The day before Thanksgiving marks the 13th anniversary of my last discharge from an inpatient psychiatric unit!
This anniversary edition is dedicated to every young person who was recently crushed by a bipolar diagnosis.
You can be healthy again!
To the patient struggling to discover a treatment cocktail that successfully manages their symptoms without causing sickening side effects.
Be patient and keep trying!
To the eager young professional and aspiring leader who lost their dream job because of a life shaking episode of insomnia leading to full blown mania that turned into psychosis requiring weeks in the psychiatric unit.
It gets better!
To the young couple whose dreams of having a child of their own were obliterated by their doctor.
May your broken hearts heal.
To every suffering spirit who ever contemplated, attempted, or committed suicide.
You are not alone!
It is also in celebration of the many patients who fight like hell to live their very best lives despite unexpected complications, setbacks, and frustrations.
Keep up the good fight!
Thirteen years ago the psychiatric facility threatened to commit me for three years unless I began to take the prescribed medications. That psychiatrist told me to apply for disability and informed me I would never be able to work again. She killed my dreams and told me I could never have biological children.
I refused to give up on my career and the medications have helped me build the life I dreamed of as a little girl. Last week Tony and I spent our 18th anniversary at the beach. As I sat comfortably on the sofa petting my dog and sipping my morning coffee I was filled with overwhelming gratitude.
How do you know when you make it?
Is recovery from bipolar possible?
How likely is remission?
These questions caused me to do some research. I found a Psychology Today article by Brad Klontz, Psy.D., CFP on The Psychology of Success. He states that successful people are open to new experiences, they believe their results come from their own efforts and that mistakes are their own fault.
Dr. Klontz goes on to describe successful people as careful, dependable, and full of self-discipline. Successful people have a psychological need to achieve their goals and status is important to them.
The most successful people do work hard, but realize:
Money and success without health and loving relationships is pointless.
Successful people maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Most successful people are savers, they understand money is just a tool.
By this definition I am mostly a success. Though I am one heck of a spender versus a saver. Lucky for me my partner is much more into saving!
What resonates with me the most about bipolar disorder and the definition of success is that first sentence that states successful people believe their results come from their own efforts. I do believe that my success learning to thrive with this disorder is largely centered on my vigilant medication regimen.
I take fourteen pills a day.
Five of them treat bipolar, stabilize my mood, and provide antipsychotic benefits and the rest are vitamins, supplements, sleep aids, and stool softeners to help compensate for the side effects of the prescription medications. I am grateful I have the resources to cover these lifesaving treatments. I am even more grateful I remain dedicated to taking them every single day no matter where I am, who I am with or what I am doing.
Another aspect of this disorder that is completely within my control is eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep every night. I didn’t always adhere so closely to this healthy lifestyle. My moods and wellness suffered because of it.
I also chose to study, practice and develop happiness skills. Incorporating those behaviors has kept depression at bay for the last two years, maybe longer. You can read some of those suggestions in Document Joy, Anticipate the Good, and Shine Bright.
That leads me to my next question. Can you recover from bipolar disorder?
I found scientific research to document what functional recovery is in the US National Library of Medicine source, Factors Associated with Functional Recovery in Bipolar Disorder Patients. There are many factors in recovery including age of symptom onset, years of illness, marriage, and education level.
Functional recovery is defined as the individual regaining their pre diagnosis residential and vocational status.
That definition seems so limited to me.
I achieved that by March 2009 after being released from the hospital in November 2008. Yet, I didn’t start to feel truly healthy again for many years. While suffering from mixed moods and feeling anxious, depressed, sometimes manic I held down a full time career and pursued full time studies toward earning my bachelor degree.
I believe it was much more the pursuit and achievement of those goals despite my mental health struggles that built and shaped the healthier version of myself I am today. I have become more confident and comfortable in my own body.
Is it age?
Is it achieving goals?
Is it time?
Is it recovery or remission?
Maybe some magical combination of luck plus all of the above?
I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure.
I can only be grateful that life is so wonderful right now. How is that any different than anyone else living with or without a mental health condition?
Be in the moment and be grateful for the good things you have. Work toward the improvements you want to make.
I am enjoying this place on my journey and excited about what comes next. I also have the confidence that if I become ill again,
I can work to be well again too.
My hospital discharge coincides with a major holiday about giving thanks. Every year I have the memory of how sick I was, the things I lost to my illness and the clear vision of what I have rebuilt.
I am gratefulI I was raised to be a competitor. To strive for excellence. To work on continuous improvement. These qualities make me a fighter. These attributes make me a survivor.
I am thankful my loved ones would have supported me either way. The journey I chose to take back to the woman I used to be wasn’t easy.
I did not make daily progress.
There were years I barely held on to the status quo.
When I reflect on how broken, negative, tired, anxious, stressed, angry and overwhelmed I felt at times, that person is a distant memory.
I worked hard to learn how to be a happy, joy filled, gracious human being. That metamorphosis is the most important part of who I am today and what I can now offer the world.
This Thanksgiving I have a lot to be thankful for. By all definitions I have become a healthy, successful human being. More importantly, I have strong relationships with my loved ones. Most importantly, I recognize these abundant blessings in my life and appreciate them for the wonderful lucky way they make me feel.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds. I cling to my faith that it will be good. I stand with certainty that I can survive any storm.
May you have the same bountiful gratitude and certainty this Thanksgiving and always.