Although it is changing slowly, the stigma still very much remains. People who live with mental illness have to tread carefully as to when – and if – they reveal it. This is a crime because it takes beautiful people who simply need a little more support and subjects them to the soft bigotry of being second-class citizens. People with mental illness can live exceedingly productive and wonderful lives.
Last week, I received a call from an old friend. It was nice to speak to her. Recent years had been very chaotic for Laura (not her real name), but everything seemed to have settled down. She called to tell me about the new events in her life. I was happy for her.
Through the years, I remember many conversations with her about the ebbs and flows of life. We all walk this world and hope for the best. Yes, every day is a choice and we have a choice in how we accept the trials and tribulations that come our way. Sometimes, those challenges can overwhelm us and push us off of our feet as we tumble in the unending water and disorientation. This spill can be more severe for some over others.
Laura has been through a lot and I was happy when I heard the tone in her voice. It has been a long time since she sounded steady. Laura was diagnosed as bipolar disorder II a few years ago. She had a successful career in sales. I think it helped her to inadvertently bury her compulsions because it involved building relationships with people and a lot of entertainment. One of the well-known symptoms of someone who has bipolar disorder is that these people may sometimes be the life of the party, especially when they are manic or even when they are hypomanic. They are charismatic and so much fun to be around, but they don’t know when to put on the brakes. I remember that Laura well.
It took me years to understand when Laura was actually suffering through her disease as opposed to simply having a good time. The clue, for me, became when things began to flow over the top with the drinking, nights out, generous dinners and gifts. And sometimes these periods became a rushing river overflowing its banks.
Then, almost inevitably, Laura fell into an abyss. Not too long ago, she called me up to tell me that she had just gotten out of the hospital. She had been admitted because she devolved into a suicidal state. The way she tells that episode, she was on a sales trip. After a night out of entertainment with clients, she made her way up to her room. She found herself on the 36th floor of her hotel.
She knew she had been starting to crack well before the trip, but she had not yet been diagnosed and she did not understand why she was falling apart. This was before “triggers” became an important word in her life. This was before sleep became paramount to her health. This was before meditation, medication and a disciplined life each and every day for her health.
She stood at the window that bleak night looking out into the city lights. She felt a great desire to end her life by throwing herself out the window. She was fortunate. This particular hotel was a new property with floor to ceiling windows of tempered glass. She pressed her hand against the window, pushed, and struck it harder, then turned knowing it would take great effort to break the glass, if she even could do it. She threw herself onto the bed hoping to make it through the night. She knew that no matter what her mind thought about, no matter how much she wanted to die – under no circumstances could she leave that bed. She had to stay put because anything more would simply be an opportunity to find another way to kill herself.
When I spoke to Laura last week and she told me about how things were going so well, I wondered briefly, at first, if she was going through another episode. But, as we talked, I knew that through an incredible amount of work and determination, Laura had turned another page in her life.
These days, Laura works in a career that keeps her at home and no longer traveling. She also switched jobs to one that is much less high pressure. She says that it also does not offer an “easy excuse” to entertain with countless long days and evenings out with clients and prospects. The stability of being near family and friends is crucially important for people who live with bipolar disorder. She told me how she let go of relationships that were toxic. She is fortunate enough to be in a relationship with a man who is very supportive of her professional and personal life. Now she talks about how he helps balance her life, even in those moments when she feels she might be going slightly “off the rails”. With him, she is able to immediately seek help or make course corrections, if necessary.
I asked her what other strategies she was using to stay balanced. She told me about the structure, which she finds “absolutely necessary” to her well-being. She gets up at the same time every day and has incorporated rituals into her day, which help her feel steady. These rituals are her meditation, morning cup of coffee and music before getting to work.
She works and usually because she has no more client dinners to attend, when she is home and done with work, she does not think about it. She relaxes, reads a book and then is in bed early each night.
If she feels that things are getting “a little out of whack”, she and her partner discuss it. She has the space to speak to her therapist and sometimes, if things are getting challenging, she asks her partner to join her so they can both understand the issues and work to quickly recover.
Laura told me that in the few years since she was diagnosed, and since that awful day at the hotel, she has learned enormous amounts. She does not take any day for granted and understands that each day of recovery is a blessed day for her.
One attribute that inspired this post and that I admire in Laura is her commitment to herself. Some of her friends know about her disorder and others don’t. It doesn’t matter. She lives a healthy and productive life, after a winding and sometimes dark journey. But no matter what, Laura puts herself first each and every day. She told me how she wakes up and keeps to her daily recovery plan and structure, which keeps her health – no matter what anyone else thinks or wants her to do.
In talking to Laura, it occurred to me that we should all focus on ourselves – everyday. We each have our own issues. Whatever they may be. “Normal” to me seems to be a relative term. What is “normal”? Laura is committed to her daily mental wellness and “self-care”. And, as I spoke to her on the telephone, I realized how many of us should be so committed to ourselves, always.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/8962109
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