Mental Health Blogs

Mental Illness – Does It Get Better or Worse?

I’m sitting on my red, plush couch in my living room and I have started crying. Tears well in my eyes at first while I try to convince them not to roll down my face and splash the back of my glasses. As usual, the tears don’t listen and soon my cheeks and lips and chin are wet with saline. I take off my glasses and put them on the wenge coffee table and my head falls into my hands. Loud crying now, choking sobs wrack my body as I feel the pain of illness that I had been pushing away for so long beat me once again.

And I wonder – will it get better?

I Hate Bipolar Disorder

I hate this disease. I hate it with the fiery hatred of a thousand suns. I hate the pain. I hate the suffering. I hate the loneliness. I hate the tears. I hate the blood. I hate everything that bipolar disorder brings to a life.

But Does it Get Better?

I’ve been doing this for 14 years and yes, it gets better. And then it gets worse. And then better, and then worse. The illness is like that. It moves in cycles.

And if you’ve been doing this for a while you know it’s true. You know that when you are at the lowest of your lows, you have climbed back out of the hole only to see glimmers of hope again. These glimmers might be infrequent, I know, but they’re there.

Yes, it gets better.

Yes, It Gets Worse

Mental Illness - Does It Get Better or Worse?

But living with the idea that it gets worse again is almost impossible. It’s clearly not impossible because I do it, but it’s as close to impossible as one thing can get. Knowing that the pain is coming is like waiting on the tracks for a freight train. It’ll shred you to pieces, sometime, somehow, and yet you can’t move.

Living with This Knowledge

Knowing then, that I will get better, and I will get worse is quite a challenge. I know of only one thing for it – to lie. Or perhaps, put another way, to ignore it.

When it’s bad, you have to think about the fact that it will get better and ignore the fact that it will get bad again. Knowing that you’ll be back to the swells of pain that have swallowed you whole won’t help. Not then.

When it’s good, you have to ignore the fact that it will get worse again. You have to plan for it and yet your psyche can’t sit around waiting for it. There’ll be time enough to worry about the freight train once it’s on the horizon.

I know this adds up to willful ignorance and denial – which usually I’m against. But I know no other way of living with such earth-destroying information. Just try not to think about it.

You can find Natasha Tracy on Facebook or GooglePlus or @Natasha_Tracy on Twitter.

This entry was posted in Achieving Remission, Bipolar Treatment, Coping, Denial, Depression, Desire For Remission, Impact of Bipolar, Understanding Mental Illness and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

45 Responses to Mental Illness – Does It Get Better or Worse?

  1. Donna says:

    I think for me, I have hope that the next time things get worse I’ll be better equipped to deal with it. After my last hospitalization a year ago, I was put on an extended leave of absence and I decided to use the time to work hard to find things that would be preventative, and also help me in the early, mid, and late stages of crisis. Participating in the WRAP program helped, learning and working on CBT helped, major changes in diet and exercise helped and learning how to manage my schedule so I don’t feel overwhelmed helped. And of course, there were some medication tweaks (the most noticeable being no longer taking benzodiazepines).

    Since implementing these changes I feel more empowered and I’m pretty confident that the next time things get worse, as of course they will, I’ll be better equipped to combat my symptoms, and hopefully it won’t be as bad as the last time.

  2. VenusH says:

    I do not think it does have to get worse. It’s not denial, it’s having hope.

    I know this is not popular opinion in mental health circles, but I think attitude and spirit have a lot to do with well being. Unless you believe in yourself and believe that you can overcome and have the will to do so… all the top notch (sadly in the case of psychiatry not so top notch) medical science cannot save you.

    I think that “earth destroying information” of “oh, yes, it gets worse, lifetime of suckage head” is not a truth. It’s a philosophy. I met sucess story people with bipolar, but none of them were success while maintaining doom-and-gloom attitude about their future.

    I think at one point it gets better. One learns to live with it. Recognize their patterns and warning signs and learn do do what is good for them. No, that does not mean they are cure, but one can endure much bad episodes without spiralling out of control…. because it is one episode, it passes, one lives on. Learnig damage control is important. But to do this, one has to believe they can do it….

  3. holly says:

    VenusH are you bipolar?

