaking and feel just very awful.Im afraid for myself that I will not find the right coctail.Does anyone have any sudgestions .
6/1/2017 1:25:12 AM

Tony
Unfortunately no one sees a problem until something happens. KY maybe you can put a guard up for youryour spirit and heart and last but not least you're mine. It's not us who needs to change is the world and how they See us.
5/31/2017 11:20:47 PM

Gail
Thank you for such a beautifully written letter. It took me a long time to accept that this is a forever illness I will have to learn to manage as long as I draw breath. The good news is my meds seem to do the trick except for anxiety. I'm anxious a lot and that makes me feel depressed. Some days I just survive. I can't feel my life.
5/31/2017 8:19:52 PM

Joan
I was diagnosed with bipolar at 40, and my life changed for better and worse. This letter is powerful and gives hopes to us all with mental illness, and our family and friends who love us. I work in the field of mental health and have to "hide my true self" but feel proud I can help others.
5/31/2017 6:43:14 PM

Kat
I was diagnosed ten years ago but I think I have been afflicted most of my life. I have found the right *****tail of meds and I am better than I've ever been. The most important thing I can say is don't stop your meds!!! I have truly made bad decisions but at 60, I am getting a do-over in life. I've had to rebuild relationships with my children which that, in an of itself, saddens me. But, I am s fighter. I am strong. I am handling this disease and trying to find my new normal. Hang in there. BTW, it took me probably 5-6 years to get the right "*****tail", so, it's not that your doesn't know what he or she is doing. You have to try a bunch of them to see what's right for you. Peace out, Kat
5/31/2017 5:40:16 PM

Pat Watson
I have Bipolar Type 2, OCD, ADHD, Anxiety Disorder. Would like information on these disorders and join discussion groups. Thank you. I am 67 years old and have been suffering these disorders for years.
5/26/2017 9:57:36 AM

Pam Sinnett
I really appreciate the comments Christina contributed and the others. I identify with them. Today going to a routine medical doctor's appointment I was fine until I recalled a time of medical/ psych hospitalization for that began with an apparent serious panic attack ( I received enough med in an ER that I never did recall any part of that part at all- maybe a good thing =)
But I am glad to say after reading this blog, praise God, that I fought to get well even from toxemia with help of a compassionate faithful husband and an observant and kind sitter. Keep fighting with and /or for hope and faith for your sanity and for others' benefit too - fight to remember the good and laugh with joy I daresay.
Thanks to all participants!
5/25/2017 2:09:59 PM

Lisa
thank you
5/22/2017 10:31:55 PM

Lisa
This is me too. Thank you for writing such a powerful letter. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at the age of 24. I was able to work and I established a support group for a few years . At the age of 45 I finally had to stop working and I am now on SSI. I have found that I live such a restricted life, around lots of stigma and ignorance. So sad. I also have PTSD. I also am feeling inspired again to try and be pro active, if not in this community where I live at least online and at this website again. I wish there was more awareness out there especially where I live. Too small of a town and lots of budget issues ect. So I will do my best to keep optimistic and keep digging in for support. I am so glad I came to this website again. I am so proud of all of us who share, live and learn on this little blog. thank you.
5/22/2017 10:31:31 PM

Ky
I have had this a long time and rarely would my symptoms show. Meds seamed to work. I love all my kids.But one was my commfortar. I didn't even need meds sometimes. I was happy, creative, a lot happened and I don't see him these days. Seldom and it's forced kinda. I really can't explain. But my heart broke And symptoms came back hard. Maybe switching meds. I don't know. I am in NO way suicidal! But I don't care much about anything and feel like I'm fading away. Lost interest in guys , art, I don't know I'm even considering committing myself. I don't like this world right now and don't know how to forget. How to say it's okay for the best of him to be dead in my mind. I can't let go. any suggestions?
5/21/2017 9:22:39 PM

Christina
This is me. I couldn't have written this any better to myself. the good days may be shadowed by bad but I am willing to fight. I'm willing to stand up for me and my life, so the sake of my kids, my loving husband, my Faith will get me through. Thank you for sharing
5/18/2017 12:18:05 PM

Loran Harris
At 40 - with the onset of a bipolar disorder ,and now that I am in recovery, this letter did a great job of offering hope for those folks whom have just found their own mental illness. I agree that it is a day to day struggle, for the rest of your life. Sometimes not much of a struggle, sometimes it is a lot of work, especially since mine is combined with a PTSD and a Panic Disorder. Finding recovery took a long time (with physical challenges) and the advice you gave is right on. Co-Facilitating Connections helps me, "In Our Own Voice" helps me. Being with others in recovery and talking really helps..... so yes, this was a great letter to yourself!
5/17/2017 11:11:41 PM

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