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A Tenacious Spirit and Managing Bipolar Symptoms

By: Allison Clemmons

Tenacity is one’s strength of will or determination in continuing to do what one is doing. It is a word synonymous with stubbornness and patience. It is also a quality which those who struggle daily with serious mental disorders must seek to nurture in order to survive the continuous ups and downs and twists and turns we so often face. In that sense, it is also encompasses a willingness to let go of things that do not work for us in recovery, which can foster within us a resiliency and a confidence when faced when trying new therapy options in treatment plans, such as medication changes and embracing unfamiliar cognitive techniques to help us learn to manage symptoms or relapses.

Recently I have battled mixed episodes related to bipolar I, which seemed to have led to an exacerbation of PTSD symptoms and anxieties that I have had under control for a number of months. I had been doing so well that I had decided to attempt returning to work, and even in a field quite different from anything I had done in the past. Things went well for a few months until symptoms of mania and depression decided to emerge, and since my bipolar disorder had been in remission, and I had enjoyed relative stability for a welcome length of time, I kept trying to push through telling myself that I was just adjusting to my new job and schedule, as I was working twelve-hour days several days a week. As most of you already know, these symptoms are not things that left untreated will just disappear on their own usually, and subconsciously, of course, I knew that too, but still forged ahead thinking it would all be fine in short order. I mean, I was still taking my meds faithfully and keeping my appointments with my psychiatrist.  Looking back I think denial played a large role in not acknowledging that I was continuing to slip into a terrible, lengthy mixed episode, which eventually led to some psychosis and other complications. It wasn’t until I had to take a leave of absence from work that I really grasped the seriousness of what I was trying to will away, ignore, or “snap out of.”

Once I was open with my psychiatrist about all of the troubles I had been having, he made some major changes in my medication regime, ordered some labs, and promptly referred me to the therapist in his office to help me begin to once again get some of my irrational thinking and self-defeating behaviors in check. In the past couple of days, after weeks of the new treatments, have felt a little more like myself, and I am now hoping for the best, and that these couple of days will turn into more good days moving forward, and I can find full remission again soon. Even so, there seems to be an ebb and flow quality to it this time that you never know, but I realize that even maintaining stability again awaits me at some point, but there is never any guarantee how long it might last. Maybe I will have years of remission, or maybe a few months down the road I will start all over again.  All that matters is that I have what I need to get me through it. Tenacity.

It doesn’t matter how frustrated I get, I just take a step back, take a few deep breaths, remember that I have done this before and I remain open to trying new healthy recommendations of my providers and my support system. So, when you get frustrated because you feel you have been derailed in your attempts at recovering, just remember that the most important thing you can ever do is to not give up. Be tenacious, but take a break if you need it, lean on someone if you just need to talk or cry it out, but try to keep your eye on your ultimate goal as you take the baby steps necessary to progress. Don’t get too discouraged, regroup after a setback, be patient.  Be resilient, and remind yourself, you can do this.  No matter what you are facing, there is hope, and there is most likely the promise of better days to come. I have learned to see that even in my darkest moments sometimes. If you have to seek encouragement outside of yourself that is understandable, but you must do everything you have to do to maintain your tenacity, stay the course, and never, ever, give up.  

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