  4. samantha roby says:

    Acceptance for me has been a key factor. Accepting that yes I have an illness and I will have flare ups is the reality. Embracing that yes I am completely bonkers and having a sense of humor about it has been my saving grace in the hardest of times.

    I know my limits now, there are times I can achieve and there are times I need quiet solitude. Cleansing myself spiritually and on all levels helps tremendously. Believing that I am a part of the cycle of the earth and seasons and that as my spring and summer comes I am empowered to take action and as my winter and fall come it is a time for rest and reflection. Acceptance.

    A belief of everything in life teaches us something in the best times and worst gives me quiet gratitude to feel the cycle of life so intimately.

    There is sadness in death, but there is also appreciation for life in the same act. Death is a beautiful transition as is birth. If there is benefits of this life cycle then I think if you look closely enough there is benefits to experiencing bipolar. It teaches us to accept and see life with new eyes each day we open them.

  5. Stephanie Hansen says:

    I’ve been mulling over this post for a while. With bipolar type II – which is all I can speak of – it gets better and worse, in ways all its own.

    I wasn’t diagnosed bipolar until a few years ago but it was clear I’ve been bipolar all my life since early childhood, no doubt. I raised two children without being medicated for bipolar and the docs asked how that was possible, but the answer is easy: my one daughter was high special needs, her life always in the balance, and the stress kept me almost always hypomanic and able to function at a keen level of energy, but given any downtime at all I plunged deep into depression, pulled to duty only by my daughter’s intense needs.

    But being so different – with brain damage and autism – she gave me an outlet for my own ‘specialness’. She was very ‘odd’ and I revelled in joining her in her ‘oddness’ and it was a great relief to me andmy own pent-up energies. Since she died I haven’t done any of our special things. And I’ve been medicated so my highs are not so high and the lows are different too. Mostly I’ve lost a great deal of creativity that went with the hypomania. So it’s better but worse too.

    The depression is not usually as dramatically deep, but it is most of the time, and anti-depressants make me manic so I can’t increase them, and lessening the drug that keeps me from being manic makes the post traumatic stress come back full force. They’ve run through the gamut of medication so this is what I’m left with. I’m a joy-hunter. I have to pull it out of life myself. It’s a full time job. But with age that’s an easier task. I’ve learned where to find it. I know myself better. I know the world better. I’ve become more daring.

    The Greenday song says: For what it’s worth, it was worth all the while… and that’s the very big, big picture…in the end I will make it all worth the while. I don’t have to work on building a treasure chest full of memories of depression; they’ll happen on their own, time has proved, but my job, I have come to know, is building a treasure chest of photographs and memories of *amazing* experiences when I’m able to experience them.

    What I learned from a friend of mine battling breast cancer for nearly 20 years was to make big plans for big experiences in between the times she was not well. She lived an *amazing* life!!! And she taught me to travel and to live wildly and full of joy when I could and to curl up and be whatever I was when I was not well, but to always have a plan ready for when I would live again. The last trip she went on before she passed was to fly her son to Scotland to the booklaunch of the last Harry Potter novel in a castle and his book was signed by the novelist herself. Memories! She was the queen!!!!

    Live, and retreat, live, and retreat, live, and retreat…it can make for a beautiful life. It really, really can.

    But yes…like this last week I’ve been really suffering…and I will make plans for some time when the sun shines inside me, when I’m ready for it. I must. I’m learning. Even though down don’t stop being down. Down dirty on the ground down. But light is always warm and refreshing when it returns, and it always returns.

  6. jacqui says:

    Hi Natasha,

    I so appreciate your honesty regarding this illness, and I respect the fact that you do not succumb to the pressure to be a “cheerleader” for an illness which does not deserve the light of false hope shone upon it.

    This illness has caused you, and millions of others, intolerable suffering. I applaud you for being ‘real’ about it. Psychologists and psychiatrists are, despite good intentions, puppeteers of the pharmaceutical companies. Let them, with all good intentions, peddle the wares of aforementioned companies, whilst simultaneously patting themselves on the back for providing their best service with the most advanced products available at the moment. They are simply doing the best they can, with the limited resources they have, for a patient population with a very poor prognosis. No pessimism here – just realism.

