Thursday, August 7, 2008

Why I Am Well (Part 1)

After being very ill for a decade, and spending most of the time researching bipolar disorder, which incidentally never made me feel better because everything I learned was so downbeat and depressing, I'm now well most of the time. The obvious question is "Why?"

The answer isn't quite so obvious, but I'll give you my best guesses. The beginning of my turn around was in 2003 when I learned that most of the 25 medications that had been prescribed to me over a ten-year period had never been clinically tested for their efficacy.

On the one hand, I felt like I had been sucker-punched. On the other, I finally felt that I could ignore all of the research, and all of the "phooey" I had been fed for so many years.

While my doctors (five different psychiatrists who were all highly thought of in Los Angeles) and research had confirmed that bipolarity was a lifelong illness, I decided it wouldn't be for me. While every author of every book suggested I needed to focus on my illness to insure that I didn't exercise inappropriate behavior, or that I should meet with a therapist to discuss how my husband and son could deal with their "oh so ill spouse and mother," I decided this was hogwash.

For the next three years, I also decided to stop reading anything about bipolarity, to refrain from visiting bipolar sites online, and to cease researching this disorder. And it was the best decision of my life. I dumped five trash bags of files I had collected on various aspects of bipolarity, and shredded a ton of personal material related to the illness.

Finally, I decided to stop seeing my psychiatrist and to begin seeing a doctor of integrative medicine. I was no longer interested in talking about illness. Rather, I had decided to concentrate on wellness. I was not interested in hearing my psychiatrists tell me all of the reasons why I should take medication or worry about my condition. I wanted to talk with someone who believed I could get well.

(to be continued)


Jazz said...

It's interesting, but I had the same experience...I had to stop focusing on the illness in order to truly start feeling that wellness was a possibility. Even after I stopped seeing my psychiatrist and stopped taking meds, for a long time, I felt like I was just living on borrowed time, and that it was only a matter of time before my decision to go off medication would be proven to be a stupid one.

I eventually packed up all the books and decided to stop thinking about it and stop writing about it...but then my little niggling voice of doubt told me that ignoring it was denial. (I can't win, can I?)

Still, deciding to focus on wellness rather than illness was a huge turning point for me. I stopped seeing myself as damaged and started concentrating on recovering as much of my creativity and my life as I could.

It was the best decision I could have made!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Jazz,
It's fascinating to me that we both had to totally change our mindsets to get well.

I, too, felt that ignoring the bipolar diagnosis might be construed as denial, but then I had a far more overpowering thought. I realized that when I was first diagnosed, I wasn't in denial at all, and did everything my pyschiatrist(s) told me, and got sicker and sicker.

So...what difference did it make what anyone said to me because all their advice, all their medication, and living with this ridiculous label...was truly the worst thing I could have done.

But, I do find it "revolutionary" that the only way both of us got well was to "walk away" from the label of being ill.


discoverandrecover said...


Oh, this is good stuff....
This is just the best stuff!

I love people who do things they were told they could never focusing on their desires like a laser-beam, and ignoring any/all others who say it cannot be done...

Thanks for the inspiration...

See you at the top Susan Bernard!


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Duane,
And thank you for being such a supportive person--online and offline.


Nancie said...

Dear Susan,

Like you, I found that it is more helpful to focus on wellness rather than on my illness. I still read and research on bipolarity because I am so new to it and I need to empower myself with strategies to cope so that I can be functional. But I also try to enrich my life by participating on more wellness activities. I am learning to count my blessings daily and to live as productive as I can within my limitations.

One of the reasons I have begun to be involved in other blogging communities besides this bipolar circle was my realization that I am more than my bipolar. I felt needed to be exposed and involved in others life and other aspect of my own life and not focus too much on my own bipolarity. I found this to be healing and I am continuing to derive strength and encouragement through many ways daily.

I am so thankful for the hopefulness in your posts and I really like the new name of your blog. I changed my blog name sometimes back for the same purpose! Great minds think alike :)

Take care and hope you have a wonderful weekends!


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Nancie,
I think it's an important step to believe that you are more than your illness. Of course we all are, but sometimes people forget.

I, too, read blogs other than the bipolar ones--many of which I find depressing and downbeat. In truth, I don't mind reading about someone's depressive episode if they are searching for ways to get better.

But, over time, I have learned that it doesn't make me feel good to read about illness if people aren't taking steps towards wellness.

And there is a whole world out there where people don't think about depression or mania, and they are engaged in life affirming activities and having fun!

When I was ill, I read a lot about illness. But I learned that only made me feel worse. Now, all I read about is wellness, and I feel great. I guess that says something, doesn't it?