Mental Illness and Uncertain Weather
As I sit here today looking at sheets of rain pouring down from dreary skies, I am wistfully remembering yesterday’s sunlight, birdsong, and wildflower-scented breeze. It occurs to me that spring is like living with a mental illness—sometimes you just never know what kind of day you’ll wake up with.
It’s so frustrating, isn’t it? Having a great, productive day one day, and then being moored in depression or another one of the many issues we deal with the next. On bad days, I have to keep reminding myself “it’s my brain chemistry, not my moral fiber. I just need to get through this hour, this day, this week.” It’s like spring weather, beyond our full control but something that we can live through.
Being prepared helps. Focusing on recovery helps. Using WRAP–based tools (Wellness Recovery Action Plan) that help me identify my early warning signs and allow me to create a plan in advance of a bad day can act like a buffer to my personal “rainy days.” Other locations for good WRAP–based tools that are free of charge include DBSA’s “Working Toward Wellness” booklet and SAMHSA’s “Action Planning for Prevention and Recovery: A Self-Help Guide.”
I am always impressed by the courage of my peers as they overcome the uncertainty that living with a mental illness can bring and find the ability to live through these bad days. For example, Matt tells us his story:
“I don’t need help; I help people. Or so I thought. I had been depressed on and off for two years before I could bring myself to see a therapist. She was “not my style,” so to speak. So I stopped going after my second visit. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and felt like less of a person. I had been in the fire service for 10 years at that point. Like I said, I help people, not the other way around. And I was tough. I was a tough fire guy. I couldn’t admit I needed help, because that’s a weakness, right? I dealt with the depression on my own for another agonizing year. Depression was easy for me to hide, from everyone but myself. I felt so bad I went to my physician. He prescribed some medication that threw me into a manic episode. I ended up taking a month off from work, not by choice. That was the best and worst month of my life. At the time, it was great. I looked back at the path of destruction I left and was glad I was still alive and not in jail. I dealt with my mental illness on a short term basis—when I felt bad, I went and saw the doctors. When I felt good, I stopped going. Doctors were expensive, even with insurance, and they were a constant reminder that I have a mental illness. This short-term approach cost me way too much. My life is too important to continue that way. I have too much going to throw it all away again. A long-term illness requires a long-term solution. I have found an excellent therapist, and now, I am dedicated to looking for the right meds and the right psychiatrist. I believe I will find them. Asking for help is not a weakness. I am stronger now than I have ever been.”
Asking for help, being prepared, taking the long view. These solutions seem to work equally well, dealing with uncertain spring weather and living with a mental illness.
Published On: May 16, 2007
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