    Can you imagine how much indirect joy our suffering brings to the medical fraternity? Just picture the look of poor bliss on your psychiatrist’s face as he drives his family to the airport in his Ferrari, then languishes in first class, sipping champagne and dreaming of the pampering he will receive at his chosen luxury resort.

    I am not bashing psychiatrists, (well maybe just a little), but the “it’s a calling” crap they bleat over and over, does not diminish their uncanny ability to dissociate (yes, they do it too) their vast earnings and commensurate enjoyment derived there-from, from the immeasurable suffering of those they ‘fleeced’ en-route. Psychiatrists who take on Pro Bono work for the right reasons, and not to present a facade of the “calling” crap, are exempt, of course. :-)

    I digressed…I meant to say…that we need people like you, Natasha, to offer an alternative and honest perspective.

    Keep up the good work!
    Jacqui

  7. VenusH says:

    Yes, Holly, I am bipolar, why even ask? I mention the said condition in my post.

    I guess for my acceptance is more of… well, I have a condition. Still better then living in Gaza Strip. It ain’t the end of the world. I do have my limits and I know it holds me back, but I work on that. I try to use it to my advantage (my depressions tend actually to get hyperfocused to slightly obssesive level. I channel it. It is not ideal situation, but I can either feel sad about it, or I can live. I chose to feel sad for a bit… then I live).

    I don’t think being doom and gloom makes you more geniune. One has to deal with what they got. I think maintaining healthy hope and belief in yourself is important.

    It’s actually awfully easy to “accept” giving up. To “accept” that you cannot do anything for yourself or very little. More challenging it so live regardless and to work with what you got instead of dwelling on “if only I didn’t have this, I could…”.

  8. Sarah says:

    This last year and a half is my first ‘remission’ or euthymic period since the symptoms began six or so years ago. I have been better and better since the diagnosis and correct treatment. I have not experienced a cyclical relapse, and I hope that I never will. I know that, if I do, I can overcome it.

  9. Ash says:

    Your post topics seem to come exactly when I need them. It’s a bit strange, really. I had been doing well for a little while, everything seemed to be finally getting better, but it stopped and the past two weeks have been hell. I did things a little differently this time, so hopefully I can come out of this.

    Great post!

  10. Hi Donna,

    That’s a great attitude and you’ve put everything in place to ensure that it won’t be as bad. Good for you. Hopefully you’re right.

    - Natasha

  11. Hi VenusH,

    I didn’t say I couldn’t do it. Actually, I said the opposite, I said I could. I do. Every day.

    Attitude matter but I’m not a sunshiny-daises-and-floppy-bunnies kind of person. That doesn’t work for me. It’s OK if it works for others.

    And for all intents and purposes I _am_ a success story. That doesn’t mean that I don’t battle just like everyone else.

    - Natasha

  12. Hi Jacqui,

    Thanks. I’m glad someone appreciates the non-cheerleader approach. It’s just me. Some people like that about me, some people really don’t. I think, though, that really sick people get it. Those that have been sick for a really long time get it. And they want that reality expressed even if it isn’t popular.

    I’ll leave you to bash the psychiatrists. Over here in Canada, it’s not quite the same and I actually do believe doctors try to help people. But that’s just me.

    - Natasha Tracy

  13. Hi Ash,

    Happy I could step in right when you were looking :)

    - Natasha Tracy

  14. jacqui says:

    Hi Natasha,

    I think you are right that people who have been really sick for a long time do appreciate your sometimes brutal honesty about a brutal illness. It is exhausting and very debilitating, and brief encounters with relative wellness serve to taunt and tease about what could have or should have been.

    Please take my psychiatrist bashing from whence it comes…I am trying out new meds and have felt angry at everyone in general (and fighting with everyone in general)…so it just felt appropriate to send a little vitriolic humor in their
    direction today.

    I don’t know where you find the time to reply to so many of us, but I thank you for giving up your time to reply to my post!

    Take care and look after yourself,
    Jacqui

  15. Hi Jacqui,

    Don’t worry, I’ve had enough rants myself that I could never say they were a bad idea. It’s better to blow off frustration on the internet than hold it inside or eventually yell at your doctor, I’d say.

