From what you've said, I think you're half way there already. Now alll you need to do is find a Pdoc, get on meds and then figure out how to explain it to people.
When I finally decided to seek treatment, I'd known I had BP2 for about 6 months from reading Patty Duke's book A Brilliant Madness. I was finishing up my accounting degree and had fallen into a deep depression.
I looked in the phone book for a Pdoc, called and got an appointment, went in and told her I was BP2 and got on meds. The rest is history. Might add too, that I didn't have a PCP at the time.
The way they 'diagnose' BP is by taking your 'history' along with a family history. Things such as alcoholism, drug addiction, suicide attempts and the like are alll indicators of a mood disorder. The reason you see these behaviors in BP is that we attempt to self-medicate with drugs and alochol.
Don't worry about telling people you're BP. I told someone in one of my classes and she said she knew!!! She was BP1 and could see it in me.
There are tons of meds out there so if one doesn't work, you can always try something else.
It's wonderful not having my mind race the way it used to. That's what I hated the most--couldn't slow down no matter what I tried. Now that I'm on Lamictal, even when I'm hypomanic, it isn't nearly as bad.