Monday, June 30, 2008

Wanting Wellness

As far as I am concerned, the most critical component of achieving wellness is wanting it. But wanting something to me means that I will do anything possible to achieve it. And what that means is that I have been willing to change my lifestyle and certain behavioral patterns.

When I talk with people who remain sick and are making no progress, I always feel like asking, "What are you doing besides taking medication?" What behavioral patterns have you changed? Have you figured out what triggers your depressions? What steps have you taken to change the way you respond to those triggers?

Are you exercising on a daily/weekly basis? What about diet and nutrition? What do you do for stress reduction and relaxation? What hobbies are you pursuing? Are you talking with a counselor?

Do you know what your life's mission is? What steps are you taking in that direction? If you don't know, what are you doing to find out?

Wellness doesn't occur in a vacuum. Whether you believe that bipolarity and/or clinical depression is a biochemical condition--or not--the only way to achieve wellness is to be willing to ask the difficult questions, and live a life that matters.


Danielle said...

Well stated Susan.

Chica. said...

I agree with what you're saying, but I do also want to mention that all that is a process. You may be at A but can't get to B and you're far away from C. To get to the place you speak of, you have to be willing to do the work of trying to get from A to C, but it may take years of work to get there. Patience is what is most needed in this process and that's the hardest to achieve.

Gianna said...

wonderful post!
Sometimes it seems to me people glorify in their label and become attached to them in a very unhealthy way. I can't even read those blogs. I find them painful.

There is so much within our control. There are so many steps and processes we can choose to move towards wellness.

That doesn't mean we always feel like we can get better in a palpable way in any given moment, but taking a stance and being willing to do and try many many things is so important.

I have a friend who has recovered 100% from extreme mental illness through a rigorous meditation practice...she likes to ask, "have you really tried everything?" She has been completely stable for over 10 years.

Most people have tried next to nothing but medication. There is hope for a better, much improved life and for many of us---I like to think most of us, if we search it out we can do it without the neurotoxins they give us called medication.

Mary said...

Susan: How very true, my therapist always asks me many of these questions, and I do try my hardest to do some of them whether its walking the dogs, or keeping myself busy. At times I find it so hard to do, and therefore can't do any of them. But writing on my blog is good therapy for me, and hopefully will help with the pain, and help me through this rough time..thanks..Mary

Bradley said...

When I first read the post I thought "Ouch, that's harsh", but then I gave it more thought. I'm one of those that believes that major depression is a biochemical disease but as a recovering alcoholic I believe that alcoholism is as well.

While alcoholism is a disease, IMO, that doesn't mean that a drunk can't take certain "steps" to help their recovery. I now see depression as very similar. Unfortunately with many of us, we have to hit rock bottom and choose whether to live or die before we decide to take action.

Jazz said...

Well said, Susan!
I have felt that frustration ("What are you doing besides taking medications?")when dealing with my brother, who has been on antidepressants on and off for most of his adult life. He complains about the depressions, but he is not willing to make lifestyle changes that might make a difference for him.

Mariposa said...

So so true! I get by because I wanted to and I believe in the of visualization and suggestion to be powerful! So I visualize nothing but myself living a normal life...because whatever we visualize we attract...

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Thanks Danielle!

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Chica,
That's true as well, and an important point!


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
Thanks for your insightful comment! I fully agree. I don't even read the negative blogs anymore. I've been as sick as anyone I know, but I was never a victim.

And it's not uplifting to read about people who complain constantly, but never actively do anything to achieve wellness.


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

And thank you Mary! It sounds like you've got a very good doctor, and that you're always trying. That's the most anyone can ask--is that we never give up trying!


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Bradley,
Thanks for your candor. I don't know anything about addiction, but I appreciate your input. And I do see similarities in the way you describe it.


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

It's always difficult with a family member who won't help himself! Too bad he doesn't use you as a role model!


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

I, too, believe in visualization and positive thinking! Why did I know that you do too?


painkiller-sideeffects said...

Susan - thanks for having the courage to tell it like it is. Bradley's comment was right on the money in my opinion. Like recovery from alcohol, I have to want wellness and be "willing to go to any lengths to get it." Then it's all about action - part of that action may be to take medication, but not all of it. I have to take responsibility for my own wellness.

Meredith said...

One of my best friends is also bipolar and she refuses to change anything about her lifestyle, including heavy drinking. In fact, she's on medication that isn't working for her (in a bad, bad way) and she won't even tell her doc (she lies and says she's feeling great even though her mood swings are severe and dangerous) because she "doesn't want things to get worse" on a new one. Hello, what she's doing now isn't going to make her well either!

The only reason she's still in my life is because she was one of my few friends that stuck by me at the beginning after I was diagnosed. Otherwise, I couldn't bear to be close friends with someone who complains, complains, complains, whether up or down, and doesn't try to do anything about it. I have given her a lot of advice, and she's had me in her life as a positive role model, as an example of what an integrated treatment plan can look like, but I've had to accept that I can't heal her. She has to do it herself.

Annie said...

Susan, I also agree with you about the "can do" philosophy. It seems so clear to me now that I need to exercise, be with friends and take care in general. I also know that there was a time when I could only hold on to my chair and let the grieving part of depression pass. I think some people don't even know what it is like to take care of the self. I hope that many of them read your ideas so they "can do". Thank you for the way you spell out the things that people can do! Annie

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Painkiller-sideeffects,
Welcome to my blog. Yes, I believe that the only way to achieve wellness is through "doing" not "talking."

Personally, I'm getting so tired about reading about people who endlessly repeat the same patterns--and have developed no insight--that I felt compelled to write this.


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Isn't it amazing when you're sure a great role model that someone sees you "conquer" this illness, and yet continues to live with life without making a single change?

I've got people like that in my life, and it's exhausting and exhausting, and yet they're clueless.


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Annie,
You're welcome. Of course, I know from reading your blog that you lost a partner of many years, and I have tremendous empathy for you. The fact that even grief hasn't stopped you from moving forward should be inspiring to many as well!


marja said...

I believe wholeheartedly in what you said here Susan. They are things I try to help other see as well. But how do you tell someone who you're supporting that she needs to work harder at improving her life? How do you tell her that without coming across as judgmental? And how do you know whether she's simply not able to work harder at it than she is? How do you keep encouraging a person to do better? How much should I stand by her and how much should I back off?

I'm not one to turn my back on a person who is suffering and needs support.

I've spent hours with this person in the ER. And I feel one day we're going to lose her altogether.

KJ said...

This was a great post and relevant for anyone who needs to work at helping themselves in any realm of their life. Thank you for this.

Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
Thank you. I appreciate it!


kara said...

Hi Susan.

I just recently stumbled across your blog and am glad for the good find. In wanting wellness, I agree but I also am learning that patience must be mixed in with that want, that desire. It seems it takes a bit for wellness and health to line up. I'm in the process of waiting now! I begin ECT Monday.

Nice piece of writing. Thanks.


Bipolar Wellness Writer said...

Dear Kara,
Welcome to my blog. I agree about patience. I worked hard, but waited a long time to finally get well. Good luck on Monday!


Gary said...


I agree. Most people don't consider happiness a valid goal. Some think its naive or selfish.

As a person with bipolar, I have often been consumed by the disease. Now I am healthy enough to want wellness.


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gary,
Welcome to my blog. Yes, I believe that once a person reaches a certain level of health, he/she can seek wellness. When you're so sick, it's difficult enough just to survive.