    I try to reply to people as I feel that if they make the effort to reach out, then I should make the effort to reach back. Although I don’t always have the time.

    Thanks.

    - Natasha Tracy

  16. Krystal says:

    I can see things from both sides I think. I know that with my Bi-Polar (Type II) I have cycles. Mine aren’t regular, & are often triggered by a life event (or that’s how it seems as I’ve had many of these life events recently) but not always. I know I can usually expect a depressive episode following a (hypo-)manic one. The expectation seems to help a little as it’s not a surprise & I can recognize it for what it is. I went 11 years with a MDD diagnosis before I finally found a dr who said I was Bi-Polar. (It’s funny because I told my first psychiatrist that I thought I might be in 2001, but he said he didn’t think so, & even if I was it would take him at least 6 yrs to diagnose it. My current dr did it in no more than 3 sessions.) Having the right diagnosis really helps. But I digress …

    I agree with the seasons analogy as that’s how I see it. Currently I’m in what I would say is my Spring, going into Summer. Again, they don’t have set lengths, sometimes one can last a week, sometimes months. I know that these episodes will happen, & I’m starting to be OK with that. I’m starting to recognize the signs so I can decide, with my dr, if it’s necessary to make a (temporary) med change. Coming off the benzodiazapines has helped me tremendously too, as has coming off anti-depressants entirely. I monitor my moods & I’ve done some CBT, WRAP & some DBT. It all helps to get through the depressive states (& do damage control during (hypo)mania). I know that the depression will pass when it happens. Even though I don’t know how long it will last, I know it will pass. I miss the hypomanic states & sometimes wish I could stay there as I’m more outgoing, but I’m finding that as I think more positively, the better I feel, without the risky behaviours of (hypo)mania. So I can see where VenusH is coming from in terms of the hope. I can also see the side of ‘it gets better, it gets worse’. I agree with both. Bi-Polar is a cyclic disorder, & like the tides it ebbs & flows. For me, it’s about learning how to get through those times, good & bad, until I level off again. All the hope in the world might not prevent another depressive episode, but it might help you to get through it.

    The one thing that I go by is not to assume that another episode won’t happen. I hope that it doesn’t but I try to be prepared for if it does, & I do everything I can to remain stable. There are no guarantees when it comes to Bi-Polar Disorder though, & believing there is, in my opinion, will only lead to disappointment & distress when another episode happens, as you are taken completely by surprise. It’s about acceptance for me. Accepting that I do have Bi-Polar, accepting that there is no cure, & accepting that I am responsible for recognizing what is going on within myself (although having loved ones who can recognize signs before you do is always helpful!), & for seeking (asking for) the help that I need.

  17. Graham says:

    Oh, I so understand where you are coming from with this. It gets better, it gets worse, it gets better, it gets worse. A never ending bloody cycle! I find some consolation it seeing I’ve known it all much worse before I began treatment, altho’ I then wonder if my partial recovery is because of, or in spite of, the medication! (If the latter, I’ll be pissed off because the meds have done damage … weight gain, diabetes, and goodness knows what other long term side effects are being stored up.) I also find it uplifting to know I’ve survived the Bipolar this far; many haven’t so that means I’m strong. I also celebrate the advantages that come with the hypo’s esp.enhanced creativity – but then, I don’t get many of them these days, or when I do they’re often of the dysphoric kind! So, we do what we have to do because others depend on our survival! So, keep on hanging in there, “Natasha” – you know you’ve got to even when you don’t want to …

  18. Randye Kaye says:

    Oh, Natasha. thanks – as always – for saying it as it is, how it truly feels. I just returned from speaking at an art exhibit featuring visual and written art (poetry) by young adults with mental illness. One young woman, wrote, “I hate this pain. This pain has end, no point.” Yet there she was, in the better part of the cycle, sharing it all with us. amazing.

  19. Hi Randye,

    Thanks. Yes, the art of others is often touching. People can often express through art that which is impossible to say in other ways.

    - Natasha

  20. Mark says:

    This topic is very relevant for me. I am coming out of a depressive episode that has lasted several months. It is only one of a long line of depressive episodes too. You do get used to some of the pain but it still hurts. Like Krystal I went 10 years with a major depression diagnosis before getting to a new psychiatrist and a new bipolar diagnosis. Then just a year later with yet again another new psychiatrist, I got upgraded to schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type.

