I have wrestled with this whole idea of healing from bipolar disorder. Since the illness never goes away, I have thought about how I know when I am actually well again. What constitutes feeling better? Are there markers out there or examples that show us what living well with bipolar disorder looks like?
For me the first thing I look at is whether or not my symptoms of depression are under control. Can I concentrate enough to read, get out of bed or eliminate any negative thoughts that linger on and on replaying with a skip like on a damaged music CD. I don’t know if I can sustain this period of normalcy I am experiencing but so far so good.
The medications I take really keep a damper on the “mania.” I also watch mania like a hawk. I know my illness well enough to know “mania” is not my friend. The biggest precursor to mania is lack of sleep, so I monitor how much sleep I get and I pay close attention to any semblance of racing thoughts that may enter my brain.
For the most part, I have spent most of my time getting very well acquainted with bipolar depression. I have read where most of the time people with bipolar have to deal with more symptoms of depression than any mania. And I have to say I am bothered when people romanticize the “mania.” We all know what goes up must come down and usually comes down with a crash.
I don’t know about you but I get so excited when I start to feel really good, not mania good, just “normal” good. I crawl out from my cave and start thinking about what I can accomplish. What do I want to do now that I am well again? I always find that when I start feeling better I start searching for opportunities to get busier. But I have this “little Amy” on my shoulder that monitors everything I do (it’s only an imaginary Amy not a delusion…:).
This is where I get stuck. In the back of my mind I have a fear that my wellness period will only last so long and I will be right back where I started with some episode of depression or even mania for that matter. I fear the relapse and I hate that I have so much fear about it. I wish I could think about possibilities without having the realism downer inhabit my thoughts.
So knowing I will never really completely heal from bipolar disorder I have to make another plan of action–one that can fulfill me today and give me hope for tomorrow. A plan that helps me live out my dreams but also takes into account the limitations I have to live with. It’s almost a double edge sword because I have always pushed myself to achieve more than I thought possible, and in that push I have been successful. But now I am nearly paralyzed by my fears of having symptoms break through again. The things that were my strengths have become another obstacle I have to overcome.
Healing from bipolar disorder is really in the eyes of the beholder. A doctor might consider staying out of the hospital as a huge success. I would agree with that, but then I say what is next? And that is when I wonder just how far the healing can continue. Is it enough for me to be okay with being stable or do I need more to feel as if I have truly healed? Will I ever be satisfied with the status quo? These are the questions I ask myself and so far I don’t have the answers.