Poles Apart

My psychiatrist seems to have diagnosed me with Bipolar II Mood Disorder. I say “seems to”, because I’m not sure – first, as to whether it’s her considered diagnosis and secondly because I fear the label. Postpartum Depression, as a diagnosis, is more palatable. It’s easier to talk about and people seem to understand it better. But Bi-polar?! That sounds hectic. What will my bosses think? How would my colleagues relate to me now? You see, it all started when the good doctor (my psychiatrist) asked me to write down my life story, from birth to present day. I mentioned, in passing, that during my varsity years and even into my working career, I could go for three days without sleep. I put it down to the craziness of youth. The doctor reckons that’s not normal. We also know that I have suffered with depression (undiagnosed) before. I believe it was the reason I drank. Self-medication they call it. I was a very anxious child. I grew up with an alcoholic father, and witnessed abuse in the home. But I excelled at school and, apart from a alcohol filled first year which almost lead to my being kicked out, I did pretty well in varsity too. I was slowly realising a dream I had since the age of 9: to be a journalist, to make a difference. I put my all into my career. It became a huge part of my identity. I would obsess about a particular story. Procrastinate. Mull over a script or story plan. “Sleep on it” but not actually slumber. Cram to finish to deadline. Lose more sleep over it. And then revisit it, long after the airways had gone silent. There were times of great exuberance. Pride. Over confidence. Times when I would feel irritable for no reason. Pick fights in the office, mainly over stories. Have screaming matches. Fume. And then replay it all, with a touch of anxiety, at night. And then there were lows. Many lows. I used to chalk it all down to my drinking. Alcohol is a depressant, after all. But the lows persisted long after I quit drinking. The latest bout of postpartum depression is testament to that. The anxiety. Racing thoughts. Inability to quiet my mind. The insomnia. I was constantly terrified that I would do something to harm baby. I was afraid of her. Perhaps my psychiatrist

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