Healing from Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar-Disorder1

I have wrestled with this whole idea of healing from bipolar disorder. Since the illness never goes away, I have thought about how I know when I am actually well again. What constitutes feeling better? Are there markers out there or examples that show us what living well with bipolar disorder looks like?

For me the first thing I look at is whether or not my symptoms of depression are under control. Can I concentrate enough to read, get out of bed or eliminate any negative thoughts that linger on and on replaying with a skip like on a damaged music CD. I don’t know if I can sustain this period of normalcy I am experiencing but so far so good.

The medications I take really keep a damper on the “mania.” I also watch mania like a hawk. I know my illness well enough to know “mania” is not my friend. The biggest precursor to mania is lack of sleep, so I monitor how much sleep I get and I pay close attention to any semblance of racing thoughts that may enter my brain.

For the most part, I have spent most of my time getting very well acquainted with bipolar depression. I have read where most of the time people with bipolar have to deal with more symptoms of depression than any mania. And I have to say I am bothered when people romanticize the “mania.” We all know what goes up must come down and usually comes down with a crash.

I don’t know about you but I get so excited when I start to feel really good, not mania good, just “normal” good. I crawl out from my cave and start thinking about what I can accomplish. What do I want to do now that I am well again? I always find that when I start feeling better I start searching for opportunities to get busier. But I have this “little Amy” on my shoulder that monitors everything I do (it’s only an imaginary Amy not a delusion…:).

This is where I get stuck. In the back of my mind I have a fear that my wellness period will only last so long and I will be right back where I started with some episode of depression or even mania for that matter. I fear the relapse and I hate that I have so much fear about it. I wish I could think about possibilities without having the realism downer inhabit my thoughts.

So knowing I will never really completely heal from bipolar disorder I have to make another plan of action–one that can fulfill me today and give me hope for tomorrow. A plan that helps me live out my dreams but also takes into account the limitations I have to live with. It’s almost a double edge sword because I have always pushed myself to achieve more than I thought possible, and in that push I have been successful. But now I am nearly paralyzed by my fears of having symptoms break through again. The things that were my strengths have become another obstacle I have to overcome.

Healing from bipolar disorder is really in the eyes of the beholder. A doctor might consider staying out of the hospital as a huge success. I would agree with that, but then I say what is next?  And that is when I wonder just how far the healing can continue. Is it enough for me to be okay with being stable or do I need more to feel as if I have truly healed?  Will I ever be satisfied with the status quo?  These are the questions I ask myself and so far I don’t have the answers.

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15 thoughts on “Healing from Bipolar Disorder

  1. Hi Amy-I don’t believe mental illness can be cured. The illness is a disfunction in the brain, doctors don’t enough about the brain to cure mental illness. I think we have to set our bar a little lower, accepting we have a lifelong illness that requires attention, at times more than others. Learning your triggers, lack of sleep and stress are mine. Sometimes I have to step back, like tonight, and say why have I not gone to bed it’s 4:00 AM. I know the answer is overwhelming stress. I haven’t had a mania episode in years yet did spend 10 years in hypo mania. Sounds great, bull shit. Lost my job, got divorced, lost a million dollars, filed for bankruptcy, lost my house, had to sell all my jewelry and by that point I hated myself and spent three weeks in hospital. Who doesn’t want to feel super good like your best day ever, we have to make that happen. Not let our illness get out of control. First it may last much longer than you wished for. We’ve heard your stories I don’t want to be in the woods lost, no supplies, no shoes, freezing and have no idea what’s up. The outcome could have been very different and we would not have you with us today. It’s a slow process to see yourself differently, set the bar down a notch and don’t beat yourself up for not doing what you once did. Those thought are not productive. When you have a good day, get out and enjoy something you love. Tomorrow you may not get out of bed, it sucks, I don’t have all the answers after 30 years. I am accepting my limitations, still have hopes to one day but know I can not commit long term. Just like any other illness without a cure, we have to practice being proud of what we can do. Keep shooting for more but don’t push or beat yourself up over it. Mental Illness is extremely complex, our brain is our most complex organ. Doctors know so little about how the brain functions. If they crack that code maybe a cure will come along. Have a great day. Really enjoy the post. 🙂

