Guest Blogs

How I Live Every Day with My Dual Diagnosis: ADHD and Bipolar 1

I struggled through life and work until I received my dual diagnosis — ADHD and bipolar — and developed the coping strategies I needed.

I had no idea I had ADHD and bipolar disorder 1 until I was in my 30s. In the decade before my diagnosis, all of my symptoms began revealing themselves mightily. I could not hold down any of the countless jobs I applied for, but I had no idea why. My psychologist gave me a test and eventually put two-and-two together: I was experiencing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD or ADD) as well as manic depression.

I battle constantly with thinking clearly, poor decision making, distractibility, and racing thoughts. Professionally, I went from interviewing for a middle school assistant principal’s job to barely remembering how to spell. This was the low point — before I could put a name to my challenges.

Why Does It Help Knowing Your Diagnosis?

My complete diagnosis is bipolar 1 with psychotic features, mixed episodes, ultra-rapid cycling, ADHD, OCD, GAD, and social anxiety. It took a board certified psychologist to flesh out everything and to properly diagnose me. The diagnosis was painful, but important for several reasons:

  1. The diagnosis identifies, exactly, what I’m dealing with.
  2. With it, I could use the internet to really understand my mental illness.
  3. Naming my disorders has also helped me find various methods to manage them.
  4. I have found support groups to help me navigate my journey.

Since my diagnosis, I have grown to know and better understand my mental illness. The symptoms are not static. They ebb and flow – with body chemistry, hormones, even the seasons of the year. They are not always easy to predict, but now they are easier to understand.

[Self-Test: Bipolar Disorder in Adults]

Knowledge Solves the Underlying Questions In Your Mind

In my 20s, I was off the chain. Running up multiple credit cards, sleeping with every guy I dated, and thinking I had straw for a brain. I knew what was going on around me, but I was confused and didn’t know what to do. All of that changed after my diagnosis. I researched, asked my providers questions, and read as many books as I could on bipolar and ADHD. I worked hard to escape the dark.

With time, I was able to recognize my actions in the decade prior as impulsive, risky, and not clearly thought out.

A Diagnosis Can Transform Your Life – But Not Overnight

The bipolar 1 mania that ruled my 20s still shows itself today, but it has weakened. I am now more equipped to handle its symptoms. I have been transformed through experience and knowledge.

You may be surprised to discover you have another illness along with your ADHD. It is okay. It is not the end of the world. Open up that tablet or pull out your smart phone. Look up what you were diagnosed with. Know the symptoms, your triggers, and have a plan of attack for when it starts up.

Call to Action

If you have or suspect you have a dual diagnosis with your ADHD, then drop me a line in the comments section. Tell me how it was discovered that you had a dual diagnosis. And tell me, what you do to cope with it.

[Where ADHD and Bipolar Disorder Overlap]