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Bipolar Disorder Recovery - Don’t Forget Grief

Amy Gamble

Life was moving along pretty well for me—that is until bipolar disorder found its way to my door.  From that point on things started to get very difficult.  At first I was hit with severe manic episodes only to fall down so low I found myself knocked down with severe bipolar depression.   For quite a few years of untreated or undertreated bipolar disorder I would cycle from one mood extreme to the other.

Finally after suffering with many losses both personally and professionally, I began to make progress with my treatment.  I made several trips to the doctor and therapist and eventually I found myself with relatively stable moods.  Then I began to ask myself the question, “What’s next for me?”  Because my life was so interrupted with this often debilitating illness I really wasn’t sure what I was capable of doing and what I was not.

I started on my long recovery journey more than four years ago.  Although I have had a couple of major setbacks I have stayed the course and fought very hard for what I consider a full recovery.  I am not in the position to work full-time because of the limitations this illness has thrown upon me, but I can work part-time and I feel like this is a major accomplishment.

It took me a long time to be able to uncover the obstacles that were keeping me from a healthy, happy and productive life.  There were so many negative things in my head it took a long time to identify what was stopping me from furthering my recovery.

At first glance it seemed that I had done everything possibly I could do to move along the recovery continuum.  I was taking my medication as prescribed and working with my doctor to eliminate my symptoms.  I was religiously attending therapy and that was helping me with some of my confidence issues.  And I was attending a peer support group where I felt understood by others who had truly walked a mile in my shoes.

So, what was missing?  Why did I continue to feel this gnawing pain in the pit of my stomach?  This emotional mystery kept haunting me on a daily basis.  I would find myself going back into the past and wishing for a time “before the illness” when life seemed so much more appealing.  Yet logically I knew that it was not a healthy thought process to follow.  I so much wanted to stay in the present, but I seemingly could not help myself.

Then, I found information about grieving the losses from a mental illness.  Finally it was a solution and an answer to what I had been experiencing.  In a nutshell I was grieving and I didn’t realize it.  It wasn’t that I was not accepting I had an illness, but it was that bipolar disorder had caused such tremendous losses in my life I had not had a chance to grieve those losses. 

It seemed that once I acknowledged that grief was very real, I began to heal.  I think sometimes unless you really realize why various emotions keep coming up it’s tough to get a handle on them.  I realized that even though I was grieving I was still moving forward with my recovery.  

In fact, grieving is a very natural part of the recovery process.  No one can tell you how long it should or should not take to heal.  In fact, some things may take a life time to heal from and that’s just okay.  What I learned is you just can’t forget grief, if you do it will find you anyway.

 

It’s difficult to cope with something when you don’t have a name for it.  I found such solace in knowing it was perfectly normal to grieve my losses.  Ever since I was able to focus on that grief, wishing for the past has become more of a memory.  I am now able to spend most of my time in the present moment and feel hopeful about my future.  

Comments

I suffer with this brutally cruel disorder and I am in a state that could care less. I have been taken off all my meds and I am now on that up and down rollercoaster ride. at the moment my depression has consumed me.

Sherry,
I am so sorry you are having to struggle. I will say a prayer for you that your journey will become easier.
Regards,
Amy

Thank you for expressing tsp clearly the exact process I was feeling and now the conclusion I have just arrived at - I have not had time to grief losing my pat life, even though it wasn't as great as I might I thought. I was been diagnosed at last year at 46 years old. I've had a lifetime of surviving my way, and now being told that I need to learn new coping skills to survive has been a challenge. I'm coming out of a manic episode, for the first time the highs I used to look forward too are no longer there to give me the confidence to cope with life.
I've decided to leave my fulltime job before they sack me. Going before being pushed I suppose. I'm literally leaving my old life behind and starting a new in a new country, doing a new thing, where I'll have space to reflect and me.

Thank you again, very encouraging to meet a fellow traveller.

Eva,
Thank you so much for sharing a bit about your journey. I wish you well in your new start in a new country. All the best,
Amy

Have been dealing with this over the past week or so. I've been saddened by the things I lost due to my illness. A big one was my career in medicine. I passed my 1st set of board exams and had to quit. I don't work, but I do volunteer a lot. I knew I felt grief, but didn't put that together with the idea that it is like any other type of grief and has all its stages and processes. Thanks for putting a name on this.

I found your blog informative it made me think about the grief that I struggle with daily about the losses in my life grom this illness and it continues to bring me down and stay in a depressed state. I am match in the mood stabilizers keep me from a mania but they can't seem to bring me out of this depression unmotivated funk and I think it has a lot to do the grief and would've lost so thanks for your take on it…

Thanks for sharing your experience. I can relate to your circumstances and I realize that I'm in grieving pattern. I guess my struggle is how does one get past the grieving? It seems like the only way is acceptance and I don't and won't accept that this is the best my life can be.

I fight with a shame idenity issue. Not of having a bipolar type 2 disorder, but of being on disability and being stuck in the public system. I'm ashamed of it. I continue to fight and I can't find a way out. I'm not disappointed in myself, I'm frustrated and angry which I try to turn into s motivator. It takes it's toll on me though. It's tge illness winning.

I have achieved stability after 13 years and am now processing intense grief. It was just as you described, thinking about the way my life would have turned out without the visitation of this difficult illness. Thank you for sharing your story. You are very brave and inspiring.

I feel the same way. I aleays wonder what my life would have been like without this shit illness. I have two masters degrees and a low paying job. My family does not have any bipolar people. I feel like I hit reverse lotto.

This helped me so much. Thank you for pushing through and taking the time to share.

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