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Rebuilding After an Episode

At the start of the year I returned to work after 6 months off due to a depressive episode, and as always, it was hard. 

This was the third time I’ve had to pick myself up after lengthy hospital stays for either depression or mania. While you’re in hospital everything stops. It’s like someone has pressed the pause button before re-winding all that you’ve worked hard for, and you find yourself back at the start. Obviously work and study stops but also friendships, relationships, side projects, hobbies and fitness. When unwell, most of these things stop for me prior to hospitalisation but I see hospital as the symbol of having to put my life on hold. I acknowledge that hospital is sometimes necessary to keep me safe, but times when I have been a psychiatric patient weren’t exactly fun. 

After these hospitalisations it takes weeks and months to build back up to my previous full functioning capacity. Every time I pick myself up it gets harder and I get more tired. I guess this is because I’ve been hospitalised a few times for long periods in a short time frame. 

The first time I was optimistic when I was discharged from hospital. I was certain that would be the only time I would be so unwell and that I could easily manage this. The second time I wasn’t so optimistic and the third, well I just felt deflated - deflated and a little resentful of people who have been continuing their lives while I stood still. 

I am so jealous of my friends who have progressed while I feel like I’ve gone backwards. Now that I am out of my mood episode and focusing on re-building my life, jealously, deflation, grief and un-fairness are dominating emotions. I hate feeling this way. I hate that I especially feel jealous of my friends who are travelling, excelling in their careers or studies, getting married, and building houses because I am so happy for them but at the same time I feel sad for me. At the moment maintaining work three days a week is one of my biggest achievements. Something that was once simple and easy has become hard and a threat to my stability. 

I’m a nurse in an emergency department and it has been my aspiration since starting nursing to specialise in this area. Since my diagnosis this dream has been on rocky ground and now I’ve come to the conclusion that it is probably something I can’t do. Shift work makes me unwell. The late hours, early starts and night shifts are either impossible to do when depressed or fuel my mania during times of elevation. I have only just started to acknowledge this and I am grieving for the future I had planned. 

While I still work in the emergency department as a casual employee, I see my friends who have finished studying their post graduate degree or are currently completing it and I can’t help but feel a pang of jealously and sadness. This is the hardest thing I have found returning to work this time - not having to explain why I’ve been away, familiarise myself with new changes, and the general anxiety of starting back, but having to face the reality and grief that the career I wanted was not meant to be. 

All of this aside I do feel proud for returning to work. I don’t think anyone would know how hard it is unless you’ve done it before. In reality all you can do is put your head down and try to get on with it. And most importantly be kind to yourself. Treat yourself with respect and acknowledge the difficulties you’ve overcome to get back up again. I take pride in all that I have accomplished (even if a few years ago I thought I would have achieved a lot more by now). 

And after fire comes rebirth. Sometimes events like a severe mood episode can make you sit back and re-evaluate your life. Having time away from work or study can make you see things in a new light and changes for the better can be made. 

My life has done a complete 180-degree flip and with it a new passion has been born, a passion for mental health promotion. Previously I had no interest in mental health but it took me having bipolar to understand those who have a mental illness, and now I want to help people who are like me. This is an exciting time as I have a few coals in the fire and am thinking about a career change. So while I am wallowing in the natural post-episode-wake, there are positive things happening too. I’m not just picking my life up again, but I am completely changing it. 

It is hard to rebuild after being unwell and I would hate for people to feel embarrassed or downhearted when recovering from an episode (like I have in the past) because there is nothing to be ashamed of. You should feel proud because most people haven’t had to deal with extreme moods.  And, like me, if you’ve been forced to make changes to your life, things do have a way of working out. When one door closes another opens, and you might just find yourself walking through that door into a better world.


your entry sounds so familiar to me so much so that it feels like I could have written it

I understand only too well. I'm on the road to recovery and back to work. Experience helps me. It's hard not to be jealous. Be strong all of you xx

Your entry relate very much to me. I am recovering from a manic episode. My last hosputalisation being in 2013, I am now struggling to survive with my first child. Sometimes I feel it was better when I was single. I was free to attend support groups. Now with my husband and children, I have to put my family first. With very little support from the mental health side, I have to seek help from "normal people". Things that normal people treat as simple seem like heavy chores for me.

I wish you well. And hope for the best for us.

