For most of my life, I was diagnosed as having some sort of depression. There were several variations over the years, but the common thread of them all was depression. As it happens, this wasn’t correct. The diagnosis has changed to Bipolar Disorder II. This has made a world of difference.

The standard treatment for depression is, not surprisingly, antidepressants. In most cases, some drug regimen is found that will ease the symptoms, making life tolerable. In my case, antidepressants made things worse.

In Bipolar Disorder, antidepressants may cause mania or hypomania (a less severe state than full mania). I’d get hypomanic, becoming anxious and irritable. When this agitated state ended, there’d be a serious crash that the antidepressants couldn’t handle. Doctors would try larger doses, which only aggravated the illness.

Finally a doctor suggested Bipolar Disorder II. At first I scoffed at the idea; I never got elated or manic. The thing is, we don’t always do that. Hypomania may not involve any good feelings. We’re often hostile, anxious, irritable, and agitated; these aren’t always recognized as being part of an illness. When long-time friends told me that I’d shown those symptoms over the years, I was convinced. We suddenly understood that my puzzling and annoying behavior was part of an illness.

The meds regimen was changed to include a mood stabilizer. This has made all the difference. I still have mild mood swings, but they’re no longer crippling. I can live with that.

For the first time in many long years, I feel an unfamiliar emotion: hope.

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