August 1, 2010

“What’s Going On Here?!” -The Diagnosis Story

Filed under: Youth — Tags: , , , , , , , , — Linea @ 8:07 pm

“What is going on here?!?”

These were the thoughts that were rapidly firing in my head as I tried to figure out why I just couldn’t be happy and go out with my friends, or why I just couldn’t slow down and relax. For the longest time I hated myself for not being able to fix “it”.

In this society where we are told we should “just smile” or “walk in the sunshine” we assume it is our fault for not trying harder. We assume we are weak or bad for not perfectly controlling our mind and our body. We assume that there is something wrong with our personality as opposed to our chemistry. When I was first depressed to the point of suicide I got into a cycle of feeling agonizing pain of depression, exhaustion and defeat from not being able to fix it and an extreme hatred for my lack of strength and drive to pick myself up. It wasn’t until I was in the hospital on a suicide watch that I was given my first tentatPhoto by Linea Johnsonive diagnosis, Bipolar II.

Now, I grew up with a special ed teacher mom and a vocational rehabilitation counselor dad. I grew up being taught the importance of being sensitive to disabilities, the equality between every person no matter their difference and the importance of providing access and help to those with specific needs that may be different from my own. I grew up obsessively reading the DSM, diagnosing my pets with various illnesses. So when it came down to it,  I knew about disabilities. I knew all about “differences” and the normalcy of said differences. I knew all about what the word “label” meant in that community and knew that one should not use a condition to classify the whole of a person.

Maybe this is why it hurt so much when I was first diagnosed. Maybe deep down in my heart I knew just how little the rest of the world knew about disabilities. Maybe I knew the discrimination and misunderstanding that came with a mental illness label, because I found my mind screaming “No. Not me! I am not BIPOLAR. I am not like that. I’m not CRAZY”. To me, someone who found every disability as simply another thing that makes us unique and special, this diagnosis made me into something I didn’t want to be. It grouped me into a category that was “bad”. And whether or not the people in this category were “bad” or not, societies view and opinion of them was. I was not going to be in this category. I had spent my entire life trying to be perfect, flawless and this was the biggest flaw I could ever imagine.

On the other hand however, there was the small, scared, childlike voice inside of me saying, “its not my fault”. Even writing this today makes me tear up when I remember just how hard I tried to make myself feel “normal”. I tried so hard to control my emotions, but the more I tried, and the more I failed, the more I punished myself. I had two competing voices in my head, the blamer, “It’s all your fault! If you tried harder we wouldn’t be where we are today!” and the blamed, “I try so hard. I’m not good enough. I deserve this pain.” It was a dangerous downward spiral that became even worse when it moved from mental to physical hatred. Finally having a diagnosis validated those “it’s not my fault” cries of the blamed. It allowed me to start being a little bit nicer to myself.

It took me a long time to be nicer to myself, and in many ways it is still a very difficult struggle. The diagnosis, for me,  was one of the most life changing parts of my illness. It forced me to come to terms with the blamer and the blamed. It helped me realize who I really am and whether or not a label (BIPOLAR) defined me.

At first I felt that the words were etched into my forehead. I felt that with one word I was someone completely different. Years have taught me that my diagnosis can never define me. It may define some of the traits of my illness, but it will never define my exact reaction to those traits. Through my diagnosis I have been able to take the blame away and realize that this is simply something  unique about me. A blessing and a curse that makes my life slightly different from other peoples’ lives. Though the label that accompanies the diagnosis was painful, I have finally  found the most important thing of all, the map towards treatment. And with treatment lies stability.



  1. God bless you Linea. I’m not sure your age, and you’ve tagged YOUTH on this piece. You also reference that “Years have taught me…” You touched me so much with this. I’m probably older than you (56) and wasn’t diagnosed until I was 52. There is so much promise for your live, and not having to stumble for years in the dark. The self-talk that is so self-condemning, so self-deprecating becomes ingrained. The struggle is constant, the “small, scared, childlike voice” is so consuming yet frail… It is heartening with every story of any victory, large or small, that helps us redefine who we are and to compartmentalize our own defeats. Thank you so much for sharing!

    Comment by Peg Stacy — August 1, 2010 @ 8:35 pm

  2. Linea,

    Thank you for your courage, honesty and openness to talk about something that needs to be talked about. As a parent of a daughter with bipolar disorder, I salute you for clearing a path to make things easier for others. It’s so unfortunate that there’s such a stigma associated with mental illness. I wish you well and again I thank you for your honesty.

    God bless you.

    Patricia Konjoian

    Comment by Patricia — August 1, 2010 @ 10:06 pm

  3. As usual, my daughter, you are insightful and wise beyond your years. Yes, this illness has been devastating to you, but, as you know, provided opportunities for richer and more honest relationships with family, friends and the world. Love you. Mom

    Comment by Mom — August 1, 2010 @ 10:31 pm

  4. This is beautifully said. Thanks for sharing!

    Comment by Holly — August 2, 2010 @ 5:05 am

  5. Honey,you are brave,and insightful,and wise beyond your years..And I will be following you..Thanks.

    Comment by Sofie — August 2, 2010 @ 2:29 pm

  6. bless you hon you are wise and brave beyond your years. like my daughter you have been chosen with a gift to help others. always remember, this did not happen to you , it happened for you as you were chosen to guide others. God blees you!

    Comment by rhonda gomez — August 3, 2010 @ 12:26 am

  7. I loved your story and they way you put how it feels to be labelled at first.
    My daughter, who just turned 7, was diagnosed this past year with bipolar disorder after 2 stays in psych hospitals and months of trying to find out what was happening to our little girl.
    She is stable on a cocktail of 5 meds, including Lithium, now. Her hallucinations are minimal.
    My hope is that these younger children will grow up being accustomed to the diagnosis, and that brave souls like you, who speak out about the disorder, will pave the way for society’s acceptance of people with bipolar disorder, just as they accept those with diabetes, or any other chronic illness.

    Comment by licoriceroot — August 6, 2010 @ 1:57 am

  8. It takes a lot of guts to be so frank and honest about this kind of thing nowadays, and I wish it no longer did. A lot of this really hit home for me, and you also write wonderfully. Peace be on you.

    Comment by CC — August 22, 2010 @ 5:58 pm

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