As a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, I was no stranger to the symptoms of bipolar disorder when I began having sleepless nights and racing thoughts at age 44. I worked as a counselor for adults with mental illness at a residential program and I was teaching daily living skills to clients, some who also experienced the mood swings that I was having. I lived in denial for a short time but then I sought help. I have worked very hard to manage my symptoms so that I can live the life I want. At this point, 14 years later, I desire to help other people reach their potential and see their worth by giving them the tools to succeed with their recovery goals. These 8 links have helped me attain success in many areas of my life and I want to pass them on to anyone who feels confused about how to enjoy life again despite their illness.
At this time, I am a 58-year-old woman who is a wife of forty years, a mother of three, a grandmother of four, I have a full time job and I have my own private practice and by the way I still have Bipolar Disorder. My illness is never first on my list because I refuse to let it define me. I hope these 8 links will be helpful to you.
- Write a positive self-assessment. Look at what you can do, not what you can’t do. Appreciate your talents and strengths and use them to build a self-image that allows you to have success. Success comes from using our strengths to solve our problems and overcome our challenges.
- Recognize your symptoms. Being aware of how each episode starts, what your first symptoms are, will allow you to get help quickly. The longer you wait to get help, the harder it is to recover. Hoping that symptoms will go away without intervention just doesn’t work. With help you can return to your life more quickly.
- Get appropriate treatment. You have the right to work with providers that you trust and who can listen to you with respect. We need to have faith in our ability to be at the center of our treatment plans. No matter how much a professional knows, they can’t be inside us and they need our help to know how to treat us effectively.
- Have a good support team. You want to surround yourself with people who believe in your ability to recover. You want them to be supportive yet always honest about what they see. If we don’t recognize our symptoms it is good to have people we trust tell us how they see us. These people should be cheerleaders who encourage us, not caretakers who enable us.
- Have a vision and be able to set goals to work towards it. Think about what you are passionate about, what your dreams were before this illness intruded on your life. Make small achievable short-term goals that can help you realize that overall vision you have for yourself. When I was in school, I had to break the workload into manageable portions so that I wouldn’t get overwhelmed. The only thing you have to do is the next thing.
- Find meaningful work. It can be paid or unpaid and it should make you feel like you have a purpose. Your unique strengths and talents are needed somewhere, and you will feel closer to recovery if you can find your niche.
- Accept your illness. Fighting the illness is a battle you will lose. Working to manage it will work in your favor. When symptoms strike, my response is, “You’re not the boss of me.” With my coping skills I can rise above it and regain control of my life.
- Remain hopeful. You can experience change, growth and success at any age. Think about what can happen if you use all of the above links to help you and know that you have the ability, despite this illness, to have a life you enjoy and are proud of.