Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Final Advice to a Newbie BIP (Part 2)

This is my last post to Lily who wrote a number of comments on my post, Blogging to Learn.

Dear Lily,
I'm going to write this in a letter form because it's easier for me. I must say that I can't address all the issues you raised because it's just too exhausting for me. Actually that's one of the reasons I write on wellness rather than illness. Focusing on illness depletes me; focusing on wellness makes me feel good. However, I'm hoping that the sites I've recommended are helping you, and perhaps others can address these issues.

Today, I'd like to focus on your job and the problems you mention. During my life I've had many careers; some of which were fulfilling and some of which weren't. And, I, too, can't do jobs that I don't feel are meaningful.

But, what I have learned is that sometimes a project or job is meaningful, but it still makes me sick. Soon after I was diagnosed I began writing a book on all the terrible experiences I was having with my psychiatrists, the medication, the side effects and so forth and so on. One of my strengths is that I can write with humor about things that are truly devastating.

I actually thought that writing about all this would be really helpful. But, what I learned was that it wasn't. Dwelling on negative things--even if I did it with humor--produced negative thoughts and feelings.

So, I guess what I'm saying is this: "If your job is meaningful, but it is making you ill you should discuss it in therapy. There are tons of meaningful jobs out there for all of us. And they don't have to be in the mental health field.

If you love children, then perhaps you might do something associated with them. I imagine it's also quite possible to take your background and utilize it in a different environment.

I guess the point I'm making is that I believe that our jobs can make us ill. While I've learned that many people want to blame their biochemistry for feeling sick, the fact is that I believe it's far easier to blame our biochemistry and far more frightening to understand that it can be caused by our work, our relationships, our families, and dozens of other stressors.

I'm not suggesting you quit your job, but I do believe it's a topic you should be discussing with your therapist. If there's anything I've learned in the past 15 years, it's that making life changes and coming to grips with our demons can truly make a difference.

Whether we're bipolar or not, we need to resolve our issues to get well. And that's perhaps the best advice I can give.

I also believe that we need to develop a wide array of wellness activities that we utilize on a daily basis. I know I feel better when I garden, play music for seniors, walk my dog, exercise, spend time with friends, and remain outdoors. I know I feel worse when I focus on illness, spend too much time on the computer, write about negative things, and remain indoors.

I know that keeping a mood chart and journal is a critical wellness activity. I also know that learning stress reduction techniques makes a huge difference.

Most of all I believe that if we focus on wellness, maintain hope, and dedicate ourselves to healing, we can achieve it. Good luck and God bless!


Susan Bernard


KJ said...

Susan thank you for going out of your way to help this reader. It was beyond kind of you!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear KJ,
Thank you for thanking me! You're a dear person--so kind and thoughtful!

Coffee Table said...

"Actually that's one of the reasons I write on wellness rather than illness. Focusing on illness depletes me; focusing on wellness makes me feel good."

thanks again Susan - you've reminded me of that very fact. I hope you are well.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Coffee Table,
Yes, I am well. Thanks for asking.

Actually, I've done a lot of research on "writing to heal" and there are all kinds of studies that confirm that writing about negative things--over and over--doesn't help us heal.

So, it's a good lesson for everyone, but few "get it." Glad you're someone who does!


Toria/Deb said...

I'd really believe that too, that thinking positive thoughts about how well you are doing, helps. For me, at the end of the day, saying the serenity prayer helps. Some days it makes me cry, and sometimes I feel good saying it. But no matter what goes wrong, we do have the power to think positive. You just have to try, and keep trying to say "BE HAPPY" and not talk yourself out of it.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Toria/Deb,
Thanks for your comment. Yet, another positive person out there! How refreshing! And yes the serenity prayer is nice, isn't it?


Paul Bright said...

excellent advice! I, too, am not a doctor, but I'm blogging to help family members of those with BP. You are so right to say that dwelling on the negative doesn't help, as tough as it can be. I have you on my blog list now :)

Paul Bright


Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paul,
Thank you for your comment. I'm always heartened to know about new bipolar blogs that are positive. I'll check yours out later this afternoon, and put it in my blogroll.


Emma said...

Dear Susan,
I think that your 'letter' to Lily is one that I would have loved to receive in those early years. Your honest open approach to the questions raised offered alternatives, personal experience, gentle suggestions and encouragement on how to move slowly towards healing. One does have choices, and it is not always necessary to start making large changes, it is amazing and definitely empowering the difference two or three small steps can make to one's life! It is SO important to 'focus on wellness and maintain hope'... I quietly continue to work on this most days. I have come to appreciate the shades of light and darkness, and know I have learned to love the rich texture of my life. A wonderful mixture of challenges and blessings!
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with such warmth and good humour.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Emma,
As always, thanks for your lovely comment. Since you mention it, I, too, wish I would have received a letter like this.

Whenever I've been deeply depressed, I just wish one of the psychiatrists I've gone to might have said, "I know how to help you get better" or "I'm here for you" or "Let me tell you what other BIPS have done to overcome this."

Instead, they always make it seem like I've got the plague, and other than hospitalization they haven't a clue what to suggest.

You're right...sometimes it's all about small changes...but it's always about hope, isn't it?


Paula Joy said...

I agree about the whole job thing. I think it applies to everyone when it comes to working. I was far from fulfilled at my last job, and nealy dreaded going there. That's not really a mood-booster, is it!

It is important to have things that we love to do going on in our life. It's also important to be "content" with whatever we find ourself in. "Content" doesn't mean 'stay even if you hate it', it means to do your best to be happy with it and to make the best of every situation - work-related or not.

Good for you for taking time for this reader. I remember when you did something similar for me, and it helped me immensely. Thank you for caring.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Paula,
Yes, it's an awful feeling to dread going to work every day, and we've all been through it.

I believe when it happens, a person needs to begin seeking out new work or a new career, but at the same time, like you, I feel that as long as you're wherever you are, it's a good idea to find a few things about it that you do like!

And thanks for the lovely compliment. I genuinely appreciate it!