a flower blooms and wilts on repeat, a metaphor for NMO and bipolar 2 disorder

Bipolar 2, Exposure Therapy and NMO

Something never felt quite right when I was diagnosed with NMO at 19. This was before I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder. Part of the NMO diagnosis process meant meeting with a psychiatrist. This was a very long process. It took years and years, and I saw multiple different counselors.

Was my depression and anxiety connected to NMO all this time?

I’ve always had anxiety. I was diagnosed with depression at 14, anxiety at 15, and migraines at 16. To the doctors, I was a teenager going through teenage things. Looking back now could’ve been the NMO stirring in my body.

Why was I in so much pain all the time? These were questions that I thought needed answers. Still, as I grew older and continued on my disease journey, I learned that I'd drive myself crazy if I continued to ask why.

Being diagnosed with bipolar 2

Eventually, I got into a very elite neuropsychiatry program at a university hospital. They’re known for their PTSD clinic and therapy. That is where I learned that this wasn’t just anxiety and depression, but also PTSD and bipolar 2 disorder.

The "C" word: Crazy

When I heard I had bipolar 2 and PTSD, my immediate thought was, "Am I crazy?" Thinking back now, if somebody were to say that to me, I’d be highly offended. Having PTSD, anxiety, depression, or even bipolar doesn’t make you crazy.

Having a diagnosis meant I had to take care of your mental health... something I wasn’t really sure how to do.

NMO and bipolar 2 disorder

I went through a life-changing NMO diagnosis. Being on 42+ medication’s when I was first diagnosed, a lot of things amplified my bipolar 2.

Learning my triggers

Through research, I learned more about bipolar 2. I see why I respond the way I respond in certain situations, especially regarding my health. But it's completely understandable, and I am valid for feeling the way I feel.

What did I look like to other people?

Really, it was the reactions around me that I was truly nervous to see. I didn’t want my family members to think that I was crazy. I didn't want them to think that I wasn’t fit to take care of myself or do things on my own.

Like a switch was flipped

I really felt like I had a switch in my thought process after I was diagnosed properly with NMO and bipolar 2 disorder. However, the biggest switch came when doctors offered me a go at exposure therapy.

Exposure therapy for bipolar 2

Exposure therapy was, without a doubt, the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Yes, that even includes going through plasmapheresis and paralysis and blindness at the same time.

If you don’t know what exposure therapy is, I'll explain. It's a technique used by therapists to help people overcome fears and anxieties. It breaks the pattern of fear and avoidance.

My bipolar 2 and PTSD stem from not only the trauma of my NMO but from the trauma of things that occurred when I was younger.

Avoidance and remembering my traumas

I would avoid certain things, and I didn’t know why. During exposure therapy, I recounted the biggest, most memorable moment of trauma. I remembered it over and over and over again until my brain became accustomed to it. Exposure therapy helped my brain so that it doesn’t see past trauma as something that will give my body fear, anxiety, or stress.

Room to grow

This is only the start of my journey with exposure therapy with bipolar 2, and how it changed the way I view my chronic illness.

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