I remember my English teacher Mrs Storey (yes that was her real name, destined for that job?) when we were doing various bits of Shakespeare. And yes Romeo and Juliet was one of those we looked at 'A rose by any other name would smell as sweet' - you are who you are regardless of the name that you carry, yet for them the names got in the way. For others though names can be affirming, recognising something important to them.
Mental Health labels can get in the way for some - and they rightly protest that they are more than the label, more than the diagnosis. Yet for some of us the label can become a positive, something life affirming, that describes what we know and shows that someone has finally heard us and acknowledged it too.
At the end of last year I finally had a psychiatrist who listened to my history and took meaningful questions. He said that he felt bipolar explained my experiences - more depressions but with significant times of feeling full of potential and ideas but in a driven, must act now way that is not peaceful, nor productive as the next idea jumps in before following up the one before. But the psych stopped short of formal diagnosis, as not seen me in that hypomanic state.
My next visit was with a new consultant (having been locums before that) - from that visit and then again a week ago, with notes and some pointed questions, he declared he was confident that I am affected by 'Bipolar Spectrum Disorder'. Given the vagaries of mental health diagnoses a consultant being 'confident' is about as solid as it comes.
So how do I feel about the label? Relieved to have been heard, to have had not just my experiences but also my own reading and self understanding has been validated. I can recall the feeling when in the biggest depression crash (at college after a prolonged high period) I finally went to the GP and was told I was in clinical depression. I came back with a strange level of temporary positivity (well compared to where I was) it was not me being a failure as a human being but a valid recognised illness. This week was not as dramatic but had some of the same sense.
There are consequences of labels though, and I have filled in the form to declare to DVLA as bipolar is one of the notifiable conditions, it should be straightforward as them writing to the psych and him confirming I am safe to drive, and many conditions from types of diabetes to heart conditions have to inform the authorities. But it is a very formal way of embracing a label.
Plans - the consultant I am with is very good at giving a sense of confidence in the plan he has for treatment. He talks confidently about how getting to a certain dose of Quetiapine whilst tweaking the antidepressant should really help me. The hiccup along the way is that increasing the dose of Q has side effects of deep sedation until the body adjusts to it. Hence this post taking days and days, with about 10 hours total sleep and up to the same again in vague grogginess leaves not that much time fully functional.
I am grateful to have supportive people who have helped me look at my diary and how to adapt during this side effect season that could be a couple of months. And I am very aware of the privilege of being in a role that has so much flexibility.
But if you see me looking even more vague than usual then blame the drugs, but we have a plan!!