I want to start by saying how incredibly humbled I was by the response on Facebook, Twitter and this Blog to my ‘coming out’ yesterday.
I was touched by the generous words of friends, family and a great many complete strangers. Your response reaffirmed why I started this dialogue, and it gives me the encouragement I need to keep sharing.
In three days this blog has been viewed almost 600 times! I am so in awe of the power of social media. I would have been pounding the pavement for a heck of a lot longer than three days to reach that many people otherwise.
So sincere thanks to you all from a humbled newbie blogger.
Recently I was flipping through my journal. In my storage room I happen to have about 15 journals collecting dust. All of them I failed miserably at writing in regularly. Some of them were pathetic attempts to chronicle my travelling exploits. Others were assignments for classes.
But there is one journal that continually calls to me. It has a privileged position on my night side table. It doesn’t collect dust.
I started it two weeks before my first psychotic break. Inside the front cover I wrote, “This one you will follow through on. This time you do it for you.” I guess the power of that original intention stuck. I write in it regularly.
I get a lot of satisfaction from reading through my older entries, mostly because it helps me to have perspective on my illness and on how my life is unfolding. I am able to see in a matter of minutes just how far I have come in my recovery from my last major bipolar episode.
As I prepared to out myself the other day, I was drawn to one entry in particular.
In April of 2009 I found a lump in my breast. It was a matter of weeks before I could have it properly checked out by a doctor and have an ultrasound done. While I waited, I wrote in my journal about how I was determined that if I had breast cancer, I was going to beat it. I would stay positive. I would be grateful for my loved ones. I would have a renewed sense of adventure. I would reach out for support. And I would become an advocate alongside the strong voices that work to find a cure for this disease.
And then it hit me.
I hadn’t even been diagnosed with cancer and I had already accepted the diagnosis. I had been living with post-partum depression for a year and had lived through a major episode of post-partum psychosis. And it had never occurred to me to take that information public. I had never considered being an advocate for mental illness. That was too terrifying a thought.
One of the first things my sister had said to me after my first psychotic break was, “Sarah, my best advice is to accept your diagnosis. Own your recovery.” It was such an insightful thing to say.
I had taken in what she said to me – I heard the words and understood their wisdom. She had after all had her own experience with post-partum illness by that point. But I had not even come close to owning my recovery. I had not accepted the fact that I was mentally ill.
It has taken me three more years to get the point where I not only accept the fact that I have bipolar disorder. But I can say with confidence that I have fully owned and feel responsible for my recovery. I work hard at it. And now I can stand here like an open book. I am not terrified anymore.
Three Things I Would Love You To Take Away from This:
1. Own Your Recovery: If you are dealing with an illness of any kind, but particularly one like mental illnesses where stigma and misinformation can keep you from accepting your diagnosis, work as hard as you can to get a place of peace and acceptance. Your recovery and health will thank you.
2. Write Down Your Thoughts: Did you know that keeping a journal or writing down your feelings, thoughts and wonderings can actually improve your physical and mental health? (Check out this blog at PsychCentral to learn more.) A journal or blog can be that historical record that helps you see just how much you have grown over time.
3. Things Change – You Will Too: When we deal with illnesses of the mind, it is so easy to get stuck in thinking patterns that focus on our immediate pain and then extrapolate that to all other parts of our life. It becomes hard to see how things will be better or at least different in the future. But if there is one constant in life, it is that change is always occurring. Things may suck at this moment – but that will change, most assuredly. Have hope for the future.
Liked this? Try reading I Am Coming Out
Wishing you all the best. I have worked in psychiatry since 1977 and am amazed at the changes in treatment but especially the changes in attitude, and that includes Doctors and Nurses.
Thanks very much Donny. And thanks for your commitment to this field of study. We don’t have enough people working in psychiatry in Canada 🙂 It’s true though, things are improving. That’s something to be thankful for.