How I Learned to Accept My Diagnosis Wholeheartedly

How I learned to accept my diagnosis

Verywell / Madelyn Goodnight

Care and Trigger Warning

This story discusses suicide and manic episodes. Some details in this piece may be disturbing to readers. If reading this brings up uncomfortable feelings for you, you can speak confidentially with trained advocates at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Being diagnosed with a mental illness felt like being hit by a train and left on the tracks for dead. That may sound extreme, but mental illness is an extreme circumstance to grasp.

My family and I went on our annual summer vacation in August of 2014, this time in New Smyrna, FL. We'd never even heard of it, but when you find a deal, you don't ask questions; you book it and start shopping for cute swimwear.

We enjoyed our stay of canoodling between the beach and the pool at our condo, that is, until we encountered pesky insects called "no-see-um" bugs. These things are relentless because they are smaller than mosquitos and can survive in water. We all came back from the trip wholly covered in completely irritating no-see-um bites. On top of that, my twin nephews and I also had terrible ear infections.

Working part-time without health insurance and being the frugal person I've always been, I decided to try a new doctor closer to my house and five dollars cheaper than my regular primary doctor. In hindsight, this was the worst mistake of my life.

They prescribed me a high dosage of a steroid called Prednisone to clear up bites, and everything went downhill from there. By day two, I wasn't eating or sleeping. And by day four, I heard voices, and my mind was racing out of control.

A few days later, I made a complete mockery of myself and my family at a church where I felt spiritually led. I was completely disruptive and disrespectful, thinking I would marry my then unofficial boyfriend. My mom knew something was completely off, and she and my aunt took me to the hospital.

The ER doctor initially diagnosed me with bipolar disorder, which my mom, aunt, and I immediately rejected, as we all agreed I'd never shown signs before. He then wheeled in a virtual psychiatrist on a monitor who immediately started to pick me apart while sitting on his couch, asking questions like, "have you ever attempted suicide before?" and "is there a history of mental illness in the family?".

After the unsuccessful encounter, the doctor returned and said there were two outcomes from "reactions" such as mine; 30% wouldn't recover and would have to seek psychiatric help, and 70% would return to "normal" once the drug was flushed out of my system. He concluded that I'd for sure be a part of the 70% as my mom handed me bottled water to begin the flushing cycle. Words couldn't express the relief that my mom, aunt, and I felt hearing those words.

We sighed in gratitude and left with our hearts and heads held high.

I returned home and attempted to fall back into my routine. I went back to work as a caretaker for a 17-year-old boy with Prader Willi syndrome. However, I still had these racing thoughts that seemed brilliant to me but alarming to my mom. One moment I was coming up with ideas for my book, and the next, I was talking about creating a reality show starring myself and my immediate family.

I was sleeping maybe two hours a day, and to say I was all over the place was an understatement. But to hear my mom verbalize those words sent me through the roof because she was holding me back in my head.

It didn't take long for my next extreme manic moment. I attempted suicide in the bath twice, and my mom drove me to the ER (after I declined to ride in the ambulance) in sheer panic, I'm sure, but we sang lullabies the entire way to comfort us both, as she had no idea what was going on, and neither did I.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

This time, I was admitted to the behavioral health hospital, which is just fancy wording for the psych ward. I would stay there for a week and a half. Oddly enough, I felt God placed me there to help and save others, so I greeted everyone with a "Hi, I love you," to gain their trust and listen to their stories.

In October of 2014, I found myself back in the behavioral health hospital; this time there were no questions about why I was back, and so my mom and I had to face the facts. I had no other choice.

Had I stayed in denial, you wouldn't be reading this right now. I knew if I wanted to return to any form of normalcy, if that even exists, I had to take control of my destiny, and that meant taking accountability. No, I couldn't control my mania and what I did while manic, but I could seek professional help. And so, my mom and I did just that.

And so, my mom and I did just that. When you realize the only person that can genuinely save you is yourself, it changes the dynamic of everything you do.

I had to sit in my mess and understand that no matter how unfair it was for me to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it would be unfair of me to sulk in misery or, contrarily, take my dad's route and lead a path of crime, drugs, and dysfunction. Looking at those options, I knew I had to create a path of my own, and that's where the birth of "Half the Battle" began.

Journaling became my best friend, as I'd ignore calls daily from friends and some family. Reading back, that was the darkest point in my life and seeing the unbelievable things I've accomplished since 2014 often takes my breath. In August 2014, I felt my story was over, but in January 2020, my story was published and accompanied by a very successful book signing.

If you take nothing else from reading this essay, read this carefully...

Never let a boulder know it knocked you down.

I say a boulder because of the amount of weight I felt on my heart after being diagnosed, after meeting my psychiatrist (whom I love to pieces!), starting medication with the realization that I'd be taking it for the rest of my life, and adjusting to a new life and a new me; but all is well. I may get anxious over a long grocery list or overwhelmed by big crowds, but I am living my dream!

Since the age of six, I always knew I wanted to be an author/writer, but I never knew what my first book would entail. My mental illness allowed me to not only tell my story and help others like me, but it made me become the person I'd been inspired to be all along.

By Candis McDow
Candis has been a mental health advocate since 2014. She has written several articles about mental illness, and her memoir Half the Battle (available on Amazon and encompasses her journey of living with bipolar disorder.