No one person can best tell you how you can manage your symptoms and treat yourself. But in a community of support and care, I have found the best way to take care of myself.
A week ago a friend invited me to attend a Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) meeting. I had not been to a DBSA support group meeting for many years, and I remembered how helpful attending these meetings were to me, so I was surprised that it had taken me so long to consider going again.
Supporting yourself and surrounding yourself with a support network and supportive people is crucial to living in recovery with bipolar disorder. I have found that no one person, including myself, can carry the weight of this mental illness on his or her shoulders, but sharing and carrying this burden together in community makes it possible to survive bipolar disorder, and to thrive and live with it in a meaningful way.
My support networks over the years have included support groups like DBSA, friends and family, clergy and faith communities, community mental health organizations, and of course my psychiatrist and therapist. I believe a holistic individualized approach to care and treatment offer me the best support for living a meaningful life with bipolar disorder. No one person or system of care, can best tell you how you can manage your symptoms and treat yourself, but together in a community of support and care, I have found, I am able to best determine how to take care of myself. Recovery is possible. I am living it.
How can one become in tune to his or her unique needs and what he or she needs for support, treatment and care?
Years ago, a life long friend, and psychologist, named Jim introduced me to the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). WRAP is an evidence based program and practice, developed in the 1990’s by Mary Ellen Copeland and her team, that is described on its website as, “a self-designed prevention and wellness process that anyone can use to get well, stay well, and make their life the way they want it to be.” Through WRAP I was able to identify characteristics of my wellness, triggers and stressors that can lead to emotional dysregulation, and give practical examples of how my support system can help. In my WRAP I have identified mental health care providers who treat me, hospitals I prefer if I needed to be hospitalized, and hospitals that I would only go to as a last resort. I also talk about self-care, things that make me feel happy, whole, and healthy. I identify things friends and family can look for that might indicate their is a problem with my mental health. Years ago, Jim gave me a little WRAP workbook, but today people cause use the website or the app to create a WRAP.
I believe in preventative mental healthcare, and being proactive in my recovery. For me this looks like not only doing the basics of practicing good sleep hygiene, eating healthy balanced meals and drinking water, or taking my medications as directed by my doctors, but it also involves having fun by walking my pug dog, or enjoying the beauty of the art museum, making time for friends a priority, and spiritual practice.
There’s a lot you and I can do to be active agents in our own recovery stories. Part of that is looking for support in groups, people, organizations, medicine, but most importantly I believe recovery comes from supporting oneself through self-care, preventative mental healthcare, and being proactive in having fun and staying well. I’m the son of a preacher, but my message is to preach recovery, and that it is possible to live in recovery with bipolar disorder. You can live a meaningful life where you can autonomously direct your own support, care, and treatment while living with bipolar disorder. We have the ability to help ourselves heal, and to lead others in our healing process. We have the right to say what is supportive in our recovery journeys and what is not.
There is support with bipolar disorder. Recovery is possible. Thanks for supporting me on my recovery journey.
Dave Wise is a blogger who lives with his wife and son in St. Louis, Missouri. Dave has bipolar disorder 1. He is living in recovery and blogs about his experiences and mental health journey, faith, and child loss as it relates to his mental health. Dave hopes to inspire others who struggle with bipolar disorder to live their best lives possible and have hope for the future. You can visit Dave's blog or follow him on Twitter.
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