The thing about mental health and wellness is that there is not an absolute measure or solution. Recovery is rarely linear, it’s exceptionally difficult to predict how it will manifest and what you might need at any particular time while facing a particular problem. I’ve come up with a sliding scale to help me assess my risk of becoming unwell, which gives a visual representation I can share with my doctor or psychiatrist. It’s simple, easy to complete and gives a picture of both current mental state and the cycle of my mental health status. See below:
As you emerge from any mental health episode or even a temporary bump in the road, it’s helpful to be able to see yourself clearly and to be able to communicate this to anyone delivering your care. A diagram like this assists being open and honest about your needs and struggles, without too much self-consciousness or the need to overly explain your situation.
Inevitably with the recovery from a major episode, like being sectioned, there is often oscillation between sadness and happiness. It takes time to feel you’re stable and have the ability to manage your life and challenges in a confident way. This oscillation can be difficult for others to understand, particularly if they have ‘known’ you as a different person. Relatives and friends of a bipolar person may see the hypomanic and manic characteristics as being part of who you are. It can then be difficult for them to adjust to your personality changing as their original belief was that the high energy, somewhat impulsive person, was just you. For some people it is, for other people it’s not.
In my experience, the path to recovery has resulted in me becoming quieter and occasionally withdrawn (of course this may also have been the result of the Coronavirus lockdown and lack of social stimulation…). My point is how on earth can a personality change be assessed or measured? People are people not robots and as you get older, you will also change in character with shifting priorities and the maturity that comes with age 😆.
Having faith in the future and believing that life can be consistently good again, takes time and tenacity. Often in the course of a mental illness, individuals lose key elements of their life. Perhaps a job, partner, or a home, and this may in turn lead to a lower expectation of what’s possible for you in the future. The connected loss of self-respect, loss of confidence, and loss of financial stability all have an impact too. In my case, overcoming the feeling of potential and impending disaster is key for both me and my daughter. We both lookout for signs that my illness is returning, and thankfully this hypervigilance reduces with every week we move forward.
I have always tried to manage bipolar disorder by having consistency in my daily habits, particularly in relation to sleep. The other elements of life such as restoring friendships and reviewing work situations take longer to put in place; after all life sends opportunities in an unpredictable way. I always try to make the most of whatever is going on in my life, celebrate my brilliant daughter, and focus on making the best future possible for us.
Here’s hoping this school year will be at least normal, if not fabulous!! All the best to anyone else in recovery too.
Love Ruth x