Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Wellness Activities and Hope (Part 1)

For those of you who are new to my blog, I frequently write about different wellness activities I enjoy. After years of heartache, in which I spent all the time I wasn't depressed researching depression and bipolar disorder, I finally realized that dwelling on illness was making me feel sicker rather than better.

While my motive in doing research was a sound one--since no one else was helping me I had to heal myself--the outcome was a poor one. So many of the authors of books on these topics seemed to blame the depressed (DEPS) and bipolar (BIPS) folks for our situation. And since a lot of psychiatrists and mental health professionals don't believe we can get better, we don't.

These days I find that many authors of new books on bipolar disorder are presenting an equally untruthful point of view. It's usually a four-part story. 1. I was acting out, didn't know why, and was ruining my life. 2. I was diagnosed as bipolar. 3. My psychiatrist prescribed a few different medications. 4. The medication worked, I'm well again, and thriving.

In my experience, their stories are unrealistic and simplistically naive. I believe it's as much a disservice to pretend that achieving wellness is easy as it is to suggest that it's impossible.

What I have learned--over a period of 41 years--is that depressions don't happen in a vacuum. There is usually a reason, the least of which may be the way I deal with stress. And that even when medication works (and it doesn't for many people, myself included), it should still be considered part of a larger wellness program.

While I recently lamented offline that during my most recent depressive episode, none of my wellness activities worked; that was only partly true. The real problem was that I lost hope. I stopped believing in their effectiveness...and mine...and was overwhelmed by fear, grief, anger, and loss.

When I realized I seemed to have lost my sense of humor entirely, and that the best word I could find to describe myself was "embittered," I knew it was time to return to therapy, and to actively pursue my wellness activities because they represent hope.

(to be continued)


marja said...

Hi Susan,

So nice to have you back, you know. You're filling the hole you left.

I believe that it's the nature of our disorder that we're going to fall into lows or rise to highs once in a while, no matter what. Triggers can certainly be the cause. All the meds in the world and all the good coping skills we employ are not going to prevent the occasional break from stability. It's just the way it is. That's bipolar disorder.

Not believing in your wellness activities and losing hope is simply a symptom of the disease, something that's beyond your ability to help.

But there IS hope, even within those miserable symptoms. In every episode we suffer we can learn to live a little better, we can appreciate our well times a little more, we remember what it was like so we can help others who suffer as we do.

Are you feeling a little better now-a-days?

Love, marja

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Marja,
Thanks for your thoughtful and kind comment. Yes, I am feeling a little better. I still have some residual symptoms: I don't like to talk on the telephone, or socialize very much, but other than that, I'm almost back to normal.

Of course, you're right: It is the nature of the beast. I think if I could be more accepting, I would handle it better.

And there is a good feeling that by sharing what we've learned, we can help others!


Gianna said...

well, I'd like to suggest losing hope and feeling despair from time to time is simply part of being human.

I don't pathologize those states anymore, simply because I've not met a human being, diagnosed or not who has not experienced such states.

That alone has given me much more hope.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
That's certainly another point of view. But, for me, to feel that way for an extended time isn't "normal." A few days is one thing; a few months is another. Still, as you know, I'm working hard on healing.


Gianna said...

I understand your feeling Susan...but again, if I may gently challenge you, what is "normal?" What is normal may not be natural...

natural can be a lot of things that perhaps are not always normal...

life is full of tragedy and never simple or straight forward for every human being on this planet. And everyone has radically different challenges to face.

I just try to embrace as best as I can the life I've been given...if you read my post today, you'll see I'm not feeling so good about doing that today...

I, too, am simply human.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Gianna,
My own gentle response is that I believe we each have our own "normal." And I'm quite clear what mine is. And perhaps we each have our own "natural" as well.

I believe I am human, too, so I'm not exactly sure where we disagree. But I do hope you feel better.


Wendalyn Love said...

I do enjoy reading your words as you think things through...and I believe you are on a wonderful positive path right now. HOPE! How can we go wrong with that! I enjoy reading about the things that help you and it encourages me to remember the things that help me too! Thanks again for sharing your ideas... you are more helpful than you will ever know!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Wendalyn,
I'm so glad it's encouraging. During a depression, it's so easy to be so hard on ourselves for all we can't do. And I feel that way too.

But, there's a part of me who knows that when one door closes, another one opens. So...while it's difficult to explain to people who don't get depressed...I always figure it might resonate with those who do!

P.S. And if any of my readers want to see adorable grandchildren and their loving grandparents, they should check out your blog!