I guess the real question is: What does it mean to be well? For me, the definition of wellness has evolved over time. I used to think that being well meant being "completely normal." I figured that once I'd beaten this illness, I would never evidence any bipolar symptoms again.
This year I decided to redefine what wellness means to me. While I feel good most of the time, I still sometimes have symptoms. As I've mentioned before, a few weeks ago, I began to have a very low energy level, which made it difficult to get up in the morning. Since Adderall works for me, I'm now taking 10-20 mg. every morning so I have no difficulty getting up.
The only problem with Adderall is that it sometimes produces a low-level hypomania. Again, for me, all that means is that I have a higher energy level than normal. In days past, that would mean that I talked too much, too fast, and too loudly, and sometimes felt irritable, and wasn't very patient. However, now that I know these are symptoms, I work hard to alleviate them.
So, I've decided that I still consider myself well even though I have to take Adderall, and I have a few symptoms that I try hard to mitigate. By coming up with a more realistic expectation of what constitutes wellness, I can feel like I've made great progress.
One of the difficulties of bipolar disorder--as far as I'm concerned--is that there aren't enough success stories. And maybe one of the reasons is because the goal is "total normalcy." But, what is "normal?"
I know plenty of people who aren't BIPS (bipolar) who feel depressed and remain so for months at a time. I know lots of non-BIPS who talk too fast, too much, and too loudly. I also know lots of non-BIPS who are irritable, impatient, and sometimes downright hostile.
In fact, I'm sure we all know people whose behavior appalls us, but who aren't concerned about it at all. Do you ever wonder why certain "normal people" don't monitor what they do or say, why they never apologize for their "bad" behavior, and why no thinks they're sick when they act out?
So, I figure that my self-discipline in controlling things is a sign of success. I'm proud that I'm so conscientious about keeping mood charts. I think it's great that I have a daily diary of what I accomplish, how much medication I take each morning, how my energy level is throughout the day, how much exercise I do, and note what time I go to bed at night, and any behavioral patterns that concern me.
When I was diagnosed as a BIP in 1993, I would have been thrilled if my doctor had said, "You're atypical bipolar II, but don't worry about it. I've got patients who take a small amount of medication, but are so disciplined that their condition hardly affects their lives at all. They keep mood charts and participate in a wide array of wellness activities and truly have their situation under control."
Tomorrow, I plan to write about my top 10 wellness activities!