By: Brad Hoefs
For the last six years, I have had the privilege to be a Fresh Hope group facilitator. I’ve had the opportunity to encourage others in living well in spite of their mental health diagnosis. I have also had the opportunity to see close up some issues that can impede one’s wellness. Certainly some of them I have struggled with and sometimes still struggle with myself.
So, for this post I thought I would share with you seven issues that I believe are significant issues that hold can hold you and me back from living well in spite of being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. These are not the only issues that can impede wellness, but they seem to be major ones that I see consistently as a group facilitator:
- Isolation: Certainly we all need some alone time. In fact, it’s important to have it. However, too often those of us with mental health challenges will simply shut ourselves off from the rest of the world. Usually, we do isolate physically. But we can certainly be around others and still isolate ourselves emotionally; holding others at arms-length. It impedes mental health recovery when we isolate from everyone else around us. You and I were made to be in relationship with other people. And we certainly need healthy social interaction with others to come to a point of wellness.
- No Support: It is sad, but true, all too often family members are not supportive for many different reasons. The truth is that when those of us who have a mental health challenge have the healthy support of family and close friends we do better in our recovery. So, what do you do when your spouse or significant other is not supportive? I believe that when you have no support at “home” then it is imperative to become active within a peer-to-peer support group. It’s important to find a group that is encouraging, is principled and offers hope. Research shows that while venting about one’s life and recovery is important, when it is the only thing that is done within a group setting it can make one sicker. No support at home? Find a health support group if you can’t change the situation at home. Sometimes you have to stop complaining about what you don’t have at home and find the peer-to-peer support that focuses on living well.
- Self-Sabotaging Behavior: Again and again I have seen folks begin to get their lives back; beginning to live well. And then they will self-sabotage their wellness! Sometimes it is because they have not changed behaviors that are self-destructive. Sometimes it is because they fear to succeed in living well. And many times it is due to a lack of mindfulness; lack of self-awareness. It is so easy to live on automatic pilot not paying attention to our thinking, feelings, and mood. If you and I want to live well in spite of having bipolar disorder, then it is imperative that we are mindful of what we are thinking, feeling and doing.
- Lack of Self-Discipline: Being self-disciplined can be very difficult. Being disciplined is something that I have to work on constantly. Whether it is due to having bipolar disorder or because of my personality type; I’m not very disciplined in most things and especially lack discipline with things I don’t interest me. So, there are a lot of important things like health eating and exercise that I have to push myself to do. Believe you me, I know what it is like to so depressed that to even shower is more than you can do. And I also know what it is like to be so manic that you have no time for discipline. But, it is key to your wellness and mine to be self-disciplined in all things. Self-discipline helps us to achieve balance in our lives. Sometimes you just have to just “push-through” even though you don’t feel like doing something. And when you do, you find that you will feel better for having done it.
- A Victim Mentality: Let’s be honest, it is very easy to feel sorry for ourselves. Self-pity can impede living well in spite of having bipolar disorder faster than just about anything else can. Feeling sorry for myself has never moved me one step closer to living well. In fact, it has always moved me away from wellness. Yes, I have pulled the “bipolar-card” through the years. You know, where you use your bipolar disorder as the excuse for what is sometimes just bad behavior or an unchecked temper. If you see yourself as a victim, then you are the victim. But, not the victim of someone else’s actions but of your thinking. Of course, there are times when people are victimized by crimes and the abuse of others. But, those who recover from these types of things end up telling you that they don’t see themselves as victims but as an overcomer.
- The Medicine Yo-Yo: Too often you and I are impatient for the medicine to work. And many times you and I don’t like the side effects or don’t take a medicine long enough for the side effects to subsided. So, we “play” with our meds. Some time ago, and I don’t remember where, I read that going off and on your medicines can cause your brain chemistry to cycle even more. If you believe your medicine is not working, contact your doctor. Don’t play doctor. If the side effects are troublesome, talk with your doctor. Sometimes you have to put up with the side effects until they subside and in doing so, it will be worth it. And if you are doing well, don’t go off of your medicine. Your medicine is why you are doing well! (By the way, a whole other issue with medicine is the use of alcohol and other street drugs; self-medicating, etc. The truth is, when you sabotage your wellness by self-medicating, you are cheating yourself of wellness. And a brief word about the use of marijuana- if you have bipolar disorder, and you use it, it can cause psychosis. If you don’t believe me, Google it! )
- Hopelessness: Hopelessness can kill. Hopelessness happens when you and I believe that we have no future. When you and I have no dreams, hopelessness sets in and holds us in its grip. It is imperative to have dreams, goals for your future. Even the smallest of dreams and goals can give to you and me hope. If you feel hopeless, start setting goals that will help you achieve wellness. And when you reach even the smallest of those goals, celebrate it! Hopelessness is like a cancer of mood, motivation and reason to live. The only cure for hopelessness is to believe that you have a future. Do you have a future? Yes, you do! And it’s a good future! How do I know that? Because I’ve been to the point where my life was “over” and it seemed as though the best was behind me. I believed that I had no future. And I felt as though I could not go on. But, then little step by little step; day by day life continued, and I began to live again. It was not easy, and it was the single hardest work I’ve ever done. I began to understand that being a husband and dad that my family could count on gave me a purpose, a reason to live and move forward. I stopped focusing on me. Cause I couldn’t do it for me at first. So, I did “it” for them. And I made a decision, a simple to decision to believe that I had a purpose and a future in spite of how I felt. It was not easy. And at times, it was darn right painful. But, oh so worth it!
By the way, hope is something you can borrow from others. So, if you need hope as you are reading this, but you have none, then borrow some of my hope. Dr. Sean Lopez has done clinical research that proves hope is something that you can borrow. Plus, hope is catching. Hang around a bunch of hope-filled people and you will become hopeful.
Are any of these things that I have listed here impeding your journey to wellness? If so, how might you overcome them? What is your game plan? One are other issues that hold you back from wellness in your life? What are issues that you have faced and overcome that have moved you to wellness?
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