Reflections from a Bipolar Survivor

Time is precious.  I think you understand that very well when faced with a mental illness that can sometimes steal days away from you.

It was not that long ago when my struggles were so long and my spirit so low that those days stolen turned into weeks and weeks into months.  It seemed that every time I had a good day the bad days followed with a vengeance.

After years of recovery I find myself looking back at all that lost time.  It was nine years ago when I began a journey into a dark abyss. The domino affect of an untreated and under treated mental illness, specifically bipolar disorder, turned my life upside down.  The destruction was so bad that it caused my bipolar depression to worsen and suicidal thoughts became all too familiar to me.  It was a time when I was not sure I could ever rebuild my life again because I had lost so much.

There were no more birthday parties with friends, in fact, there were literally no more friends.  They were all gone.  Lost to an illness inhabiting my brain.  How could I ever imagine returning to a somewhat normal life?  

The one thing I had going for me was that I always had the underdog mentality.  I grew up in a small rural town and went on to become an Olympic Athlete.  I had beat the odds on that one, so I told myself I could beat the odds by recovering.

But it was not a quick fix.  It took years of battling bipolar disorder and years to piece back together a once very promising life.  If you are reading this now I wish I could tell you recovery is an easy journey, but if you have been there you know it is not easy.  In fact, it may be the hardest thing I have ever done.

What makes it so difficult?  For one thing, there are those darn symptoms.  The highs, the lows, the racing thoughts, the lack of motivation, and of course the dreaded suicidal thoughts.  Then there is the complete erasure of confidence and self-esteem.  Add this up and pile on a loss of a support system and you find yourself on a very very lonely road.

Looking back I used to beat myself up about how I handled my illness.  If only I had known more about bipolar disorder things could have been so different.  But I knew what I knew when I knew it and that’s the best I can do with resolving my frustration.  The thing that gives me fuel for my passion to raise awareness is the very thing that caused me the most pain.  

So here I sit nine long years later.  My symptoms well controlled by medications.  A cocktail of drugs that don’t leave me feeling like a zombie.  And surrounded by people who I can actually call my friends who support my ideas and ambitions.

The years have passed not so silently and certainly not without struggle.  But the lessons learned have been invaluable.  I just hope I can shed some light for other people so their journey might not have to be so difficult.

Time is precious.  Indeed it is!

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12 thoughts on “Reflections from a Bipolar Survivor

  1. I have gotten to a stage in my recovery that I am happy with. I will continue to work to stay happy and balanced. It has taken a lot of work. I was diagnosed when I was 19, but I didn’t really understand the idea of recovery from a mental illness until a few years ago. I’m 45. If I had taken the time to focus on recovery when I was younger, my life could have been much easier, but I’m very grateful for the hard lessons I’ve learned over the years.

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    1. Andrea,
      I am so glad you have found happiness in your recovery journey. I completely understand and can relate to not understanding the whole idea of recovering from a mental illness. It was really a mystery to me, but one that I am glad I discovered. Here is to continued happiness for you! I am glad you found your way!

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  2. I am so happy to see you have made progression. It is a battle I have known many to fight and not enough attention is paid to such individuals who have to deal with the daily battle of the illness.

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  3. As long as you can look back and learn from the past, then that time is not truly wasted. You can now look forward to a world that offers you more possibilities.

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  4. Hello Amy,

    Thank you for sharing your personal journey and giving hope to loved ones. My brother has been suffering from bipolar symptoms for over a decade now, he is reluctant to admit that anything is wrong and it is really starting take its toll on our family. I am wondering if you would consider contacting me via email for a chat. You may have some insights that could help a great deal. I totally understand if you don’t wish to. All the best and keep shining that light of inspiration 🙂

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