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On Recovery

If you have the bipolar disorder and you are into recovery, you know as well as I do, how wonderful that feels. Your life begins to slow down, no more crisis oriented outlook or approach. You begin to make better decisions about your life that support a healthier, happier life. Your tremendous inner psychic pain begins to fade and in its place comes peace.

However, here is what our counselors don't tell us - at least mine didn't. Getting into recovery, as good as it feels, is a tremendous life change. In my case I would go as far as saying a dramatic life change. 

We who are in recovery are now doing the things we used to think were boring, remember? 

When people ask how I'm doing or what I've been up to, my answers are strikingly different than what they used to be. In the past, changes were happening daily or hourly. Now my answers are usually, "Oh, nothing really. Nothing new."

My counselors never did tell me that when I began to get better and feel better and live a healthier life that I would actually have to grieve my old lifestyle, as horrible as it was. Any drastic change takes adjustment and causes stress even if that change is positive.

I still have repetitive dreams of my "old life." I'm usually at the bars with friends or alcoholic boyfriends. Many times unfortunately in these dreams I still feel the same craziness I felt back then. [UPDATE: 3/02 I rarely get those kinds of dreams anymore]. 

It feels great not to live in constant pain and to be surrounded by people who actually care about me. However there are times when I look around and say to myself "Where's the excitement?" There are times that I miss the excitement I had in my previous life. 

For folks with bipolar disorder, who are used to feeling some degree of mania (by the way, hypomania is a blast!) feeling "normal" feels pretty dull for us. Mania has been likened to the high of cocaine. I suppose as hard as it is for coke users to give up their drug, it's hard for some of us bipolars to give up our manias - the good manias that is, not the full-blown ones. 

This is in fact one of the reasons why many people with the bipolar disorder choose not to take medications. I choose to take mine because my depressions are so deep that I would be gambling with my life. My full-blown manias have gotten so severe that they scare even me. 

Another aspect of getting better is not only giving up the old lifestyle, but living in a new healthier place that you may have never been or understood before. In many ways, my new life feels foreign to me still. Real love versus addictive love feels strange as well. 

Most of all however, it feels wonderful. 

So there you have it - a person who is living life much healthier, yet stuck with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) from the past. Kind of a double-edged sword if that makes sense.


Update: 3/02

My PTSD symptoms have dramatically reduced and I am living lifestyle now that is much more free. 

I am willing to guess that when I was very ill with the bipolar disorder and the borderline disorder, that I had very bad PTSD symptoms at that time but the first two disorders were like elephants stomping on my left foot so hard that I couldn't pay attention to the PTSD lion that was stomping on my right foot. I hope that makes sense to you.

I have often wondered why it was that I became disabled AFTER I decided that I could no longer life the life I was living and I turned my life around and make different choices that led to recovery. Of course I became so ill at that point that I could not work and support myself and applied for disability. 

I have been told that for years however I was running on pure adrenalin. I have always had a high absentee rate at my jobs and never held the same job for more than one year. I always changed jobs looking for more money, or was bored. I constantly moved as well.

Today I am living in the home we have rented for 6 years. The longest place I have ever lived in all of my life.

As time has passed, I no longer miss the excitement I had in my life. That kind of excitement is looked at as negative to me now and would cause stress that would trigger both of my disorders. 

I no longer look for happiness outside of myself as I did before. I looked for it in another human being. I look for happiness in myself and I entertain myself with activities that I enjoy doing and feel are good for me; namely physical activity at the gym and working on the websites that we own. Both provide me physical, mental, and social satisfaction. I balance my life now with leisure activities such as eating out, movies, etc.

Balancing your life is extremely important and during the time my PTSD symptoms were bad, I was a workaholic and just worked all the time. I was experiencing so many emotions with my ptsd dreams and flashbacks at that time that unconsciously I tried to block those feelings by working. It did work but by blocking feelings, my inner growth and progress slowed considerably and it wasn't until I realized this and began to feel my emotions that I got better.

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