    There must be some hope maintained throughout the depressive episodes in my view in order to cope with the process. The bright light will shine through once again. It just takes patience to wait for that moment to come around again.

    This is my first post to the blog. I really like the views that I have read so far. The information is relevant and directly on point for me.

  21. Linda says:

    Hi, Your posts really touch me. My husband was recently diagnosed although he has suffered for many many years. I did not know it was cyclical. We were thrilled when meds were prescribed and zap he was back to his old self. That was several months ago and now he is frantically slipping back.
    He has just started a new job. No one here has discussed how this affects your ability to function in the workplace. He does not want to get out of bed, his self-esteem is out the window and he is afraid he can’t do his job. So what do you all do about work?

    Anxious to hear.

  22. Hi Linda,

    I apologize for the delay in getting back to you.

    There are many effects of bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses and yes, some of them affect a person in the workplace, no doubt about that. Some people find they can manage them and some people find they cannot. It‘s quite individual from what I‘ve seen.

    You may wish to read this: http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2011/01/bipolar-disorder-and-work-in-the-office/

    It can be frightening to face a job that you‘re not sure you can do, but dealing with the challenges can happen in time, but probably not overnight. The only major tip I can give is that if work is the priority, then all energy and focus should be given to it. It‘s possible to function for 8 hours a day at work and then rest the rest of the time at home. This isn‘t ideal, but it can work while a person is adjusting (that‘s assuming work is the priority).

    And there‘s always taking time off while adjusting to new medications. That is an option to consider too.

    Regardless it is doable and most people with a mental illness work, so don‘t give up hope. :)

    - Natasha

  23. Patricia Bosley says:

    Hi Natasha,
    My psych. wants to put me on disability as I have not been able to hold down a job in over a year. I feel like disability is seen as a negative like being on welfare. Also, if I decided to go on disability it would be admitting that I am less functioning than a lot of your followers and that makes me feel lonely.

  24. Hi Patricia,

    Just so you know, _many_ of my readers _are_ on disability, but they might not make it obvious in every comment, but I do know about it as I see them on Facebook.

    I can really understand how you would feel it would be seen as a negative – and it would be by some people – but that isn’t fair. What disability is, is a way of some of our society helping out others in need, and it’s OK to say that you’re in need. We all need things from time to time.

    Admitting that you’re less-functioning is very hard, I would not argue with you on that but sometimes it’s something we have to do. Sometimes I have to say to someone, “I’m sorry, but I can’t make that deadline as I’ve been sick.” I wish I didn’t have to say things like that, but sometimes I do.

    I can understand you feeling lonely – but remember this, being on disability isn’t something that people yell about. Many people here, online, and around you, in real life, may be (or have been) on disability and you wouldn’t even know it.

    I believe that we all do the best we can with what we have, and sometimes the best we can do is accept some help from someone else – and that’s OK. It doesn’t have to be like that forever. It’s simply a stepping stone until you find your footing.

    - Natasha Tracy

  25. Nikki says:

    Hey Patricia

    I am on SSI because I did not qualify for disability and due to the fact of the severity of the bipolar I could not hold down a job and had no health insurance so I had to make the choice to get on SSI so I could get the medical treatment that I needed. It was not an easy choice. So you are not alone .. and anyone who gives you grief about getting on disability ignore their ignorance. because truth is your tax dollars paid for that so you are not getting a free hand out.
    Do you what you need to do for yourself so that you can have the help you need and be able to take care of yourself and be with your loved ones.

