reaching handsI always thought of recovery from bipolar disorder as a return to the BB (before bipolar) era, but as Class 10 of NAMI’s Family-to-Family course points out, recovery doesn’t necessarily mean going back to the “good old days.” It’s often healthier to look at recovery as moving forward – a process of transformation, of becoming a new you, accepting your new reality, embracing fresh dreams, and drawing up new plans. This seems to be true both for the person with bipolar disorder and his or her loved ones.

As a husband of a wife with bipolar, I realize that bipolar has taken many things from my wife and our family, but it has also transformed us in some positive ways. After seeing my wife courageously wage her many battles with bipolar, often with little understanding or support from the rest of us, I have gained a deeper respect and appreciation of her. I believe our relationship is stronger as a result of what we’ve experienced. We have seen the best and the worst in and of each other and developed a deeper sense of intimacy. Problems we used to consider significant seem trivial compared to what we have overcome.

My wife has done a fantastic job of adapting to her new reality. She takes her medications, keeps her appointments with her doctor and therapist, and has found less stressful work opportunities that enable her to use her education and expertise. She has even taken on a role of advocacy, speaking to our NAMI class about her struggles with bipolar and her journey to recovery. We had to let go of the past, which hasn’t been easy. Through the process, we’ve all experienced some personal growth – our own personal transformations.

We would like to read some stories of recovery, both from those with bipolar disorder and their loved ones. What did you find most helpful in adapting to your new reality? What did you find least helpful? What have you lost and gained from bipolar disorder? What has changed for you personally, professionally, emotionally, or spiritually? How have your dreams or visions of the future changed? You don’t have to limit your responses to these questions; feel free to share any insights you have about how bipolar disorder has transformed you and your situation.

Reaching hands photo available from Shutterstock.