The Importance of Grieving Your Pre-Bipolar Dx Life

Maybe you’ve always known something wasn’t right? Maybe you thought, “I think I just need a little therapy because it sounds like it’s helpful?” Perhaps, it was court mandated? Or it’s possible you entered the therapist’s office believing you were there to address a single issue you’ve been grappling with, like divorce?

No matter what brought you to therapy, most can’t predict or want to that there may be a deeper problem. It’s a chilling blow, a terrifying experience when a therapist listens and then suggests you may have a disorder, a syndrome, and/or an illness. That’s not why you showed up right? How could that be true when you were just there to get a little help?

When your therapist begins to describe the characteristics you display in comparison to the diagnosis criteria, it’s as if she knows everything about you all of the sudden. If the diagnosis is Bipolar, that’s really not that hard for most therapists to assess. It’s the type of Bipolar that is trickier to identify and the process of ruling out a personality disorder, especially Borderline Personality Disorder and all it’s overlapping symptoms.

The completely accurate diagnosis comes a little later, but it won’t change one of the most pervasive thoughts you will likely experience. How different could my life have looked if I had sought or been provided treatment earlier?

As if watching a movie you’ll see dozens, if not hundreds, of instances that could have turned out differently. Turned out better even not just for you, but for loved one’s and friends as well. How many of those relationships would you still have? You’ll look at your professional life or your failed attempts to have one. Look, you’ll pick apart everything. We all do.

I still burn bridges. I still can’t hold a job. All I can say is at a minimum, I have moved past lamenting the past. It took a long time. The truth is it really is mourning the loss of a life. Mourning the loss of a life that could have been, never was, and never will be. As with any loss, you are entitled to take that time. Heck, write some shit down. Not all of it, but process what you need to with your therapist.

The key is to engage in the mourning process fully and to begin as soon as you have come to terms with your diagnosis. You can’t begin the work ahead of you and heal if your dwelling so much on the loss that bitterness and resentment are ruling you. All you’ll do is continue to accumulate moments that could have been different.
You don’t want that. I know I didn’t.

What we want is to have moments that we wouldn’t want to change. The diagnosis, the grieving, and the work ahead is all so much to take in, but guess what? It’s all a gift of hope in the end. Finally a lessening, at least, of the hopelessness that has dominated our existence for so long. So, in a way, congratulations on your diagnosis. Here’s to a better tomorrow!

  1. The entire thought behind this article is chilling, you’re right. So much so that, even post-diagnosis, reading this made me feel quite anxious. The anticipation or suggestion of a diagnosis you’re not expecting, or even just the confirmation of something you are expecting can be so daunting.

    Lately, I’ve been trying to live by the mantra “Just because it could have been different, that doesn’t mean it would have been better.” I think that that’s important to remember, especially in conjunction with your diagnoses.

    I also find it really interesting when therapists try to suggest “you’re still the same person as before you received your diagnosis.” Because…yes, to an extent, sure. But just knowing the dang diagnosis really does change a lot, too.

    • I have not heard that from a therapist, but had I my sentiment would have aligned with yours exactly. I would have even pushed back and inquired about the point of diagnosis and treatment if I’m going to still be the same person.

      • My current therapist (whom I actually very much love) said something akin to that to me. It was while I was in crisis over whether or not I’m going to turn into my terrible mother and if I’m somehow secretly abusive, and she was trying to make the point that I’m still Rowan; I’m still me, just with a new label attached. And I know it was coming from a good place, but it still baffled me, and I did some pushback, of course. Because yes, I’m me. The me that I am at my core is who I’ve always been and who I’ll always be, sure. But there are so many facets of a person pre- and post-diagnosis that really do have to be taken into account. Like, things as heavy as a bipolar diagnosis really do rock your world and shake up a lot of perspectives.

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