The truth behind recovery

Anyone living with a chronic illness is familiar with the phrase, “relapse and recovery”. That’s how it goes. It’s a series of small wins and loses that are tucked in between giant hurricanes that can consume our whole lives. And bipolar disorder is exactly that.

I’ve finally dug my way out of the rapid cycling avalanche, and I can see the sun again. It’s been the reason why I have taken a hiatus from writing too. I wanted to take a break to just enjoy life as it is. I wanted to breathe in every moment. I wanted to distance myself from my mental illness. In fact, there were days when I forgot that my bipolar disorder existed.

But deep down inside, I stopped writing because I know that my bipolar disorder will always be there, and even recovery will never erase that truth.

Still, I stopped writing because I wanted to laugh, to cry, to feel needy and then impulsive without fearing that it was some symptom of my bipolar life. I know that all those stable and extreme behaviours are just part of me. And that’s all I ever want to know. I don’t care that maybe I’m a little weird and bitchy because of it.

I just wanted to feel like everyone else – to forget that my new-ish “normal” also includes multiple pills, panic attacks, hallucinations, and catatonic episodes.

Seeing my psychiatrist yesterday reminded me that I will always be bipolar because I lied to him. I’m usually honest with him but I lied for the first time in forever… and failed. I tried so hard to be taken off one of my antipsychotic medications because, well, who really wants any sort of side effect. Plus, he kind-of-sort-of promised me last month that I could stop taking it if I didn’t have anymore psychotic symptoms. So I lied and said that I didn’t. When he asked me again later, I failed at my attempt to lie and told him I was still hearing the friends in my head. I quickly followed up by saying that they were harmless and I didn’t engage when they tried to hold a conversation with me (this is a fact, not lie).

I didn’t even tell my husband I was still hearing voices because all of that meant that I was still bipolar, and not “normal” like my old self.

Recovery has simply reminded me that whoever my old self was, good or bad, will never come back. I will forever live with bipolar disorder, and all of it’s highs and lows. I used to know this because I never thought I would be in this place of recovery. Now I’ve created this fantasy that recovering and finally feeling genuinely happy meant I could slowly stop my medications and such because I’d stop having panic attacks and hearing voices.

Well, sigh. Yesterday brought me back to reality. Don’t get me wrong – I wouldn’t trade this for the world. But it also opened my eyes to see that feeling happy also meant that I would still experience all of the psychotic symptoms, and there is no getting rid of it entirely. “Recovering” from a chronic illness just means taking a breath of fresh air until the beast comes back again, whenever that may be.


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