The first post in our Intersections Series, from an anonymous guest writer, discusses the viewpoint of someone who is both bipolar and autistic.
People usually seem to think that you always get your autism diagnosis when you’re little, but the truth is that people are diagnosed with autism at many stages in life, and sometimes it takes discovering one condition to realize that there’s another. I was diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder in my late teens before I was officially diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). My autism was something that always seemed to get pushed by the wayside, for many reasons, and when I sought treatment for the difficulties I was having, my Bipolar came first due to its severity. Throughout my life, I’ve tried very, very hard to “pass” as neurotypical. It’s exhausting work, but I didn’t want anyone to get upset with me for displaying autistic behaviors and traits. I’ve always been really concerned with keeping other people happy, so I tried very hard to blend in. That all changed when my mental illness decided to take an unexpected turn.
I had dealt with depression from my childhood onward, but my Bipolar Disorder developed when I was in my late teens. There had been small glimpses of this illness beforehand, but it wasn’t until I had a full blown manic episode that I realized something was wrong. After that, I began treatment to help control my symptoms, which involved therapy and medication. My doctors, psychologists, and therapists explored the idea of ASD, but it was not considered a priority at first. However, when I had a clinically observable shutdown, they decided to officially diagnose me with ASD.
I’m still on medication for Bipolar Disorder even though I’m stable now. I have to keep taking it every single day, and I’ll probably be taking it for the rest of my life. That isn’t a death sentence to me; it’s the opposite. Because the medication that I need to remain stable exists and I can take it, that means I can manage my symptoms more easily and live a fuller life. A lot of people would see it as a failure, but I think of it as a tool. Yes, my mind is different, but I have to take everything one step at a time. Because of that, I’m learning to take care of myself better and consider what I need rather than worrying all the time about what everyone else wants.
I’m learning to be proud of who I am, and meet the challenges of both autism and Bipolar Disorder. It’s a lot of work, but I like to think I’m getting there.