When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder the last thing I wanted was to change my life. I wanted to continue with my fast pace lifestyle and highly stressful career. But over the next several years after that initial diagnosis I had to learn about what kinds of limitations I had and how those limits were going to change my life. What I did not realize was that everyone has limitations no matter who they are or what circumstances they have and realizing this fact helped me to adjust to the limitations I had to incur.
Some of the biggest changes were the following:
1) Give up business travel = Change my career
I could no longer travel 3-4 days per week to different cities because traveling was far too intense and interfered with my sleep schedule. It took me years to realize sleep was and is my biggest indicator for wellness. If I wanted to function well I was going to have to protect my sleep patterns and monitor how much sleep I was getting per night. Traveling for business had to stop and that meant a career change.
2) Understand the Disease = Monitor my moods
I had to learn how to monitor my moods. One of the keys to wellness and recovery is to know when you feel well and know when the illness symptoms are breaking through. It seems like it should be obvious to monitor symptoms, but for me it took years to learn the difference between mania, depression and normal moods. The truth is I strive for the most wellness I can have and one step in doing that is stringing lots of good days together by focusing on the things I can control that makes me feel well and eliminating the things that don’t.
3) Discovering Acceptance = Living in the present
Acceptance is about being okay with exactly how things have worked out. I continually strive for acceptance on a daily basis. Sometimes I find myself resisting “what is” and I may get stuck thinking about what life was like before I had to make changes, so I constantly work at acceptance. I have learned acceptance is not a destination it is a state of being.
Life after a mental illness diagnosis meant I had to make some changes in my career, I had to learn about the illness and understand how it affects me and finally I had to experience the stages of acceptance in order to live peacefully with my own destiny. Now I am ready to take on new challenges in my life. What stage are you in with acceptance?