Childhood bipolar diagnosis: The good, bad, and ugly.

I saw a post about whether or not children get diagnosed with bipolar and it sounded like a lot of doctors have changed their diagnosing and are waiting till the children are older. I don’t think this is wrong, a lot of children can have mental health episodes without being bipolar and I do think for a while we were over diagnosing everything from bipolar to ADHD. The fact is that children are hard to read, and I totally understand if doctors are hesitating to pull the trigger on really big diagnostics like bipolar disorder

But being a child (I was six) diagnosed with bipolar disorder I think there are both benefits and draw backs from being both diagnosed at that age and actually being bipolar that young.

The Positives:

  • I was able to learn the big lessons early: Being diagnosed early meant that I got to learn the hard mental health lessons young and didn’t have to struggle with them as an adult. I learned that going off your medications was a terrible idea and that my episodes of mania and depression weren’t cured they were medicated. A lot of young adults who are freshly diagnosed try to go off their medication because they feel better and they think that maybe everyone got it wrong. These unmedicated periods make the suicide rates so much higher for bipolar patients and can cause other major problems. It was easier as a nine year old to go off of them while being super supervised by my parents to make sure nothing bad happened.
  • I was able to learn coping skills while learning other daily skills: It’s easier to make pathways while your brain is growing! I was able to learn a lot of skills while I was still picking up life habits, that means they are seriously ingrained in me. This is great!
  • I’ve learned which meds worked young: I’ve had my trial and error phase with most medications. And while it’s possible for me to need a new medication at some point in my life, we still have a solid foundation to work with based on which classes of medication have worked for me in my (long) past! The trial and error phase is terrible, I think anyone can tell you that, so having most of mine behind me as a young adult is wonderful.
  • I spent a lot more time analyzing my emotions: I do better than a lot of freshly diagnosed adults at identifying my swings. It’s because I’ve had parents point out my habits over the years so I have a base understanding of them. This makes it easier as an adult because I don’t spiral as much because I have learned how to catch them before they get to bad (normally- I’m still human).

The Negatives:

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Back to the Girl I Was:

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Sometimes I wonder if I’ve strayed from who I was when I was little. Certainly life has taken me on a different path. Seven year old Anna was completely confident, unapologetic, and so energetic. The confidence and unapologetic ways were stolen from me at age twelve from aggressive bullying. But like things do, they recovered, they grew back. I wouldn’t say they are stronger, but they are here.

I’ve always had this idea that we have core traits programmed into us, that our childhood selves can tell a lot about who we will become, not because we won’t change, but because some things will always come back.

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