I had to read the words a couple of times to fully process the sentence. The article appeared in this month’s Vogue magazine. It talked about our Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family history.
One sentence stung. “Cursed with an undiagnosed case of bipolar disorder, she (Margaret Trudeau) grew miserable in 24 Sussex.”
Some part of me had always known that Margaret Trudeau had bipolar and I’m always curious when a celebrity comes out with their diagnosis.
I was diagnosed in 1997 at the age of 23 and went straight from a manic episode into my doctor’s office and then onto lithium. A wonder drug for manic depressive people. I stayed on lithium until we decided to start trying for children in 2004, and then in the course of two pregnancies, I was off medication and fine until the birth of my daughter in 2007.
In the months following I would experience a severe bout of post partum depression and a return to my doctor and medication but this time not the wonder drug.
I was told lithium works best with a manic episode and can actually aggravate a depression so a different medication was prescribed. That was 7 1/2 years ago, and looking back, I feel so lucky I was diagnosed not once but twice and that medication, on both occasions has allowed me to live a life of which I can be proud.
I have two incredible children, both healthy, wonderful people and an adoring husband who is my anchor. We live on an island, surrounded by ocean, and every day I think about what it means to me to be healthy.
I am healthy because I was diagnosed and my life is more than I ever thought it could be. Only sometimes, when I read about other people who had have to suffer with this illness, especially without a diagnosis and appropriate care, I feel the sting and I guess the sting is telling me “that could have been me.”
Living with an illness like bipolar means you have a different kind of brain. One that is so sensitive to the world, to people, to words to the way people say words, to coincidence, to kindness, to feelings that can overwhelm in the best and worst ways. It is indeed a curse, but also a rich blessing, if you get diagnosed and medicated, because with these things comes power to live a good life and make good choices and have rich relationships and friendship beyond your wildest dreams.
A diagnosis has allowed me to be the author of the Mabel Hartley stories. It allows me to be a “Leave it To Beaver” kind of mother that I want to be. And it allows me to live in my own skin and see the world through rose-colored glasses. At least half the time.