  26. Stephanie says:

    Hi Patricia,
    This would be the one issue/comment that brings me out of lurking mode. I am on disability. Sometimes, I cringe when the subject comes up around certain people. It has been 20 years for me now. In fact, like you, I wanted to refuse it and did. I told them to revoke their decision, please, take me off of this (I had to file SSD based on the Long Term Disability) I needed from work. I always thought I’d make it back. And I told Social Security that. “I’m FINE!” I said. “I’ll get my job back, just wait and see.” Fortunately, they didn’t listen to me or I would have had to go through the process all over again once I finally accepted some things about my situation.
    I did learn that it is nobody’s business. I could talk about it or not. When that crummy topic comes up around people, “What do you do for a living?” I’d give different answers depending on how i felt. Sometimes, I am a homemaker. Before ECT threatments, I’d call myself an artist. The biggest help for me has been letting my current goal (and that often changes) define what I consider myself. It increases my self-esteem in that goal area as well. Right now, I am a food/photography and thought blogger. I used to believe it was the paycheck part that mattered but now I try hard to let it be the least of the aspects that define me.
    If your doctor is supporting you with this option, then really consider that he/she is trying to help you through a current difficult situation that has an undetermined length of stay.
    And keep keep coming here and other places where you find people who understand and can support the idea that disability is not a disgrace and shame on those who think so. They aren’t worthy of our head space. Don’t let them take up rent there, they aren’t paying, that’s for sure. And welfare itself is not shameful, if you really need the help.
    Sorry that was long winded. I could talk a lot about that subject. It is one that has wreaked havoc on my self-esteem for years. I do my best to knock it down every chance I get now. Best wishes to you. I do hope you feel better about it soon.

  27. Patricia,

    The last time I worked a full time job was in 2000. Being on Social Security Disability does not mean that one cannot be employed at all. In fact, the fact that I have Disability monies AND WAS ABLE TO WORK PART TIME meant that I could save a little bit of money and over time — (I have learned to have much patience !!) I have afforded many thousands of dollars worth of high quality Japanese Delica brand seed beads. This major endeavor has allowed me to have something of my own. I have created Beaded Scottish Tartan Art and I find much healing as I bead because it is not only the hand-eye coordination … movement of the physical body, but my mind is very active.

    I have spent most of my life in pain of one sort or another. My mother died when I was 22 and the corrupt Child “Protective” Services stole my only son when he was in the 4th grade. The shrinks I saw labeled me one thing and gave me drugs. I was still employed most of this time but had much emotional difficulty and did not have many close friends because I had not much practice LIMITING what I said to whom and, lets me honest, most people will get overwhelmed when someone with a lifetime of pain and difficulties tells their life story in a few paragraphs.

    I have a bad habit of branching out on to a different subject when I talk and I may have just done, but I need to work today and I wanted to write this to you before I go, so I am going to forgo re-reading and editing.

    What i am trying to say is R-E-L-A-X.

    You may find that going on SSDI will actually be a liberating event. If you have money coming in from qualifying for Disability then you might stress over finances less and find that, for you, working part time is okay.

    Don’t feel guilty about taking money from the government as the government takes your money. There are many Welfare mothers who have no other option because either the government or someone else put them in a corner. I went to college to get off of Welfare then someone said something to somebody and my child was taken. I gave up my career to get my child back. Now we are both on Disability.

    Sometimes there are too many people who have too much negativity and it spreads like a virus. People do other people wrong. I am thankful I never punched someone in the nose for telling me “get a job” when I was a single mom going to college and getting Welfare because my son and I had to eat. There are people who abuse government help, but then if you watch the news you will come to realize that much more money than a Welfare / Social Security Disability abusers go out daily from other government frauds and big business greed. IT IS THE UNITED STATES SQUEEZE. Don’t feel bad because you were reduced to “victim” status ! You have to fight ! Don’t let “them ” win ! You don’t loose when you get money from somewhere other than employment. You loose only when you become complacent and stop trying !

    I have a Chinese Fortune Cookie tag that says, “Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

  28. Patricia Bosley says:

    Thank you Natasha,Nikki,Stephanie and Monica for your positive thoughts. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond and to tell me about your experiences. I don’t feel so alone :)

  29. You’re welcome Patricia. Happy I could help.

    - Natasha

  30. kara says:

    I felt the same way. I tried working aftermy first bout with mmania. Total disaster. manic again 18mo later.

    Being on disabilitylet me concentrate on getting better.

    I felt awful for doing it, but I cannot imagine fuctioning without it now.

    No there will never be a merit raise, or a commission check, and COLA is a joke.

    If you have worked any length of time in your life, remember, YOU PAID INTO THIS EVERYMONTH, for the benefit of all disabled. You deserve to reapfrom your investment.

    It is hard, but that is the purpose for which it was designed.

