If you are anything like me, the initial diagnosis is somewhat of a double-edged sword. First, you are excited because you actually have a name for what you are feeling. You can ask questions and get help. FINALLY. But then, panic sets in. I have WHAT? What does it mean for your family? Work? Does it mean a life filled with doctor visits and medication? While these are all valid questions, there is no need to rush to every conclusion you can in the first 48 hours. So what should you do?
SLOW DOWN, BREATHE, AND LET IT OUT. First of all, try to remember that your diagnosis isn’t the end of the world. Plenty of others have been exactly where you are: terrified and confused. Your mind is running a million miles a minute, and you can’t concentrate on anything. I may or may not have let a few tears slide at work the first week after my diagnosis. And guess what? Totally normal. You have the right to feel every emotion going through your head. And trust me, it will get emotional. It is important to let those emotions out! Your life as you know it is going to change, and that idea itself is enough to send anyone over the edge. You have a long road ahead of you, and recovery can only happen once you are open to the idea of it. Letting go of all of those mixed feelings is the best place to start.
DON’T GOOGLE IT (AT FIRST). We all know how the google black hole works. First, you are casually looking up symptoms of the flu, then the next thing you know – BAM. You have a brain tumor and three different kinds of incurable infections. Googling a mental health disorder is no different. The symptoms of many disorders are similar, but only a doctor can make a specific diagnosis in your case. I googled until the point I was 1000% positive I was autistic. True story! And do you know what it accomplished? Not a dang thing. That was probably the longest wait between doctor visits I have ever had. Don’t put that unnecessary stress on yourself! Get your information from your doctor. And once you are comfortable with your diagnosis, seek out a few RELIABLE sources of information. Sites that end in .gov, .edu, or .org are usually the safest bets! A few of my favorite legitimate resources include:
And for heaven’s sake, DO NOT get involved in message boards! Nothing will scare you more than reading about thousands of un-medicated individual’s experiences with their disorders!
*** None of these are paid mentions. These are simply some great resources available to you online.***
REACH OUT TO SOMEONE. Being diagnosed is already hard enough. Trying to handle it on your own makes it harder than it already has to be. Reaching out to someone other than your spouse or significant other is imperative. Your spouse is in the thick of it with you, and can’t give you a good, fresh perspective that can come from someone outside your marriage. Reach out to your best friend, your sister, or even your mom. Tell them that you don’t need sympathy, just support. You need a shoulder to lean on when it feels like you don’t know where else to turn. Someone who will treat you as they do any other day, especially when you are having a tough day. Someone who is going to grab you by the shoulders, shake you a bit, and tell you to get your shit together because your kids need you to be on top of things. This relationship is going to be the one to get you through the dark days ahead.
WRITE DOWN YOUR QUESTIONS. This was my biggest stumbling block when I was diagnosed. I spent countless hours in bed staring at the ceiling, wondering just how the hell I was supposed to function anymore. I came up with more questions during those sleepless nights than your average three-year-old does before breakfast. Put a notepad next to your bed. Start a list on your phone. Email them to yourself from work. Text them to your husband. Just do something to get them down! Before your doctor’s appointment, get them all organized into one document. It doesn’t matter if they are typed or handwritten. What matters is the fact that you have them, and they are going to be answered. Will my medication affect my birth control? Should I take them before or after operating heavy machinery? How will I know that I’m having a manic episode? Should I tell my boss? Don’t worry about sounding dumb or uneducated. If it is important to you, it is important to your doctor.
TALK TO YOUR DOCTORS. You are going to need to have a great relationship with your doctors. Your general practitioner AND your psychiatrist. They need to be communicating with each other, and you need to be communicating with them. Chances are, you are going to be starting the medication rollercoaster, and it is going to put your body through some not-so-fun experiences. Being able to discuss side-effects and effectiveness with your doctors is key to finding the right medication. Don’t agree with something just to get it over with. If you want to try something new, say so! If you don’t like a side-effect, talk about it! If you begin feeling overly depressed or have thoughts of suicide, don’t wait to call! Call immediately or go to the emergency room. You have to be upfront and honest at all times. If you can’t talk to your doctor, you are only going to be hurting yourself in the long run.
Most importantly, don’t lose hope. This is going to be one of the hardest things you’ve ever done. But look at you! Here you are. Fighting. If you have little ones looking up to you, show them how hard you are willing to fight for yourself. Make them proud of you! And I promise – one day they will be.