Have u tried taking it husband and child to the group's with u?

Thanks for writing this.
Well put.

This post is a timely blessing. I am also recovering like you. I hope things get better for us.

It's very comforting reading all of these articles. It's hard to explain all symptoms when you live with bipolar but life would be easier without it and I would have more time, rather than being drained and ruminating, over bad happenings, working out how things will or will not conclude. My family are ignoring me because I've questioned my twin's secret wedding along with my sister who was close before this. This ruminating has been going on since I was told in December and I questioned them on facebook and my other sister is now calling me for all. They were married around the corner. We were all friends before this. They went to Thailand for 3 weeks and having a party on Saturday which I won't be attending. Being excluded and ignored is eating away at me and I can't forgive them. They think I'm in the wrong.

Thank you for sharing, only you know what my sister is going through and I feel your blog helps family members understand bipolar episodes and how hard is to recover.

I also have had lengthy hospital stays and returns to my job or new jobs and know the stress that comes with both. I was someone who was drug resistant and my Dr recommended ECT and it did put and end to my depression and has put it in remission for close to 3 years. So I wanted to add my comment just to say if anyone here has a doctor with ECT as a recommendation when meds are not working, it is painless and I had no memory loss.

Thanks Cindy! I agree with you about ECT. I had a course for that episode of depression and it worked like nothing had ever done before..I was better after 2 weeks! I still have maintenance one-off doses if I feel myself becoming elevated or slipping into a depression. I have some memory loss but I'll take that side effect over becoming severely unwell any day. I would highly recommend people to have an open mind about it if it could potentially help them, it's not as daunting as it seems!

I am a firm believer of the saying that "things happen for a reason". Sometimes when we are in the midst of difficult times it is hard to see why things happen to us and to not feel that they are unfair, particularly when it comes to mental ill health. I am now working in the mental health field as a Peer Practitioner/ Peer Support Worker and am passionate about mental health advocacy and awareness. Had I not experienced some of the challenges I have faced when I was unwell, I would not be working in the job that I am currently in and in a career that I am so passionate about. Every time I have a readmission to hospital or an episode of being unwell and need to take time off work, I feel as though I am going backwards. It is incredibly hard returning to work and resuming normal work duties after a period of being unwell. I feel I have to relearn many of the work skills and information that was previously second nature to me but seems to now have gone MIA or went AWOL. The challenge upon returning to work is in being patient with myself; reminding myself that things will get better and knowing that I will be able to do the same things I was previously doing on the job in good time.

I am definitely with you on how information that you used to know well seems to have disappeared. I have had two major episodes where I have been away from work for months at a time. The first time, I was able to come back and get in the full swing of things even though some of the information had been lost, but coming back this second time, I have a hard time remembering what are supposed to be the most basic things related to my job. It is very embarrassing to work with people and tell them you are 2.5 years into your job, but you still struggle with basic information. I am still trusting in God through these times when it is easy to think that these things are unfair. I hope that I can come through these challenges and be able to help other people who struggle with mental illness. I am also reading this book called ultramind solution to help me with diet changes that I can make. I thank you all for sharing your stories.

Also look up. Bi-polar diet.

Thank you so much for sharing. I'm new to this site (but not new to being bp). Everytime I read of someones experiences I get something out of it. Through careful "manipulation" of what I tell my therapists and pshyc, I've been able to avoid any hospitalization. During my initial diagnosis almost 7 years ago I should have been hospitalized for my own safety, but luckily with the medical anscmy wife's support I was able to make it through. This past December, my psych said I should take a medical leave when I fealt I was slipping away, but by the time I could get all the ducks in a row, the crisis had subsided.
Frankly, I feel those that are willing to see and accept the need for hospitalization are very brave and I give them many kudos for doing so.

I can def relate to this post. I was diagnosed with BP in 2009 and just got out of the hospital 3 days ago. Im on a temporary leave from work and now have to get my life back together. Luckily I seem to be bouncing back quick but its definately a challenge . Im happy I found this site and can hear others tell their stories.