  31. Christine says:

    I have been on SSDI since Feb. 2011. I have never bought into the myth that SSDI is “welfare.” That is pure B.S., but for whatever reason, that social-safety net-bashing-mindset is rampant among many these days. Not everyone abuses “the system”. Meanwhile, abuse of corporate welfare is shrugged off. Anyway…I have a 20+ year job history and I earned that disability insurance. After I became sick and lost my job, mind, etc SSDI afforded me a way to stay afloat financially. I like not being homeless…I like being able to have personal transportation. I do not feel guilty at all….my plan is to eventually return to full time work. Right now I have progressed to volunteering a few hours a week. So far I am doing ok but I’m still having my days. I want to find an appropriate part-time job when I feel a little stronger and with guidance from my Psychiatrist (who is also my therapist). So pay no attention to the naysayers. I see it as part of self care and a stepping stone to getting back on my feet. My self-esteem is better when I keep that in perspective. As far as less functioning goes…truth is I do struggle with accepting that from time to time. As time goes on this illness becomes more severe. That does not mean I can’t fully contribute, however

  32. Kaitlin Panda says:

    Yes, it gets better; it gets worse. When it’s bad I get tunnel vision and only see the rough parts of my past. It’s the feeling that it will never get better that has had me contemplating suicide. I know when I’m absolutely miserable there is a good chance I will feel that very same way again and again…The thought that I will never get better makes me want to just give up. How much can a person take?

    Following the comments here I have to say I live with a lot of shame because I’m on disability. And I shouldn’t be embarrassed. No one who is truly ill should.

    I have dreams of doing great things with my life, but every time I try to accomplish something I fall into a valley of depression. I get so disappointed and beat myself up for being a failure. I wonder if it’s better to not get my hopes up at all?

  33. Hi Kaitlin,

    Thanks for chiming in. You’re absolutely right about the tunnel vision and you’re right about it getting better. And worse.

    You’re also right that you shouldn’t live with shame simply because you need some help. Disability is meant for people with some kind of illness. If you have one, you’ve earned it and there is nothing wrong with accepting a helping hand to help you succeed.

    I wouldn’t say it’s better not to get your hopes up, I would just say readjust your hopes. Let’s say you want to climb Mt. Everest. It would be pretty easy to fail at that. Look, I’m doing it right now. But if your goal were to make a 30 minute climb – you would likely succeed. And then, over time, maybe a very long time, you could build up to a place where climbing Mt. Everest might be possible.

    So you can set your hopes as high as you want, all you have to do is define the proper, reasonable steps to get there. Because we all can move forward towards goals, we just generally can’t run at them as fast as we want.

    - Natasha

  34. Ernie Richards says:

    @samantha roby, death is not a “beautiful transition”. It is at bast an ugly reminder of the fate of all of us. In the last 7 months I have lost my father and 3 of his siblings. Being in the hospital rooms for most for these deaths was nowhere near beautiful. During and since then my extremely rapid cycling has increased in rapidity and the lows/highs are much further apart. I trying to work with my psychiatrist however he feels that within a few months I should experience relief. I am still waiting. I hate death such a vengeance, even though in the past 10 years I have attempted suicide 10 times. Who knows, maybe this is my karma. But death is never a “beautiful” anything, it is ghastly and intensely sorrowful.

  35. Ernie Richards says:

    Patricia: don’t worry about going on disability. I have been on it for just over 8 months, and with passing of my dad and 3 of his siblings, I would not have survived if I was trying to find a job or hold onto a job. Keep your chin up, whenever possible.

  36. Patrick christy says:

    All I can say at this point is wow ! I just started taking meds for bipolar. I’m 49 and have been suicidal etcetera all my life . Two weeks of meds and I’m already feeling something so wonderful ! I’m am so grateful

  37. Matilda says:

    That has not been my experience with psychiatrists, the one I have now is very caring. They have to make a living, maybe you should try to find another one. My psychologist was fantastic, very dedicated to my care and recovery from bipolar disorder.

