National Alliance on Mental Illness
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My Road to Recovery: Learning to Understand My Illness
By Kara Geremia
I think the hardest thing I had to accept about the road to recovery is that the term recovery is very misleading. Recovery is a sinuous road that can have its ups and downs, highs and the lows, and in the middle of all of that, there are road blocks, but also breaks in traffic to speed ahead.
A couple of years after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I started to realize the road to recovery is the everyday life of my diagnosis. After that conclusion, the confusion swept back over me. How can someone recover when the recovery itself is as hard as the illness?
When I was 19 and received the initial diagnosis, I rebelled. I ran away from accepting it and went into a spiral of drugs, love and rock 'n' roll. That lasted for a year or two when I had started to come to terms that the diagnosis was correct. I was bipolar.
But on my road of recovery I hit a dead end. My life, as it felt to me, was moving at a crawl and traffic was only going a mile per hour. For the next three years, even though married and in love, I was in a very deep depression. I had my small manic moments, those that I secretly loved, but in retrospect I could see how my life had a dark gray cloud looming over it.
A question of going to the hospital and admitting to my husband and mom that I was in an abyss and there was no way out was the catharsis. I could no longer see the light. The staying in, loss of friends and major addition of weight only made my life seem like it was coming closer to an end. After I could no longer hold the weight on my shoulders, and oddly enough with a low time in the ebb and flow of my bipolar disorder, I began to see light. I saw I could get up. I could march on and be an active person. I came to accept my condition.
Due to great help from an amazing therapist who listened to me about everything, an understanding husband who would laugh when I laughed and would hold me when I cried, and family members who would listen to my rapid speaking, tumultuous crying, and odd paranoid thoughts, I learned how to cope with the struggles of medicines, the side effects, the never knowing what is going to come next; the everyday life of a Bipolar. I think the most important part of recovery is the acceptance that the illness exists. If you do not accept it for yourself no one else can accept it around you.
And the final, and hardest, but most important part of recovery is coming to understand that there is no end to it. The construction, traffic jams, speeding, slowing, road bumps and hazardous conditions signs are always going to be there. There is no “healed.” And to have that acceptance is the strongest thing a person can do, to know their lot in life and still carry on. This is my road to recovery. It is never ending but I still travel on.
Check here to see previous personal recovery stories in our series, “Stories of Recovery. Voices of Hope.”