Getting Into Recovery
If you are recovering quite well, you and I both know that recovery is
possible. However we need to convince everyone else that there is hope
and that the light at the end of the tunnel is closer then they think. Am I
Remember, there is no "secret" to getting better. You don't have to be
a shaman or a guru or even achieve enlightenment to get better. My advice is to
learn from those who have gotten better.
You know, I used to think that the only way for me to get better and quit living
crisis-oriented was to study about getting better. I figured if I could just
read enough books and enough articles, recovery would come, or I would figure it
out from the knowledge that I gained.
Needless to say, I was wrong. Psychiatrists and therapists have told me that I
live in my head. I am a very cognitive person and until people told me what I
was doing, I truly felt that everyone else experienced life the same way.
I was also told that "living in my head" was a way to not feel pain -
emotional pain. That made perfect sense to me because as long as I stayed in my
head, I didn't feel pain.
I am also not saying that the best way to get better is to experience "a
whole bunch of pain." After I learned I couldn't "learn my way"
to getting better, I thought the only way was to feel every horrible feeling
that was unresolved in my life. What happened when I did that? I got really
depressed and had to quit work.
Now, both of the above examples are part of getting better. You can get
better a whole lot faster if you are educated about your disorder. Plus, there
are times when the only way to heal is to walk directly into the pain. Divorce
is a good example.
I remember the first time I saw a therapist; I was at Kaiser Permanente in
Sacramento California. I was unhappy with my marriage and I wanted out. That
woman told me that in a divorce, I had to go directly through emotional pain to
become a healthy person. I was pretty upset because the only reason I went to
see her was to find out the "secret" on not feeling pain. I remember I
repeatedly asked her "…what if I did this…what if I did that…would I
avoid pain? The answer was always "no." I'll tell you that took the
magic right out of counseling. In fact, when I received my M.S.W. later on, I
knew for sure that there was no magic in therapy. What a let down that was…
One thing also that is important to know is that your recovery experience may be
completely different from someone else's. However you will some similarities I
For you and I that have been diagnosed with the BP, the very first thing we need
to take a look at is medication. How many times have you heard of someone with
the BP getting tired of taking their meds because they feel so normal that they
go off of their medications? What happens? Well, the BP shows it's ugly head
once again and we once again experience the symptoms of the bipolar disorder.
Is that really me that scares people so bad? No. My real self is completely
smothered by the disorder. In fact, many of us are not sure who we really are
because for most of our life, we have been very ill.
After being medically treated I no longer experience depression, rages, mood
swings, mania, etc. It is quite a shock to finally discover who I really am and
I am in my early 40s. I don't believe that you will have to wait that long. I
believe that if you do need medication, that therapy will finally work for you.
Everything that did not work before medication will begin to work.
I will say that in my case, I went through many years of drug trials to find the
right mix of medications.
There must also be a very strong willingness on your part to stop living in
crisis, to really live a whole different way. For me, I had to become so
emotionally exhausted with my life style that I simply could not live that way
any longer. Also, I did not know of any other way to live. I didn't have a clue
of how to live a healthy life. I was not even aware of which behaviors of mine
was my illness, my unhealthy way of coping or whether some part of me was
Another thing I advise is that at some point in your life, drop the BP label.
Sometime during recovery it is vital that you no longer see yourself as a BP.
There comes a time when you need to move on. There is an old saying that I
learned as a social worker. "Act as if you are where you want to be and the
feelings will follow." There comes a time when you need to start
"faking it" but not too early in your recovery. Remember this label of
BP is important in regards to treatment. Without the label, no one will know how
to treat you.
Always know too that no matter how you are functioning today or how far you are
into your own personal recovery, you are not a BP, you have the BP. The
BP is an illness that you have and it is not you. You may not be aware today of
completely who you are and that is ok. However I am telling you what you are
not. You are not your illness.
If you continue to feel that you are BP, you will act this way. Change your
self-talk from negative to positive.
After finally being stabilized on medication many of us find ourselves
experiencing post traumatic stress disorder due to a life of untreated bipolar
disorder. More on this in another article.
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Copyright © Patty Fleener, M.S.W. All