Bipolar and ADHD – I Know Your Names Now#
For the longest time of my life I wondered if I have ADHD. I dismissed that feeling, and it didn’t really affect me. I functioned, and I had moments of sheer inspiration. I called this many, many things. At one point, I chalked my bursts of productivity off to me being a person who likes operating in bursts.
This post touches on the topics of depression, mental health, Bipolar Disorder and ADHD. If you’re uncomfortable with these topics, this isn’t for you.
If you’d like to understand the background for this post, especially how I’ve coped with single-sided deafness and my upbringing, I recommend the following posts:
I was convinced, however, that I had a learning disability as a child. I performed inconsistently at school. My performance solely depended on the teacher. If the teacher was the sort to explain from first-principles and grasp my attention, I’d learn, and I’d learn for life. I genuinely do not forget some things I’ve learnt this way. And teachers who were horrendous at teaching, I’ve never grasped anything they’ve taught me. I’d obsessively learn things taught by these good teachers because they managed to trigger a section of my brain that loved learning. And I’d ignore the rest. It created a sinusoidal performance, to say the least.
I began worrying about my lack of focus for a while now. I’ve not been myself for a while now. I’d assumed it had something to do with the poor years I’ve had since May of 2019 . But I began to suspect it was something else in 2020, which is when I began therapy.
I started therapy because I wanted an answer. The question I was asking was: “I love programming, I love learning, I love being mentally active all the time. So why am I not doing anything?” In 2020, I started to realize I hated my job. I thought it was because I missed my old one. That wasn’t completely right. I wondered if I was depressed; after all, I’d just lost an ear to SSHL.
A lot happened since then. 2021 was not kind. I had a car accident one day after I bought my first car, something I reluctantly purchased since the family wanted one. I now pay for a driver to come home every day, which feels like a complete waste of money.
I approached a psychiatrist who seemed to have glowing reviews for ADHD treatment; which is really hard to find in India. He referred me to a therapist who worked with him and asked her to assess me for ADHD, and, strangely enough, Bipolar Disorder.
I was surprised at that, and he said that he has a strong suspicion that I have Bipolar instead of ADHD. At the time, I thought Bipolar was the same as Borderline Personality Disorder, and that was a mistake.
I was given a series of personality tests, including a Roscharch test, and I was finally given a very long and very detailed report, one which concluded in telling me that I am Bipolar, and have a mild ADHD as well.
Then, the psychiatrist started telling me about the symptoms that you’d find in a Bipolar individual. One would be prone to manic episodes, and this could even manifest as a good thing, so to speak. Days, sometimes weeks of sheer productivity where one would feel like one was on top of the world, followed by days or weeks wherein the feeling was the polar opposite.
I slowly began to understand. Those moments of hyperfocus that I kept telling my self about were not hyperfocus. They were manic episodes. I was unable to work for months at a stretch because I couldn’t regulate my emotions and feelings towards my work or towards my life in general. I’d get flustered when faced with conflict, and this would always lead to me getting very upset. I couldn’t be in charge of my emotions at all. I could be having the best day of my life and some small thing would upset me, changing my day completely.
I was bipolar.
What did this mean? I was given a small dose of Lamotrigine, 25mg to start with, increased to 50mg eventually and now I’m on a dose of 75mg. What does this do to me? It’s strange really. It just makes me very, very rational. I am in control of my emotions. Things could happen and I am calm. I am in control. I think about what to do next instead of having a panic attack.
And, more than anything, I would listen. I could listen to reason again. I wouldn’t trigger my flight response when it came to conflicts. I could stay calm, be rational, and have meaningful conversations again.
I went to the doctor because I wanted to work more. Someone told me that it might not be the right reason for seeking therapy, and in a sense they were right. I sought out therapy because I wasn’t feeling normal. I wanted to be able to think logically and not let one bad moment ruin my day. Here I am, 6 months later, able to work through anything that I’ve faced. I’ve had bad days, I’ve had horrible days, but I’m still positive. I am still able to focus on the things that matter to me, and I am even getting back to reading. Perhaps one day, I might write again.
Treating the bipolar disorder made me much better at handling my time and emotions, and that has somehow made the ADHD manageable. I am still the sort who will jump from topic to topic, but I can now come back to a topic once I’m done. I can stop working on something today and come back to exactly where I was tomorrow morning. I couldn’t fathom doing that before. I can’t begin to explain how amazing that feels.
Where do I go from here? My biggest goal is to settle into a routine where I exercise and do more things that I enjoy. I would like to read more, and write once again. And, I’d like to study. Not in a college, but I’d like to study topics that I’m interested in, mathematics, computer architecture, database internals and distributed computing. I would like to keep on learning and improving who I am. Now that I’m able to manage my emotions well, I see a way forward.