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Stop Saying Bipolar Recovery Is Dependent on 'Just One Thing'

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Recovery wasn’t easy for me. It wasn’t a straight line climbing higher away from the chaos. There was a lot of falling back down again and reaching to pull myself up to where I could even begin to start over. I had always wondered when, if ever, I would feel like I overcame bipolar disorder.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I’d begged God to take it away — to make it all stop. I cried and yelled and fought my way through 10 years of the madness. I tried too many medications to count. I went through four psychiatrists and three counselors. I burned bridges with friends, made enemies, lost my first job and humiliated myself many times over. I spent too much money, fought with my husband and lashed out at my parents. I battled a relentless hell in my mind that only those who have been there can understand. I struggled over and over and over again.

But, I am here to tell you I made it — not in the sense I merely survived (for there were many times where that was just the case), but in the context of where I succeeded.

I know the internet and people on it are jumping at the chance to tell you the one thing that worked. They are quick to say “When I made this one change, my illness was gone.” But, again, I am here to tell you that just isn’t true. Making one life change may alleviate some people’s struggles, or it may make them much easier to manage. But, for the rest of us, there isn’t a cure-all. And, believe me, I’ve tried to find that cure. I tried every avenue.

I can tell you it wasn’t just one thing that got me through. It wasn’t just deep breathing or doing yoga. It wasn’t just taking medications, seeing doctors or regulating my routine. It wasn’t just giving up alcohol and late nights, making sure I got enough sleep or practicing self-care. It wasn’t just praying, family support, counseling and cognitive behavioral therapy. There wasn’t a miracle cure. There wasn’t a single strategy that worked by itself — until I combined them all.

Giving advice about there being one way to be happy and stable again is a toxic and dangerous idea. Sometimes we cannot even do the one thing that someone declares is the way — either from physical limitations, past experiences or triggers. And, because someone suggested the only cure is to do that one thing we cannot do, that creates a sense of hopelessness.

I am here to tell you there is not merely one way. While there are some things I did in my recovery that made more of an impact than others, I still needed them all in some way or another. It takes a village.

Despite all my doubts, I have recovered and I can say that with confidence. This does not mean I do not have episodes. It does not mean there are no more hard days. It does not mean I regulate my life perfectly and have found that exact balance. It simply means I have made it to a place where I can see where I am at when I’m struggling and I know how to get out of it. I know which tools I need this time to pull through. I know how to draw on my resources to see the other side. And yes, there is another side. There is more stability, there is calm and there is happiness. Although, I will tell you these are not endless, but that is no different from anyone else who is happy and stable.

There isn’t a way for me to tell you the one thing that cured me. I want to say it was only medications or it was only therapy; it was only yoga or it was only sleeping. It would be nice if there was just that one thing that could pull you through to the other side. But, if we’re really being practical, wouldn’t more of us have pulled through? Don’t you think if it was that simple, more of us would have done it already?

It is not that simple, that easy or that defined. There are bumps, bruises and trials and errors. There are successes, failures and battles. You must find your own way. It is far from easy, but I pray you find hope in the idea that even if you cannot implement that one thing, there is still a way. I can’t tell you what it is, because I don’t have a clear-cut answer. I simply know it will take more than one tool to climb that mountain. It will take more than just an ice pick, a rope or hiking boots. It will take more than just bungee cords, water or power bars. And it will take more than just a traveling buddy or a pep talk.

But, please believe if you combine these things, the climb is possible. You can make it. Life can come back to you and you can find relief and happiness. Recovery is possible. I promise you. I am living proof it is true.

Unsplash image by Fineas Gavre

Originally published: February 12, 2020
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