I have been with my husband for close to 8 years and married for close to 7 years. He always withheld his bipolar disorder up until 5 days ago when he was starting to have a manic episode. His family never disclosed to me his condition either. They said he never wanted anyone to know and he said he was embarrassed. He now has been hospitalized for 4 days. Anyways my question since I am new to all this is: is it common to be in remission for that amount of time (he was diagnosed 9 years ago) without being on any medication? Had this episode not happened I would have never known he was bipolar. He has always been fine since we've been together. The best husband and father. In the near 8 years we've been together he has never been on medication. It just blows my mind that he wouldn't have an episode in 9 years not being on meds. Also any information about how I can help him once he is out of the hospital. We have 2 kids that I worry about. We have guns in the house which I am in process of getting out although it is causing anger and resentment toward me for doing so. I just don't know if when he gets home is it ok to try to resume normalcy so he is more comfortable or do I handle him with baby gloves? Can I talk about his condition to understand more or do I pretend nothing happened? He does for the most part know what's going on now but I just don't know how to handle the situation as a first time outsider. Please any information from anyone would help. Anyone who has been through this I'd really like input since I haven't been able to speak with his doctors about any of this. Thank you.

Sure, remission went for two years for my friend. Nutrition, sleep, balance, support of all kinds including 12 step and therapy, can keep the illness in remission. Stress, loss, poor nutrition, trauma, PTSD and so forth can bring it back. It is like diabetes, it can be managed for many, esp. if they get up one more time than they "fall" so to speak. It is an illness and deserves compassion and understanding with personal accountability mixed with accommodation...a delicate balance. This is one lay person's (not professional) perspective.

I'm happy there is site where i can read other BP people's experiences. I found out a little over a year ago at 20 that I'm bipolar. It has been a roller coaster since. I recently spent a month in a hospital to control my mania. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. The nurses and doctors treated me and other patients un fairly just cause we were psych patients and it was easy to dismiss us if we complained or tried to report the abusive behaviour. Anyways, because of the month i spent (court ordered) I missed my opportunity to graduate and I lost my job. It's been really hard functioning normally again. Although I have a supportive bf and family. The fact remains that they still cant quite understand how tiresome rebuilding your life can be. I've lost many friends and mentors along the way after they found out about my diagnosis. I'm wondering how any of you cope, especially professionally.

At the age of 56 I had my first BP episode - mania to point I couldn't speak. I HAD been consuming a ridiculous amount of cannabis(I grew it and work from home so I went "no limits" on the cannabis for about a week), and I was on a trial run of thyroid/SYnthroid AND I had a few really stressful and disappointing social and business experiences all in about 2 weeks. So....
I have trouble "believing" I am BP. Thoughts?

Substance induced mania/depression is not uncommon. Along with stress I would think it's probably very likely. I would suggest staying away from the weed and booze if you drink, try to be mostly healthy and see how thigs even out. Did you tell your dr? Also don't just suddenly stop any prescribed meds, talk to your dr about weaning yourself if you think your episode was substance induced.

A brave honest account. I'm in the emergency services top and it feels like my career has gone down the toilet. I'm still recovering from my hospitalisation period and am struggling

hi all, i dont know where to start with my bp situation, i had my manic episode on the street so people saw me acting weird and i am so ashamed now, in few days i am getting back to work in the same place where i acted stupid and i dont know how it going to be mostly i am going to be mocked and it stresses me a lot. i just got out from my manic episode a few days ago and i dont know how is it going to be next i feel depressed and i have suicidal thoughts sometimes but i keep telling myself its part of the desease and i should not be so anxious because its only in my head. now i see the world as a very dark and scary place most of the time and i dont know if i have what it takes already to go back to work. but as they say if you never try you never know , i am saying this while shaking

BP I'm sorry to read you comment, it's so easy to say don't be ashamed but you shouldn't be. You have an illness that is not your fault, you are wise to get medical support from a psychiatrist and psychologist, if you're having suicidal thoughts please contact your doctor, you will not always feel this way, you need support and time to rebuild. Best wishes

My son is having age of 15 years old,since 8 months he is suffering from this disease,am vr much worried..its his main future time and i have only one son...In this condition he become quiet and he dont want to do anything and sleeping mostly.Does anyone help me to recover this condition?

