I've always wondered what it's like to be "diagnosed" manic depressive. I started occasionally wondering if I was when I was 19, I'd simply be up one day and irritable the next, with no clear pattern for being so. After I transferred colleges, deserted one college I didn't like for a 3,000 mile road trip to check out other school and find the "perfect" environment that I felt I could function normally & happily at (northwest coast or mountains), my parents were really worried and were conference-calling a psychiatrist who'd already basically "diagnosed" me manic-depressive before I even walked in the door to her office. Even so,I spent years not believing it, feeling it was nothing more than a conspiracy between my doctor father and his doctor friends to control my behaviour, and in some sense it probably was...
They said I was "not-otherwise specified" which is like saying, yes you don't fit our little rulebook, but we'll still prescribe you something.
So I took Depakote for nearly 6 years -- but I always felt strange without my moods, they were part of me, they are my personality, they are my core, they are my soul. To deny that is to deny every artist & musician what they feel inside.
that being said there are times when social support fails, art and music fail, life transitions are shitty and meds are the answer.
I'm now on lithium -- it's cheap, it's not part of the fast-food marketing campaign where they try to put eveyone on multiple new drugs, costing hundreds of dollars per month, and then on sleep drugs to top it off! All of the side effects, not to mention the cost and the chemicals.
I guess I like the idea of it basically being a naturally occurring mineral, and also knowing it wasn't recommended to me simply because the pretty pharmaceutical rep from glaxo-kline smith took my doctor out to a nice lunch and gave them lots of free samples.
The personality/"disorder" dichotomy is something you will never fully free yourself from. Am I bitchy, or am I bipolar? Am I "allowed" to have feelings, or are the things I think & feel when I am 'sick' still revelevant and valid when I am on drugs? Or vice versa, are they just medicating me to fit into their own reality? They never care when you are feeling shitty, they only care if you are doing something they don't like.
To tell people you are bipolar, manic depressive, is something I don't do because I am a sensitive enough person if I knew someone was discriminating against me based on that I would just die. I'd much rather be judged based on my own behaviour (because you're GOING to be judged based on your behaviour whether you like it or not!), no-one has EVER forgiven me for something I did or said while manic, I am still blamed for those things so you may as well accept yourself as a full individual with a little madness mixed in rather than spend days, hours , years worrying or wondering whether something you said was 'that disease' or whether it was 'you'. Of course it was you! And telling people only makes THEM wonder the same thing. Suddenly, everything you do or say is suspect, because you're no longer ahuman being, you're a walking crazy person! By all means, tell people you love and trust and you already know are not going to judge you. But telling people besides them may only stress you out more. I would personally never tell an employer that, employers and the rest of the world are not there to baby you and make it all 'okay' -- it is your own responsibility to find situations you can handle and act responsibly in those situations, even if that means working part-time, or changing your job description.
My family, even though being the ones to "diagnose" me, still expected me to work more than 40 hrs a week, volunteer, and be a full-capacity citizen. I could do most of those things but occasionally i would crumble from stress. Mainly I feel like I am just extra-sensitive to things: diet, sleep, work, stress, friends, other people's unnecessary dramas. I can't party like my friends can, and I have to have social networks I can count on. I've never found therapy to be useful because usually it would make me feel worseabout my situation rather than better. I've never, ever once found that being a person whose singular identity is being 'sick' to be a healthy way to live. Find your passions. Find a job or a hobby you love. Surround yourself with people you love, who love you. Find a sport you love to play. Know your sensitivities and act accordingly.