I am asked a lot about whether I think I have recovered from bipolar disorder. I say yes, but I always get a queasy feeling along with my affirmative answer. It’s because we (or at least I ) have been socialized and led to believe there is no recovery from mental illness. Plus, some stupid buzz-kill must show up to remind me there is always a potential for relapse.
I said this to a new friend, a sister traveler in the consumer world, recently. “That’s ridiculous,” she said, “if you recover from the flu you can still get it again, but you’ve still recovered.” Now, I don’t usually like comparisons between physical illness and psychic pain, but this made a lot of sense to me. As we discussed the issue further, I became more comfortable in what I already knew in my gut: It is possible to recover from bipolar disorder for some people and I am one of them.
I did a presentation for some drama therapy students a month or so ago. One of the facilitators is a social worker on an inpatient unit at a large metropolitan hospital. He said the team he works with never (NEVER) thinks in terms of recovery, only remission and relapse. He reflected on this, said he never really considered recovery for his patients and that upon momentary reflection about my discussion of recovery, it was interesting to think about and also pretty fucked up, too, to operate only in a space of perpetual illness.
Now, of course all people don’t recover, and folks recover at different levels, different times, different ways,etc. But, with THE WORD from the top (the ‘helping’ professions) being that we cannot recover, well, then, there you go. We. Cannot. Recover.
But FUCK THAT! I don’t believe there is no recovery from mental illness, and neither do a lot of folks I talk to, read, agree with, disagree with, and otherwise. So, today is a new day of believing, affirmatively, that I am recovered, and I will stand my ground with anyone who tries to tell me otherwise.