You have to fight to beat mental illness. There’s no other way to put it. Such a charged topic and misunderstood illnesses all the more reason to fight for survival. Several months ago I was talking with my therapist and I made the comment, “I’m taking my life back. I’ve got to fight but I’m gonna win. I will beat bipolar.” Even saying those words gave me a feeling of empowerment. A new vision for how I was going to live.
I realized I’d been giving bipolar disorder so much power over me. The complexities that seem so cut and dry cut deeply into my psyche. The process or map to good health seems so linear and simple.
For example: 1) get a proper diagnosis; 2) work with healthcare providers; 3) get the right combination of medications; 4) recover and 5) live happily ever after. But overlay STIGMA on top of every step and all the steps become even more intense. Add a pound of grief for all the things on life’s path that changes when a mental illness diagnosis drops on your doorstep.
Think about how devastating it is to have every major aspect of your life impacted. For example-your social, vocational, hobbies, financial and anything else you can think of. Now try to get well in the midst of all these life changes that came about because you got sick. In spite of all these obstacles eventually I made up my mind I wasn’t going to let bipolar disorder beat me.
How was I going to win?
1) I stopped feeling guilty for having an illness. For years I held a tremendous amount of guilt for having bipolar disorder. Even thought I knew it wasn’t my fault I still blamed myself for not managing it better. I finally said, “enough is enough. I have a mental illness and it’s not my fault.”
2) I stopped blaming myself for losing friendships. It took a great deal of time but I realized there was nothing I could do to change the past. Although I would have loved to have maintained friendships that I was only one part of the friendship and I happened to get sick, which was not my fault.
3) I started thinking I could help others. I realized there was something I could do to help other people who may be struggling personally or who may have a family member who was struggling with similar things I had experienced. So I dusted off my computer and decided to start blogging in an attempt to shed light on various topics in mental illness that I felt I had some insights about.
It would be easy to give up on life. God knows I’ve struggled enough with this mental illness. But I’ve also had wonderful times and fulfilling moments. It really comes down to what we choose to focus on when we are well enough to have perspective. Since I’m well enough I refuse to let mental illness beat me. And though sometimes it seems difficult maintaining “hope” is one key component to getting well and staying well too. The other key is “resilience” an embodiment of the never give up attitude.
Regardless of the circumstances fight for your life and beat mental illness.