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  2. Hi Amy. Like you, before my bipolar became severe, I was able to work like a horse and do everything exceptionally well in all areas of my life. I was proud of my abilities. Then several family crises, changes at work that created overwhelming stress for me and a move all worked to set off severe ultra rapid cycling bipolar. I would like to go back to work and feel productive in the work force again, but stress is my poison. I hate that limitation but I’m learning I have to accept changes in life. At least I am finally able to volunteer once a week doing data entry for a very special cause. At least I can help out at church consistently, and lend a helping hand to my son and his family who are moving not to far away. I’ve helped a few young women who are struggling to understand their mental illnesses. I look at these things and tell myself I still have quite a bit. It’s not everything I want, but it beats being trapped in a body that can’t do anything at all (how horrible–my heart goes out to folks in that situation). I plan to restart my blog soon so I can reach out again — which you are already doing, Amy. You are reaching so many. For every one comment you receive there must be at least a dozen or dozens more who read it. You blog well, Amy. Do tell us what other things you do that bring you joy. Camping, biking, hiking, swimming? Do they help you feel grounded in any way at times. Let’s suck every bit of joy and satisfaction we can out of what we do have left. It’s better than nothing at all. Just my opinion from my own experience. I am one of your fans. Hugs

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    1. Hi Journeyupward,
      Thanks for reading my blog and commenting. I hear so many stories about people who have had to quit work because the stress is a major trigger for the mania. I wish it were different, but that’s what happened to me too. As for extra activities right now I have chores, like cutting grass, taking care of my animals, not involved in so many fun things like I was before. Guess the illness took me out of the habit and once a habit is broken it’s terribly hard to start again. I used to do all those things camping, biking, hiking, and swimming. Now, well I am doing well to survive. Just doing the best I can. Thanks for your comments.

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  3. It saddens me when I hear someone who does not have bipolar talk about how wonderful it must be. I don’t get very far when I attempt to tell them otherwise. I’ve also seen a lot of people with bipolar go off their meds because the world was moving to slow for them.

    I agree with Looking for the Light that there is no cure for bipolar disorder, however, based on research I’ve been studying, I believe I will see it in my lifetime. (I’m 50 y/o)

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    1. Hi Bradley,
      I am with you 100%. Bipolar disorder is no walk in the park and I would not wish it on my worst enemy. The best solution I have found is to find the proper medications and try to get symptom resolution. So far this is working for me.

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  4. I struggle with the same issues. I have been stable for about six years now, but am not satisfied with my life. I still grieve at times for my life pre-bipolar disorder.

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    1. Hi Robin,
      I know what you mean. I’ve been filling my life up with other activities in hopes that it would help me move on and accept life exactly as it is. So far that is working for me. But I did need a period of time when I allowed myself to grieve. I feel for you and I understand.

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  5. Well done Amy, Great blog!

    I’ll get back to you as soon as I free myself a bit from a few things am stuck with. Should you be interested, I’ve some posts on varied subjects in: http://www.toporod.com.

    As we speak am in the middle of writing a 5.000 word approx paper on Bipolar Affective Disorder Management which would like to publish soon.

    Kind regards,
    Enrique

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      1. Hi Amy, I’m sorry for the slow reply, have been extremely busy. On this if you like please send me a simple Hi to toporod@gmail.com and then I’ll be able to send you some stuff written in English (silly me, forgot this small point). Best regards, TOPO

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  6. Hi Amy, I think the meds keep the medication and mania, or even psychosis, at bay but the black dog is always lingering in the background, ready to pounce.
    Is there a cure? I think not. It would be great if there was a cure for which we could be announced BiPolar free. But like many conditions, they are only managed by the right medications.
    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

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    1. Hi Glenn,
      I am with you…gotta have the right combinations of medications and life can be rather “normal.” It just takes a long time to find that normal. Hope life is treating you good today and you are enjoying all your social outings. I think that’s awesome for you! Talk with you soon.

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  7. Help me if you can or have a suggestion. I just reblogged a post about a boy who turns six on Friday. He’s had 30 radiation treatments and now taking chemo every two weeks. He lives in Foxboro, MA. Do you have any contacts with the Red Socks, Patriots, Celtics or Bruins. I know if is a tall order but I’d like to see a sports figure or celeb. That would me so mean to much the box. May have 18 months at best. Lets me know what you think or idea’s I can go. Please consider sending a card to him. Thanks.

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    1. Looking for the Light,
      I don’t know anyone within those organizations, but you can call the front office number or their community outreach department and they may be able to help you. It sounds like a great cause. I’ll send a card, just need the address. Good luck!

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