A few months back, I outlined the idea of bipolar recovery in one of my articles.
In that short time, I have made leaps and bounds in my journey to wellness. I feel more positive and experienced than I did when I wrote the first piece about this important component of living with chronic illness.
For me, recovery has become the control of the symptoms that cause me issues. It is feeling well, mentally and physically, on a consistent basis.
It is hope, self-esteem, and making my own contribution to the world.
While there are many components to recovery (see Stephen Propst’s article), there are a few that I wanted to highlight as being important in my life since being diagnosed five years ago.
These are the five most important themes of my bipolar recovery journey so far:
How and What I Think
Buddha said, “All that we are arises with our thoughts.”
In short, how we feel about ourselves and the world around us is shaped by our thought patterns.
The mind is powerful, and if you think irrationally or negatively, you impact how you think about yourself, how you take care of yourself, and how you view your recovery.
For me, cognitive behavioral therapy helps with harmful thinking.
When I started examining and changing my thoughts in therapy, many parts of my life in turn changed for the better.
CBT requires regular counseling sessions and homework outside of the counseling session.
I challenge my thoughts day after day and provide evidence that I’ve done so.
For me, accountability is the key in making positive change.
I’ve learned that I can talk back to my thoughts now instead of being a prisoner to them.
Sometimes I have a bad day, but being proactive about my thinking makes me realize that perspective is up to me.
Taking My Medication
I know that I have to do more than swallow pills every morning and evening in order to recover.
I also realize that medication is the glue that holds everything together.
I know there is a biological component to my illness. It is nearly impossible for me to progress in any way unless I am taking my medication as prescribed.
It is the risk manager, curbing the mood swings and suicidal thoughts.
Some need a weekly support group to stay well and on track. Others need the encouragement of their spouse, parents, or friends.
Support can be Internet-based or face to face—no matter the medium, the point is that people with bipolar disorder feel that they are being validated and cared about.
It is hard to recover when dealing with chronic illness alone.
My support system includes my therapist, psychiatrist, husband, family members, friends, and fellow bipolar writers and supporters.
Hope is also an essential component to recovery from chronic illness.
Many like me can say that they have experienced the depths of this illness and somehow have risen from the ashes.
Without hope, it didn’t seem possible.
Without the belief that there is something better to come, it’s hard to make the effort to participate in the other components of recovery.
The Courage to Take a Self-Inventory
Finally, I need to evaluate my behaviors, thoughts, and beliefs. Change is hard, but in order to become the best person I can be, it’s essential.
Being brave enough to recognize that my thoughts and behaviors aren’t working for me allows me to change for the better and adapt to my current life circumstances.
It also allows me to evaluate how I treat others.
It takes courage, and may seem awkward at first, but being candid with yourself will open up a lot of opportunity for positive growth and self-awareness.
What do you think are the most important components of recovery for you? You can reference Propst’s article or add your own.