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Recovery- Is that word allowed?

Bipolar and Recovery. Two words that don’t normally go together in many circles. But, new research has determined that “recovery” is attainable for those with Bipolar and possibly other mental illnesses.

What does it take? Is there a magic pill? Why haven’t we heard of this before?

It’s hard work, dedication, and mental and physical health management.

Forget that. It’s too tough. Too much work. I’m not going to do it. That’s what most people would say. Good grief, it’s a pain in the neck just remembering all the pills we have to take, and now they’re asking us to do more?

Okay, let’s see what kinds of things we do have to do, and see if they are truly unattainable, or if we can try them and see where it takes us. Maybe to a road called “recovery”?

Who knows.

In the article, What Recovery From Bipolar Disorder and Depression Means to Us, there is speculation that personal responsibility, education, advocacy, and peer support are all part of the recovery process.

Incurable is a word that has been bantered about for as long as mental illness has been studied. We’ve been told that we will have to take medication for the rest of our lives and to “deal with it”, when it comes to the highs/lows/symptoms of our illness. 

The first thing we must learn about our mental illness is that WE ARE IN CHARGE. We do not have to give up our hopes, dreams, or goals just because we have a mental illness such as Bipolar Disorder. There are successful people who also have Bipolar Disorder. Just look at the number of celebrities who are “coming out” of the Mental Illness Closet.

Can we get support from Health Care Professionals? Apparently so.

“Recently Mary Ellen Copeland spent a full day visiting with health care professionals of all kinds at a major regional mental health center. It was exciting to hear over and over the word "recovery". They were talking about educating the people they work with, about providing temporary assistance and support for as long as is necessary during the hard times, about working with people to take responsibility for their own wellness, exploring with them the many options available to address their symptoms and issues and then sending them on their way, back to their loved ones and into the community” (What Recovery From Bipolar Disorder and Depression Means to Us - Written by Shery Mead, MSW and Mary Ellen Copeland, MS, MA).

Another word that health care professionals bantered about was “normalize”. What is Normal for normal people and Normal for those with mental illness? Is there a difference? Not entirely, according to various health care professionals that Mary Ellen Copeland spoke to when she visited a major regional mental health center.

These health care professionals want to help those of us with Bipolar Disorder understand the stressors and other physical causes in our life that may become unbearable to us, and find ways to reduce theses stressors and causes with medication.

Ah Ha! Here comes the first part of the hard work I was talking about earlier. What can we do, besides taking medication, to help relieve our symptoms?

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
2. Reach out for Support
3. Being in a Supportive Environment
4. Peer Counseling
5. Stress Reduction / Relaxation Techniques
6. Exercise
7. Creative and Fun Activities
8. Journaling
9. Dietary Changes
10. Exposure to Light
11. Learning and Using Systems to change negative thoughts to positive thoughts
12. Increasing or Decreasing Environmental Stimulation
13. Daily Planning
14. Developing and using a symptom and identification response system

Gee, these don’t look too hard. I can help you with some of them. Number 14, developing and using a symptom and identification response system. Well, if you want to go high-tech, you can use your smart phone and download any number of applications that can track this information for you. For example, Stress Tracker, MoodKit, DepressionCheck, and Gratitude to name a few.

Number 4, Peer Counseling, that’s easy. Find your local DBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance) group meeting. I go to mine on a weekly basis.

Some of them are pretty self-explanatory.

Something else that has helped me is creating my Wellness Recovery Action Plan. (WRAP) You can find out more about it at Mental Health Recovery.

What it does is help you determine and identify what you do every day to maintain wellness and identify triggers for that may cause or create symptoms and then an action plan for what to do if that happens. It lets you identify who you want in your “circle of trust” and what medications you want and do not want to take. It also let’s you indicate which facilities you want to use and do not want to use.

I have to tell you, this is a wonderful piece of documentation when you’ve completed it and an awesome information packet to give to your health and wellness recovery team. I’ve given one to my primary care physician, my psychiatrist, my therapist, my husband, and other people I’ve deemed important enough in my life to be there for me when I’m in crisis.

As for you, if you follow these suggestions, and live your life with a goal of recovery, you can help change the attitudes of those around us that see us as victims or as patients who must be punished for our actions, rather than taught how to manage our symptoms and lead rich and fulfilling lives.

I think it’s worth it. And I’m following all of these tips as I live my life in recovery of Bipolar Disorder.

Life is all about balance, check out My Balanced Life.

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