Foundation of Wellness
The following seven points are ones I consider to be the foundation of attaining wellness for a Bipolar or Depressed individual. These are things that I feel are absolutely essential for a person struggling with mental illness to reach their wellness goals. The building blocks of wellness, if you will.
I. Make a clear decision about what your wellness goal is.
Clear decisions help guide a person in the correct direction. If the goal is to get “get well”, how does one define that? Is it being not suicidal? Finding a good medication? An active management program that helps retain productivity? Start small and add more goals as they are attained. It will help build a sense of progress, accomplishment, and direction at a time when those things can be hard to find.
II. Understand your illness and how it affects you personally.
Mental illness is incredibly personal. We all fall into a particular area of symptoms that while having similar ties cause different perspectives. Put 1,000 Bipolar people into a room and there will be 1,000 different experiences. That is why it is so important for the Bipolar to understand how the illness affects them. Identifying these things will help the Bipolar recognize when they are getting unwell or having a shift.
III. Maintain a respectful, communicative relationship with medical professionals.
A mental illness like Bipolar Disorder will never be cured in the traditional sense of the word. Expecting a Doctor or a Therapist to “cure” a Bipolar is an unfair and impossible expectation. They cannot cure the Bipolar. No one can cure it. What they do, however, is provide the tools and knowledge to manage the mental illness.
IV. Take the medication. Psychiatric medication is not aspirin.
Psychiatric medication can do a lot of good in helping to manage a mental illness. The benefit is nonexistent if it is not taken correctly. These types of medications are meant to build a medication level in the blood stream which will help prevent unwell thinking. The people that only take it when they “feel off” or “want to” is actually worse than not being on anything at all. It can start a rollercoaster of unstable thinking with serious consequences.
V. Consult with a Doctor before ceasing a psychiatric medication regimen.
I am not saying to stay on a medication that may be having a drastic, adverse affect. However, there are right and wrong ways to come off of psychiatric medications. People affected by Bipolar Disorder and Depression are more apt to commit suicide by dropping medications cold turkey. The Bipolar that is not interested in killing themselves does not simply stop taking medications. Consult with a Doctor.
VI. Develop a real understanding of the illness and its relation to life.
It is imperative to have a grounded view of what the illness is and what wellness looks like. Actively managing a mental illness means compromise. There will be frustration and crappy side effects. The unwell may need to alter their lifestyle to provide effective management. The person may need to realign their life to living mentally well. Quite a few of us have.
VII. There are more paths to wellness than you can ever imagine.
It is not a defeat to have a medication or two not work. That is run of the mill activity. No matter how dark things may seem, how hopeless the situation may be, or how heart-wrenchingly terrible things may be; there is always something else to try. No one that is serious about getting their mind under control can afford to fall apart when something does not, or stops working. That is as much a part of our reality as breathing.