Depression has long been a precarious compartment in my mind. I wasn't necessarily a medicated and morbid 9-year-old, but rather, my interactions in childhood and prepubescent years did not leave me unshielded from the hardships and the very real problems facing mature friends and family; attending the funeral of a suicide at age 13 isn't something you push from your memory anytime soon.
The deeper I delved into my teenage years, the more I empathised with these acquaintances. I would sign a peace treaty with my brain every morning that I would not overthink things, especially things that were petty and out of my immediate control, that I would not cry or be irritated, that I would breathe and I would not speak at a rapid or intimidating pace, and, most importantly, as my mother has always preached to me, that I wouldn't bottle up my emotions, I would always talk them through.
Although rocked by devastating circumstances, I felt secure in this routine and utilised it well into my twenties. I felt confident in myself and my pursuit of contentment; confident that breathing, taking things slowly and keeping a perspective would save me from plunging into a pit. Perhaps my passion for carving out some sort of prospective career from stringing words together was unfortunately adding unnecessary stress to my already sensitive personality, but with these careful words I would repeat to myself and disclosing some less-than-savoury experiences with those I loved and trusted most, I triumphed over the obstacles I faced in my twenties.
These emotions ended up being exacerbated in 2015, when I finally confided to a GP I felt comfortable enough with, that I feared I needed start taking PTSD medication I had recently ceased. This coincided with the contraceptive Implanon placed in my arm, and so the emotions and chemicals ran free. I ran the distance, tracking my mood daily with a chart but feeling myself deteriorate regardless.
I sought one new psychiatrist and then another, I decreased my study load, I tried to get out of bed every damn day and be true to my 17-year-old self and talk things through with those I held nearest and dearest.
The ineffectiveness of the particular antidepressants I was prescribed reached a dramatic point in November, when I was hospitalised. The initial anxiety and depression I had been experiencing was reassessed and upgraded to Bipolar I. With lithium to stablise me, I armed myself with this diagnosis and made a pledge to not just invest in a healthier lifestyle, but a healthier attitude.
But the New Year rolled along, the first day back at college did soon after, and I was a watered-down version of myself. I fled from my responsibilities and forfeited all aspirations and passions. I persevered the auto-pilot routine of crying till I ached and was convinced all I could achieve was watching my life go by. If anyone had chanced upon me this year, you'd be forgiven if you mistook me for a deflated beach ball.
The Black Dog Institute has played an enormous part in helping me transition past my initial misdiagnose of Bipolar I and into not only adopting the proper medical care required for long-term management of Bipolar II, but reclaiming my former joys. I always presumed it would get worse before it got better and by persisting, even when the days were doomed to be spent in bed, the years ahead are looking to be all the more warmly embraced.