I think there is always a flip side to everything, and I rarely talk about the upside of my mental illness or hospitalizations. Honestly, there isn’t much, but I try to find at least a few things to help me think positively about the experience.
1) I’ve gotten so much closer to my family: My family has been my rock through my recovery, especially my mother. She fed me when I rejected food. She was my cheerleader when I couldn’t get out of my negative spiraling thoughts before my meds were correct, and she literally held my hand at night when I had too many racing thoughts that gave me panic attacks. She visited me every day when I was in the hospital. My parents have been supportive about the possibility of my career change, and wants me to be happy. I honestly did not expect this from them and I cannot thank them enough for their love and support.
2) I know who my real friends are: I lost a few friends through this journey because it was hard enough as it was, and I could not sustain friendships with those who were not 100% supportive of my recovery. Real friends stand by you during your lowest, and I hit rock bottom. I wouldn’t have known who my real friends were without having gotten sick.
3) I understand life a little better: Life is not easy and it is certainly not linear. Things fall apart when you least expect it, but you have to carry on. Life is also much harder for someone with a chronic illness, like bipolar or anxiety. I struggled a lot in college, and now I understand why, thanks to my diagnosis.
4) I value seemingly mundane moments of serenity (up there): After I got on the Lithium, my mood stabilizer, the suicidal thoughts dissipated like magic. Before the meds, it was constantly popping up, and I wasn’t able to live my life because a small voice in the back of my mind was saying that I should just die. Life is so much better without that violent voice.
5) It’s made me stronger and less afraid: Now that my meds are starting to work (!!), I’m excited about what the future holds for me. I know that I have a long way to go, from finding a career path that I could feasibly work in, but if I made through two life threatening hospitalizations, I think I can handle a career change.
6) I know what my weaknesses are, and how to prevent recurrence: This is still a work in progress for me, as I learn new coping skills. I know I can’t work as much as I did before, and I need a lot of time for myself and really need to work on self care so that I don’t have another episode. I can also see an episode emerging before it’s in full force, so I feel like I’m going to be ready if it comes back.
7) The hospitalization forced me to stop living a toxic life I was not happy with: Let’s face it. I had a cushy job, but I was not satisfied or happy with it. The place was toxic to me, and I needed a change desperately, and it would have happened sooner or later. Thankfully, it was sooner.
8) I’ve gotten reconnected to my old hobbies and passions: Because I had a lot of time during my hospitalization, I picked up art again, and I’m writing and reading more.
Next time I’ll talk about some ideas about what to do with my career…