I have not written much recently on my own ongoing struggles following a serious breakdown last year – a set back to the level of mental health I imagined I had sustained for more than a decade. I don’t think I have even begun to grieve or articulate that yet. The quote that begins this blog from my friend Blahpolar is part of an ongoing dialogue her posts have inspired me to engage in. As such it is worth reblogging here.
I have been thinking about grieving lately. It need not be death. With a serious mental illness, we grieve the loss of wellness, I know I am grieving the loss of my job identity and I lately I am in a phase of grieving a life/body wholeness I sacrificed for a life/spirit wholeness. It is odd, but one can grieve the loss of one’s self as much as one grieves the loss of another. roughghosts
He’s right, of course; all endings merit some form of grief, no matter how unobtrusive. And grief comes with varying levels of heartbreak.
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3 thoughts on “grieving bipolar”
I am grateful for your displaying here your experience with bipolar.
I love to connect with other people who experience bipolar. Most of the world keeps spinning and everyone goes on with their lives while people who suffer from bipolar are invisible. As though their suffering does not matter.
Well, technically, people who are manic are not invisible. But you probably know what I was referring to–the grief of bipolar. That is what is ignored. Take your pills, all will be well. Too bad we cannot take a pill for grief.
The grief I suffer from is actually the grief of a mother of two sons who were both diagnosed in their late teens/ early 20’s. That was twenty-five years ago, and over those years I have watched them face their losses and sorrows, knowing I am not able to make it all better.
The loss of the kind of family-life we thought we’d have. The loss for them of having careers and “succeeding” in life as productive males in our society.
My oldest son, now 48, has finally come to accept the things he cannot change. He seems comfortable in his shoes now, accepting the life he has, relying on disability payments. He still suffers from severe depression every winter, but is more tolerant of it and deals with it.
I am coming to the end of my life, and I thought I would never see this in him, acceptance and confidence again. I am so grateful to see this in him.
The other son lives on the streets, usually under the influence, or lives in jails or psych wards. Oddly, we have all come to expect this about him, and in some ways, we have come to live with it. As his mother, of course, I can never actually accept that he lives on the streets, especially in the dead of winter. Or that he is at the mercy of caretakers at jails and psych wards.
When he was diagnosed, he was a junior at the University of Washington. Quite brilliant. Witty and intelligent. I often grieve for the loss of who he was back then. I will always miss how things were “before”.
It is now next to impossible to communicate with him, although two of his brothers (there are four sons) maintain contact with him and “talk” with him on the phone. The oldest son in particular, who also suffers from bipolar, has sort of taken on a special connection with him. I can die knowing that his brothers will continue to care about him after I am gone.
So, yeah. Grief and bipolar are inseparable. What I can tell you as an “elder” is that one gradually learns to develop better ways of handling grief. That it does get easier.
First of all, I recommend using a technique that Christopher Reeves practiced, after he became paralyzed. If you are not aware–Christopher Reeves was once Superman, able to leap bounds and so on, (i.e. he played the character of Superman in movies).
What Christopher did every morning was to cry and get angry about his loss. These crying/feeling angry sessions lasted about 20 minutes or so. At the end of the 20 minutes, he would then say to himself, “okay, now how to have a good day. . .”
Yesterday morning, I felt miserable, so I had my Christopher Reeves cry, and knew I would then need to get out and have a good walk at my favorite park where I live (on an Island in NW Washington state).
When I drove out to the park, I still felt somewhat grumpy. At the end of the walk–voila! Spirits lifted. My formula: cry and walk.
I know that if one is depressed, the most difficult thing in the world is to come up with enough initiative to put on one’s coat and walk out the door for a walk. So, I totally empathize with anyone who does not want to bother.
But since I have experienced such proven success, I always talk myself into trying it.
You have read about bipolar. I am hoping that one of the things that you read was about the benefits of walking for people with depression. In studies that compared antidepressants with walking–walking won, including follow-up long-term comparisons. Walking is more effective than taking a pill.
Thank you for what you have revealed here. I guess I needed to talk about my experience too. I hope I have not gone on too long. If you made it this far, I salute you.
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Thank you for your long comment. This is actually a post I reblogged from a friend. The grief I experience is not due to being bipolar, but the losses I experienced when a decision to reduce my medication collided with rapid changes in my extremely demanding job. Most people who live successfully with bipolar will insist that medication, sleep and exercise are all important. None on their own is sufficient. I am the son of a man with bipolar and the parent of a son with bipolar, so you might say it is a family tradition. Each person experiences mood disorder differently and although I greatly appreciate your experience, please remember that those of us who depend on medication as part of our wellness do not do so blindly or even happily. We do it to survive. My son has chosen alcohol, the time honoured solution of many a great gifted soul. Such a tragedy.
If you check out my friend blahpolar’s blog you will find a large network of bipolar bloggers and she regularly catalogues a range of useful (and not so useful) links for bipolar folk and those who love them.
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Thanks for getting back to me about this.
I agree–medication for people with bipolar is vital. I used to teach that 12-week class run by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), part of which included information about various types of medications, and how helpful they can be.
Both of my sons have been on medication. The one who lives on the streets no longer bothers–obtaining a roof and some food takes center place now.
My oldest son is responsible about his medication, and it makes a huge difference.
When I talked about that formula I use–a cry and a walk–I referred to dealing with grief, not as a formula for people with a biological and genetic disorder such as bipolar, which definitely requires medication.
In a perfect world, my sons would have come in contact with helpers trained to deal with loss and grief as well as being proficient with prescribing medications. To me, the effects from loss and grief are as important as the brain disorder itself.
I will definitely check out the links on blahpolar’s blog.
About your son and alcohol–life is unpredictable, I know. Maybe your son’s choice will stick with him for the rest of his life. Or maybe, he will be like my oldest son and grow away from alcohol eventually.
There’s that saying, which I change a little here–a father is as happy as his unhappiest child. To watch your child suffer is hard to bear. I walk with you there, roughghosts. For a few years. Al-Anon helped me a lot.