Bipolar Disorder Recovery – Don’t Forget Grief

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.  

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