What It's Like To Be 20 Years Old And Diagnosed With Bipolar Disorder

by Lyndsay Reyes

If you told me when I was 15 that I was bipolar, I would have cursed you out. I would have told you you're the crazy one and you need to mind your own business. And then, I would apologize and tell you how much you mean to me.

Since age 14, I have suffered from severe depression and anxiety. As a hardheaded and stubborn teen — maybe even a nightmare child — I refused to acknowledge the demons that challenged my everyday life.

I did not want to disrupt my mindset of normalcy with the idea of a disorder, so I allowed time to pass, slowly but surely dying inside.

Food, friendships, school, life… it was all too much for me to handle. Everyday tasks brought up nerves akin to taking the SAT. Every. Single. Day.

I'm not sure how it began, and that's something I work on with my therapist to this day.

I don't know what made me so self-conscious I would cry myself to sleep every night, but that's something I'll deal with for a long time. I do know one thing: My disorder does not define me.

It took me four years to tell my parents I felt something was wrong with me. I spent those four years battling my demons in silence while continuing to smile and act as if everything in my middle class, mediocre life was all okay.

I had a ton of friends, sported the latest fashion trends, had a great family and a wonderful private-school education. But, I still didn't feel full. Something was wrong and I needed to fix it.

I wanted to be "normal." I didn't want to hear that something was wrong with me, but it was taking a toll on my life, and I couldn't live that way anymore.

In the summer of 2012, I finally got the help I needed. I saw a therapist who referred me to a wonderful psychiatrist.

It was then that I was diagnosed and medicated for major depression, generalized anxiety and borderline personality disorder. I didn't understand any of this.

I cried. I cried a lot. I felt my life was over. I was heavily medicated and seeing a therapist once a week. Why didn't I feel better?

I went away to college against doctors’ orders and things went downhill. I was miserable, didn't feel accepted and was doing things to please all the wrong people. I attempted my first suicide around this time.

After a night in the psychiatric unit, I promised I would get on the right track and never do anything so utterly stupid and selfish again.

I came home and transferred to a community college. Things got better. For two years I gained wonderful jobs, an incredible internship at Elite Daily, genuine friends and a fantastic education.

But, in November of 2014, I felt I had plateaued. My doctor increased my medicine, which we felt would better regulate my emotions. This anti-depressant didn't do much anymore. I tried to kill myself once again, and this time, with full intentions.

I was taken to the ER and immediately admitted to the psychiatric unit. My mother cried, my father cried, I cried. How did I sink so low? I stayed here for one week, and it was the worst week of my life. I had never felt worse than I did during this time.

While there, I saw many doctors whose names and faces I cannot remember. They studied me like a lab rat and all reached the verdict that I was bipolar.

I felt like my world collapsed once again. A new diagnosis to deal with? What did this mean for my future? What did this mean for my reputation? What did it mean for me?

Once I was released, I felt out of place. I was on inhumane dosages of medication that knocked me out every night.

I gained nearly 20 pounds from these medications and felt like I was never going to rise from this. Bipolar? Why had we not figured this out sooner? Why did I have to backtrack at the age of 20?

Perhaps if I had been on the right treatment path, I wouldn’t have ended up in the hospital in 2012. I wouldn’t have transferred home from school. I wouldn’t have had to spend so long searching for who I am.

It took me nearly two months to settle back into a routine. I felt like I had just been brought back to life and had to relearn everything I once knew.

But, this was a blessing in disguise. There are those who judge me, there are those who admire me and there are those who just don’t understand.

I am a new person who has all of the power to build my future and my legacy from scratch again. I am not my disorder. I am Lyndsay Reyes, an almost 21-year-old with big dreams and an even bigger heart.

I have spent these last few months educating myself on my condition and helping those who feel their lives are falling short.

I have found a new love for life and a new appreciation for second chances. Every day of my recovery is still a battle, but it’s something I am well-equipped for this time around.

Nobody can achieve perfection or any element of it, and after years of comparisons, I have realized there is no sense in trying to do so.

Sure, I still find myself wishing to be someone else on my bad days. But, I am also so grateful for who I am at this very moment.

Recovery takes time and patience, and through self-help books, a concrete support system and the power of my own mind, I am finding my way back to a better day, little by little.