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,
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
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.
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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Copyright © Patty Fleener, M.S.W. All