By Samantha Bennett
I had admitted something was off. I received the referral, got the appointment, and did the screening questionnaires and interviews, which led to a diagnosis. I finally had a reason for why my mood yo-yoed up and down over the years. I had an explanation for the high episodes and deep depressions that cycled almost like clockwork. I had a name to apply to what I had been experiencing since my teens – Bipolar Type 2. It also meant I could receive proper treatment and medication so I would no longer have to live that way. Such relief!
What I didn’t expect was grief. No one warned me I’d feel that way.
I grieved for the missed possibilities had my mood disorder been recognized and treated earlier. How much easier life could have been for myself and my loved ones!
I grieved that it meant a lifetime of management, medication, and daily work to keep myself on an even keel.
I grieved my expectations of what life would look like for me.
I grieved the increased risk of complications my medication introduced to my pregnancies. It turned out fine but meant extra monitoring at the high-risk clinic.
I went through the five stages of grief in the months after my initial diagnosis. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance. With acceptance came peace. I wasn’t scared of my mental health diagnosis any more than if it were any other physical condition requiring sustained maintenance. My diagnosis became a matter of fact, no more interesting than managing my thyroid condition. I take both pills in a single gulp in the morning and move on with my day.
Sometimes the grief bubbles to the surface, but it’s easier to manage now. I remind myself that I have the appropriate support now and cannot change my past experiences. It’s not helpful to think of what could have been. Instead, I focus on what is, and things are pretty good.
Samantha Bennett is on the Marketing & Communications team at the MHCC. She is a passionate mental health advocate and has lived experience of a mental illness.
When she is not working on her crafts and needlework, or tending to her dog and cats, she spends her free time exploring Ottawa with her partner and two kids.