The first step in my recovery was acceptance. I realized I had to accept the truth of the reality of my illness before I could be ready to seek the necessary treatments to start the recovery process. I had to be ready to fight and heal my pain and internal mental scars.
I wish my acceptance of bipolar disorder would have been automatic and not taken so many years because then I think my life could have improved sooner.
To begin to accept my bipolar disorder I had to go through a grieving process, which took me a long time. It was a painful process and journey for me.
1. Denial – I do not have bipolar disorder. I do not have a mental illness. You are wrong. I do not want this. I can still teach and do everything I used to do. I am the same good person. I am a great person so I cannot have this illness.
2. Anger – When I was first diagnosed, I was very ill from the side effects of the medications they were giving me and other reasons as well. I did not understand what was happening to me. This caused me to have a lot of anger. I blamed everyone around me and basically hated everyone, especially if they tried to help me. I was not a good patient at all, and I tried to fight everything they said and did to me when they tried to help me. I lashed out at others and made people people feel bad. I have guilt for some of my past behaviors when I was first diagnosed, as I acted horribly. I felt like a horrible person at the time of my initial diagnosis. Ugh! My anger was very painful and intense.
3. Bargaining – Why me? If I stop taking all of my medications I will be “normal” again and I will be fine. I will show everyone they are wrong. If I stop taking my medications and stay away from all medical care, psychiatrists and hospitals and go back to my life the way it was before, everything will be OK. I will show everyone I am fine.
Going off all my medication was a bad idea because after a couple of years of not taking my medications and not receiving any help or support I had a full blown manic episode which lasted about a year. Because my episode caused me to become so severely ill I had to receive medical help again and have continued it ever since. In a later post, I will share what my full blown mania was like.
4. Depression – I realized the true magnitude of the loss of myself and loss of my life the way it once was. Everything changed for me. My old life was permanently gone with bits and pieces still hanging on but not many. I had no more control in my life. People were telling me how to live and who I had become. One doctor told me I would never be the same again but they could get me to live a functional life. What? That sounded like a death sentence to me, and it was like a death sentence for many years, as I tried to end my life many times. My life was put into a survival mode with doctors and professionals basically just trying to save me. I was not living, but I was trying to find a new way to survive for years. I thought: I am sick. My mental pain is horrific. They give me medication that gives me severe side effects and adverse reactions that I do not like and that change my personality. I have no friends, and I am so lonely. No one likes me or even wants to be around me. I am worthless. The old me is gone and died. I cannot function, move or even get out of bed. I can’t live like this anymore. My life is over. No one will even care if I am gone. I am all ready dead. I want to die.
5. Acceptance – Acceptance is the last stage of grief and the most vital and important step on the road to recovery of my bipolar disorder. The acceptance of my illness and my new life was a slow and gradual process. Things slowly started to improve and look better over time. Acceptance does not necessarily mean instant happiness, but I saw glimpses of hope and of what happiness was again. I accepted that things will never be exactly the same again. I gradually started to adjust to my diagnosis, and my changed life. My depression began to decrease in spurts but would come back periodically and ferociously at times. I began to figure out how to live with my symptoms and start living my life again. My mind started to work better, and I began to feel more normal and a part of life again. I soon began the important process and one of the most essential parts of my new life of redefining who I was.
I had to find my new identity and learn to like myself again and eventually love parts of the new me. I found a way to work part-time again in a field that suits me well by helping others in the home health field and I started going back to church. I started getting out of the house more and around other people.
I do have bipolar disorder. I do have a mental illness, and that is OK. I have a new identity and that is OK. I am still a great person. I believe God saved my life and I became born again.
My greatest blessing is that I have always been and am still a good mom. My children were always my life support and still are. I love my three beautiful, amazing and wonderful children beyond words. I am so blessed to be able to be their Mommy. Thank you, God.
Sometimes I still grieve parts of the “old” me and think about what my life could have been. I try to block those moments of memories of my past out of my head, as the past is the past, and I try very hard not to live there. I try to live in this very minute and moment one day at a time.
I never thought I would have a mental illness, but I do and I must strive to make the best of my illness and always strive to be the best person I can be and become. It is a never-ending battle of struggles, growth and discovery and acceptance of the new me every day.
I have found joy in the experience of living.
“Don’t wait. Make memories. Celebrate your life.” — unknown
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.
Follow this journey on Loud Bipolar Whispers.
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Thinkstock photo by Ramana Venkat