I'm so sorry to hear that your son suffers from bipolar. Please please make sure that he is getting proper help from professionals and friends. It's so important that he sees a psychiatrist and finds the right mix of medicines to keep him in balance. Talk therapy from a trusted psychologist is also essential. You can get help as well, as a bipolar caregiver. You can be his partner in this, reminding him that this is not his fault. I find that it helps to compare bipolar to other disease diagnosis. When you have a heart condition, you get help. When you have diabetes, you take medicine and see a doctor and sometimes have to go to the hospital. We must take the stigma away from this disease. It is not his fault and he deserves to be treated just like anyone else. I hope you both are getting the support you need.

There was me, reading through and thinking "Yeah but she's not a nurse is she? Try doing THAT job in the middle of an episode". And then - turns out you are too! Well well. I'm just descending from a wonderful hypomania to the highly irritable, argumentative, distractible stage and next stop will probably be the big crash. You expres my thoughts so well - I should have been so much further on in my career, speciality & life had I not developed this awful thing. It makes me so frustrated.

Hi Sally,

A loved one of mine had their first manic episode on March 8th. They are in hospital recovering now. You said in the post above that it took you weeks sometimes months to return to your normal level of functioning. Were your thoughts and behaviours still manic in the weeks following hospitalization? While more calm, my loved one is still having thoughts that aren't fully based in reality and is exhibiting some behaviour that is still hypomanic. I look forward to hearing from you, thank you

Sally I would be interested to know whether your loved one is now fully or near to fully recovered and how long it took.
I didn't know about my loved ones bipolar until he unravelled before my very eyes. Today is his 7th week in hospital. He came out last weekend for a couple of overnight stays but by the Sunday he was manic again and they have now revoked all his leave and visiting rights. I have not seen or spoken to him for a week now. I am beside myself and I have given up calling the hospital as it there is no change. I am just wondering how long this can take ?

My husband has gone through 4 hospitalizations in the 7 years we have been together. The first hospitalization lasted 2 months and was very rocky. The next, 4 weeks. The 3rd one, two weeks. He just went into the hospital yesterday for the 4th time. It is a very difficult experience to navigate. The best thing you can do is be patient. There is no rhyme or reason or rule to recovery. Every episode is different. In my experience, it seems to go two steps forward, one step back. What's most important is that your loved one wants to get well and respects the medical professionals. It's also important that you ask a lot of questions and take a lot of notes. It's hard and it's exhausting and you do want to give up, but think about it this way - if your loved one were suffering from cancer or something else - what would you do or say? Take the stigma off bipolar and remember that the disease is not your loved ones fault. Please do take time to take care of yourself while you try to care for your loved one and surround yourself with the support YOU need. Sometimes I say to friends/coworkers that my husband has a heart condition or a brain condition as a way to explain what's going on without revealing too much personal information. I think above all else - you have to set up your life and your mindset to accept uncertainty - uncertainty in terms of hospitalizations, lengths, recovery times and financial futures. Create as much stability, calm, acceptance as you can and you will be able to weather the storms. God bless.

I turn 37 tmrw and I've had several episodes since I was 20 but this last one around Christmas was more public and I'm still not recovered... Humiliated, Confused, Bad Memory, No Motivation, and I barely speak...
All I wanna do is lay down!! Any advice...

I've been diagnosed for a year with my first manic episode last Dec. I was hospitalized for 10 days because I was psychotic. I lost my job, my boyfriend and couldn't go back to school. After six months I finally was well enough and found another job. Now it's happened again and once again I've lost my boyfriend and possibly my job. If they don't approve my leave off work I'll be out a job again. I just feel so useless and lost. I'm only 19 and didn't even get to be a full adult and now I fear I'll always need someone to watch me like a child and take care of me because I can't commit to school and can barely work at a minimum wage job. This sucks so bad and the medications make me feel like crap so although I know they are helping me I have not a lot of hope that I'll ever be able to live a normal life where I can take care of myself.

I’m happy to read this article, because 9 times out of 10 I do feel alone. Between my husband and family they have clearly let me know that they are done because of the choices I have made. Are these really choices? I truly don’t mean to hurt anyone but myself. BiPolar is a selfish disease. In the last 10 months I have completely ruined everything around me! Financially and emotionally I have ruined my husband of 11 years. I’m disabled...I have no way of paying him back. I want to have hope of being able to rebuild. I just keep rereading your article praying it’s really possible to rebuild AGAIN! Thank You for sharing your experience it’s literally the only words telling me that maybe I didn’t CHOOSE to ruin the only person to ever love me!

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