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Why Knowing Wellness Makes Relapses All the More Painful

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So much has changed in my life the last three years. I’ve gone from honestly not wanting to live to fighting harder than ever to stay alive and live a good life. For years, all I knew was illness. Sometimes, I look back and see so many episodes of depression and hypomania I should have been hospitalized for but wasn’t. I can’t remember a time when I was completely well.

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Yet, three years ago, I realized getting well was life or death, and I was on the edge. Three days in bed left me a choice to make between the bed and the bathroom where I would find a way to die. Instead, I reached out to a suicide hotline that gave me hope to hold on. From there, I found a support group in the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance and started to recover.

Recovery isn’t easy though. There’s a new dynamic of my illness I didn’t realize before I started to recover. I finally knew what wellness felt like, which made the relapses all the more painful. In some weird way, it was better to be ignorant. I didn’t know any better then, and the mood changes were just more of the same.

Today, I reach for stability and a wellness, and I lose my grip often. It’s just the nature of the disease. I tell myself I can deal with this gracefully and get through the hard times without the panic that comes from saying, “Here we go again.” Yet, most of the time I can’t seem to accomplish that. Each time is harder because I remember wellness is a possibility I am falling short of.

It’s a delicate time. A time where resilience is so important. There’s this image of me in my mind. One that looks prepared and skilled in the face of episodes. One that heads off depression and hypomania at the pass. Who knows just what to do. Someday, I hope to be that person.

In one way, I’m wishing I won’t feel the pain if I become this person. Yet, life will still be painful. Depression and hypomania will still disrupt my life. It’s so hard to accept, but somehow I have to find a way.

People with mental illness are the most resilient people I know. We face setback after setback in our lives and continue to strive for a better life. We accept our lives will never be perfect, but look for hope in making them a little easier. We are faced with a terrible disease, one that between the stigma and the symptoms, seems insurmountable sometimes. Yet, we find each other and help each other through.

The seemingly endless cycle is hard. Really hard. Yet, our resilience is endless too. One good thing that has come from my diagnosis and all the hardships I’ve had is that inside of me, if I look deep enough, there is someone who will hold on. There is someone with the strength to get through anything. Someone with a stubborn desire to be that person I imagine, living with this disease with grace and skill. I know I will never give up on her.

Sometimes, I wonder if I’m already her.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. You can reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: October 20, 2016
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