I ran into a bipolar friend as I went to fill my new prescriptions on the day I was diagnosed. “How are you?” he said.
I laughed at the synchronicity of it. “I’m bipolar!”
Cue the secret handshake and unwilling admission into the hellfire club of mental illness.
We talked for a couple of minutes. After expressing worry about the drugs I was going to have to take, he said “The worst thing for me is this persistent tremor in my dominant hand. I don’t know if it’s the bipolar or the lithium.”
As if on cue, a teenage boy in a neon green shirt ducked out of a grocery aisle, held out a slightly unsteady hand, and said “It’s the lithium.”
It was the best possible welcome into a world I never wanted to be part of. A world that contained friends and strangers and now myself. It was the first inkling that I wasn’t as alone as I felt.
The diagnosis, after a year or two of steadily declining stability, hit me strangely.
The doctor’s agreement was only confirmation of what I’d already figured out for myself. I did feel disoriented, a bit numb, but there was no surprise there, no moment of horrified shock.
The hard part came a few weeks later when the visceral understanding that it was never, ever going away finally settled in.