When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder it was a huge relief. Some people say they were shocked, or scared, or upset with their diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Not me. I finally found out why I was the way I was. Rather than feel like a failure, I tried to stop blaming myself for what I couldn’t accomplish and tried to feel good about what I had. It’s a difficult frame-of-mind to achieve, it’s hard to accept that even when hypomanic I still can’t do everything I want to do.
When originally coming to terms with, and learning to deal with this disorder, some things became painfully obvious. Things I wish I knew before “coming out”, accepting my diagnosis, beginning treatment, and making known my disorder. A way of getting my affairs in order in preparation for a life diagnosed. Not that it would have made any difference, or that I had any choice, but they are still things I wistfully think back on.
I wish I had taken out a whole-life insurance policy before my diagnosis. Life insurance can be difficult, if not impossible, to get post-diagnosis. Some say it’s because those with bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of suicide, others say we live a higher risk lifestyle. But either way, if you can get some insurance purchased before your initial diagnosis, and before going on medication, you’ll be preserving a level of insurability. In my case I suspected I might have bipolar disorder, but I hadn’t been to the pDoc for him to write it in his chart and take out his prescription pad. Looking back, before that happened I wish I’d had the foresight to call an insurance agent and take out a whole life policy. I’d feel a whole lot better about my family’s future.
Even though they’re not supposed to, and even though they claim they don’t, I have a feeling my disorder is known to the HR department of my employer. I have no evidence of this, and they say HIPAA provides a lot of protection where this is concerned. But when you start working, have you ever been asked to sign a background check authorization? I have on every job. Drug test? Same thing. Have you looked to see if you are authorizing a medical record release? You may be. All it takes is one person chatting with another in the company smoke shack to get the information circulating throughout an organization. I wish I’d been able to afford treatment that wasn’t through my company health insurance.
When diagnosed many want to go out and tell their friends and family. Maybe even their employers, neighbors, and hair stylist. Well here’s a hint: Think twice. Once that news is out of the bag, it’s not going back in. This isn’t to say people shouldn’t be told, but only tell those with a reason to know. It can so often come back to bite you. I’ve been in situations where I’ve mentioned that I have bipolar disorder and conversation stops. I don’t know if people just don’t know what to say, or they’re uncomfortable, or something else. But it does happen. I was taking a class one time sponsored by NAMI called “Family to Family”. A great class, I recommend it highly. My wife and I took it together mainly to get some tips on dealing with our son who has bipolar disorder. In the first few weeks of the course we had some great discussion. Then I made the mistake of admitting that I also had bipolar disorder. It was like I let the air out of everyone’s tires. I think it was that they didn’t want to offend me by telling the class of their challenges with their family members who were suffering. But things immediately changed. I didn’t go back for the final few class sessions, not because I was upset, but because I didn’t want to impact their classroom experience.