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How This New Direction Is Helping My Bipolar Disorder Recovery Journey

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I’ve been living with bipolar disorder for 20 years. It’s a path along life’s journey that has taken me through rugged patches of terrain to the smoothest of seas. It’s landed me in deep valleys and catapulted me to mountaintops. “This land is my land,” and my exploration has brought me both extreme sadness and overwhelming joy. Ironically, the only constant of this curvy and unpredictable trajectory is “change.” My diagnosis was like being handed a GPS. It gave me a necessary direction, a new language, a toolkit and a guidebook. Like a fresh clump of clay, I massage these external resources to keep shape with my inner self. Remember, we are all masterpieces!

• What is Bipolar disorder?

I’ve found that discovering ways to cope along the way is paramount. It is also ever-changing, just like me. Writing has always been my catharsis, a coping mechanism that is powerful. I subscribe to transparency and reach out to others. This allows me to gain momentum and feel purposeful. But make no mistake: When I am in the throes of a depressive state, these functioning tools lay dormant and I shift into “hibernate” mode. I stay under the radar (and the covers) and the only path you’ll find me near is “off the beaten path.” Over time, I’ve learned to give myself permission to rest, refuel and heal during this challenging time. I trust in the process that is painful at times, a relief at other times. Arriving at this point of self-acceptance and self-love has allowed me to get healthy and transformed the guilt and shame into reflection and renewal.

I tend to obsess over the idea that I am not doing enough to veer off the bipolar path. The self-deprecating blame, doubt and feeling of defeat are the voices of depression. The distortion is the face of depression. It’s when my own voice bellows louder than my mental illness that I no longer allow it to define me. We are defined by our courage and our character. Compliant with my treatment, resourceful and resilient between episodes of highs and lows, I have learned to accept the ebb and flow of my personal journey. I’ve recently been pondering life as a series of journeys, each built upon the foundation of another. Imagine hoisting a child on your shoulders to watch a parade so they can experience a vantage point.

And the journey begins … again. As I surface from my previous valley, I’ve climbed to where I hope to remain: a plateau that spreads out across the landscape and paints a hopeful and healthy picture. I embrace wellness like a group hug engaging all of those who helped me get here. I can see clearly now the rain has gone. “It is all a part of the journey.” So often these words flow effortlessly from my lips. I’ve heard that shared sentiment from others countless times. It is as much a philosophy as a state of mind. A prescription for mental wellness. My current reflection and my introspective current have steered me in a new direction. A necessary adjustment that feels partially organic and partially contrived.

I welcomed in the start of a new decade like a child waiting to open an unwrapped gift. Enthusiastic about tearing off the gift wrap and ribbons with equal excitement for what’s inside. Hoping that beneath the tissue paper and bubble wrap is a surprise that’s totally unexpected but wildly needed. Gifts of empowerment, education, compassion for one another, gratitude, peace and daily acts of kindness. And, of course, a compass to direct us on our many journeys. Hindsight and the year is 2020. I don’t know about you but I become fixated on the opportunity to begin with a clean slate, resolute about self-improvement and the chance to mend whatever it is I consider broken or needing repair. I felt like at the stroke of midnight as the ball dropped in Times Square, the proverbial ball dropped in my court. It was up to me to make a move of seismic proportions. That’s an awful lot of pressure on any one person’s psyche. Especially my fragile one.

As my regularly scheduled line-up of television shows are interrupted with the news of recent catastrophic events, I’m overcome with grief. Overwhelmed with other happenings that impact communities, our country and across the globe, my heart is heavy. I glance at the headlines on the front page of our newspaper that awaits us outside our door every morning and catch the commentary in-between my favorite tunes on my playlist. My heart is heavy. The fragility of life washes over me and my tear-stained cheeks. My sensitive brain needs protection from these realities. I work hard to compartmentalize my emotional reaction and understand its humane existence.

I ponder, I journal, I write and I express my worries and fears. Although it doesn’t erase anguish nor turn back the hands of time, it does release the emotions bottled-up in the pit of my gut which allows me to move forward just enough to reflect and reexamine. To be moved to action. To find the necessary balance and seek joy where it exists. I remind myself to inhale deeply and exhale with purpose. I ask myself what kind of journey I wish to travel upon at this moment in time. What kind of journey do you wish to travel upon? Although “we cannot direct the wind, we can adjust the sails,” Dolly Parton so profoundly states. And so, the journey begins … again. I am ready to adjust my sails! While I constantly cherish and celebrate my family, I relish in the idea that we each have the strength and courage to create a new roadmap along the way, on this journey we affectionately call life. If you’re so inclined, begin your journey … again and again. Possibly our paths will cross. In any case, remember you are never navigating alone!

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash

Originally published: February 19, 2020
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