For me, it was hard (is hard) to give up the security blanket of being sick. I feel vulnerable without it. I thought it meant that I couldn’t ask for help anymore, or that I was on my own as a ‘healthy’ ‘functioning’ person. That’s crap. Everyone needs/wants/deserves help sometimes. Even the healthiest among us has crap days where they need to pull the covers over their heads for a while.
I am ridiculously functional right now. I’m working four days a week and wading my way through a master’s degree. I have a husband, a family and a circle of mostly managing friends. But, on saturday I woke up half way through a panic attack, puked my guts out for four hours, sucked down some clonazepam and called my dad to come and get me so I could get my act together at my mom’s kitchen table for the day. I just turned 39 and I still need my parents, my husband and my best friend to glue me back together from time to time.
Do I consider myself healthy? Jury is still out on that one. But I am working damn hard at getting there because I know I deserve it. I still pull out my security blanket once in a while when I can’t cope. I have left behind the couch-surfing, crying, irresponsible brat I was when I was well and truly sick full-time. I have gained some more respect for myself and my ability to cope. I am less dependent on my loved ones for the basics, but have gained real, healthy relationships with them.
This is not to say that people who are really sick, and are not on the path to recovery (or whatever you want to call it) are somehow lesser, or weaker. They are just sicker, and I have 20 years under my belt in therapy, drugs and self-reflection. I am happier with where I am now, even though it is scary as hell occasionally. I would recommend the healthy thing to anyone who is contemplating it. If you are, it probably means you are not as sick as you think.
This illness thing is a process. You have to go through all the really crazy, sick, miserable phases of the illness in the order in which they come to you. I have a friend who used to identify as SI, ED, PTSD, and so forth. Then, one day, out of the blue, she had to introduce herself to a support group and she totally forgot to mention the abuse, the assault, and all her mental health letters. She just called herself Catherine of the Danforth (the street she lives on). She just got to a place where she saw herself as a person – with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with that. A year earlier she would never have been able to do that. What changed? Probably a lot of therapy, some decent meds, and the support of a couple of good friends. Along with self-reflection, and whatever mystical thing it is that comes from within and causes healing. She is healthy. Not without some bumps, relapses and rough nights, but healthy.
We consider ourselves disabled, to a certain extent. Just healthy disabled. Still capable, still worthwhile, still important in the world, still contributing members of society. We can be strong, but yet still impaired in some ways. Bipolar and capable are not mutually exclusive.
So if you want to be healthy, then go for it. Just don’t think you have to give up support, therapists, meds, groups, hospitals, or whatever you need to get through the day.