What was it like to be a high school kid who has just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder back in 2010? Tune in as I discuss my experience telling my friends and my then-boyfriend about my recent diagnosis and how things seemed to suddenly change. Learn better ways to approach opening up to your friends and loved ones about your struggles so that you can skip the heartache and pain that I dealt with. Plus, discover alternative reactions to consider using if a friend or loved one opens up to you about their struggles.
Below you’ll find the interview-style questions that I answered in this episode. Continue scrolling to find additional resources.
Did you tell your friends right away?
Absolutely not. I was hurting and felt uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt “broken” and didn’t want anyone else to know that part of me. Especially considering how my family took to the news…
Describe what was it like when you did finally open up to your friends.
I remember telling a close friend but immediately regretting it afterwards as it seemed like they were unsure of not only the disorder, but being in my presence since I’ve now been diagnosed with it. They looked as if they were now uncomfortable being near me. That fucking sucked. And hurt really, really bad. The problem with this entire situation is that I had absolutely no clue what this disorder meant for me and neither did my friends. But the term “mental disorder” seemed weird and scary. I’m pretty sure all anyone knew about mental illness at the time was from what they saw portrayed in movies – which is completely blown out of proportion. Y’all, there is nothing scary OR wrong with those of us who are diagnosed. It just means that we have to be a bit more patient with ourselves (and ask the same of those in our lives) while we learn how to cope with our moods and emotions. That’s all. And there are many, many ways to do so! Some of them I thoroughly enjoy and find fun.
But then you told your boyfriend… How did that go?
Yupp, you heard that correctly! I had a boyfriend at the time of my diagnosis. My first “real” boyfriend. We went to Belle Dance together – those of you who are from the south, that was my high school’s version of a Sadie Hawkins’ Dance. For all y’all who aren’t from the south, a Sadie Hawkins Dance is a school formal – such as prom or homecoming – where the girls ask the boys to be their dates (reminder, the year in which all of this happened was 2010). My friends were going and I needed a date but had NO clue who to ask but they mentioned this boy who had his eye on me. I thought “why not?” and things flourish between us after the dance. Well, it flourished as much as a relationship between two 16-year-olds in high school would. I was diagnosed roughly 3-4 months after he and I officially started dating. Right before the diagnosis, my moods began to shift and I was not the most stable.
After the diagnosis had been given, I remember standing in the courtyard of my high school after class one day, telling him, “this is why I was acting that way. I’ve been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and I’m now taking medication to help me.” Which turned out to be an AWFUL idea… Well, at least it seemed so at the time. Not long before the diagnosis, I remember things being a bit rocky with said boyfriend. So I thought that by telling him about it, he’d be understanding and we could work things out. Boy, was I wrong! He looked so uncomfortable and confused by this information.
Before walking away from me to go meet up with his friends, I remember asking him if things were okay between us and him saying “I’m not sure. I need to think about it”. Y’all, as a 16-year-old who was dating this guy that she thought she loved (you were 16 once, don’t judge the ignorance!) and was just told that he’s “got to think about their relationship” right after she told him about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder… Would he have done that had I said brain cancer in place of bipolar disorder? No, probably he would’ve stuck around if that had been the case, likely because he felt bad for me. But because of not only the lack of education PLUS the stigmas surrounding mental disorders, homeboy decided to throw up the peace sign and call it quits. Yupp, he sure did! Nothing like I had hoped for – actually, expected. So this is when full-on depression, isolation and self-loathing began… I’ll touch more on those feelings later on.
Did your teachers know?
To be honest, I’m not 100% sure. What I do know is that it is up to the parent’s discretion to inform the child’s school of these types of things. Did my parents do that? I have absolutely no idea. Although I think they might have because I would often ask my teachers to let me leave class to go to the counselor’s office – usually once my work was complete but sometimes I would ask in the middle of them teaching. That was due to depressive episodes. I didn’t know how to handle them or what to do but I usually cried a LOT when they came around. So much that it was embarrassing to be seen, so I knew that going to the counselor’s office was a safe place for me to be. I didn’t have a therapist at the time so this was my equivalent to a therapist back then. BIG THANK YOU to Brazoswood High School Counselor, Lowell Good! He was always my go-to counselor and I remember spending countless hours in his office over these years. Thank you, Lowell, for listening to me in a safe, non-judgmental environment. Not sure where I’d be had you not been there as support when I needed it most.
- If you or someone you know needs help but aren’t sure where to turn, check out https://www.wannatalkaboutit.com/mental-health/ to find resources based upon what situation you’re currently struggling with. Please remember that you are not alone! I encourage you to seek any help you may need.
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Until next time friends… Take it easy, stay grateful and be joyful!
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