  38. Lisa Smyth says:

    Disgusting is all I have to say. I know one person on disability right now. She has totally worked the system. She is a prescription drug addict, got herself fired for being out there, and ran with the bipolar angle. I know the family very well, they are full of enablers and were never taught to gather yourself up and go on. When the tough gets going they go to bed, all of them! I know a few more people working the system for welfare/food stamps. I am very close with these people, very nice, but they are working the system as well. One of the wives I know is frustrated at the husband because he doesn’t want to work because he feels he is too old and fat so he works the system! Its gross in my opinion. And yes, you did pay into it but after years what you paid into it is eaten up and gone, and we the people are paying for the rest!

  39. Sarah says:

    @Lisa Smythe,
    Your comments have gone down about as well as a handful of giant cockroaches. Forgive me while I regurgitate them: you think mental illness is an excuse.
    All I can say is, I would never wish mental illness on my worst enemy. So I am glad that you have no understanding of the pain and suffering people go through minute to minute, day to day, and year by year. In order to understand, you would have to suffer mental illness yourself first. And I hope that it never happens to you.

  40. judy says:

    @Sarah. Well said!

    I hear this sentiment so much. The absurdity is tiring. As a BPII sufferer, I just wanted to say that none of Lisa’s assertion is true. Getting disability is really not that easy. Strangely, getting SSI if you’re addicted to drugs is easier than if you have BPII. You really have to demonstrate that you are completely disabled to qualify. And even then, you may be rejected a few times before receiving disability.

    I’ve worked since 16, paid my taxes, etc., and I know there are many other people who are the same. Let’s not undermine these people with yet another sweeping generalization.

  41. Julia says:

    Good topic, lots of discussion on related tangents. For me, I am 31 years old and “newly” diagnosed with bipolar I. Very rapid cycling, and I deal mainly with mixed episodes. (@ Ernie–rapid cycling increasing in rapidity doesn’t result in the episodes being farther apart) I think I was first formally diagnosed with the bipolar in September of 2012, prior it was just classified as a mood disorder as we hadn’t really been tracking cycles. That September I was in the hospital for the first time and I was there for three weeks. Not a terrible experience, but certainly not something enjoyable. Turned out I was manic, probably psychotic at times, and definitely raging any time there was an instance of disagreement. I even found myself in seclusion with restraints. Yep. That was fun.

    Prior to this hospitalization, by about two weeks, I had been involuntarily committed for the better part of a day. Following, I did the outpatient program (which, in any other circumstance, they would have kicked me out) for 8 weeks, only to find myself back in inpatient two weeks later. That hospitalization was terrible, and I was the lovely recipient of the tranquilizing shot. Tranquilized I was. My goodness, I slept for like 16 hours. Talk about crazy. At least this stay was shorter. A rough month goes by, I’m doing my dr stuff, attending support groups, yada yada. In February, I was in the hospital again for like two useless days. I was also involuntarily committed again, this time for effectively two days. That’s 5 hospital admissions in 6 months, two involuntary.

    At this point my dr advises going back East (where I have family) to a major medical hospital where they actually study stuff like bipolar and complicated cases, as I guess mine is, particularly when combined with my physical issues [which, YAY, have improved. Not the pain, but the functional stuff which is all I really care about anyways]. He recommended a few, made some contacts for me, and two weeks later I’m in Boston. Now it’s March, and I’m in the hospital again. This time for two weeks. But excellent care pretty much all around. Logical med changes and done correctly, great nurses, pretty decent food, varied and informative groups, effective rounds with the team assigned to you every day (slightly intimidating at first). Heck they even let you have your cell phones. Again not enjoyable, but at least profitable. I narrowly avoided formal isolation and any restraint this time.

    I come back to the West coast and it’s April. I just turned 31, I’ve been unemployed for a little over a year and a half and have had no financial assistance. The business I had started has seemingly evaporated and I have a pile of bills and court notices to somehow address. The one piece of good news? I found out I got SSDI, and they back-paid for a year. I don’t plan on it being any permanent thing, but I don’t need to focus on that either. I’m just glad it came when and how it did, and that I have it. It’s not much, don’t kid yourself. But it’s something, and it’s more than what I had before.

    [SIDE NOTE]: To clear up any confusions, there are 2 basic programs and they are completely different though their letters are similar. One is SSI, which stands for Supplemental Security Income. The other is SSDI, which stands for Social Security Disability Insurance. The difference is this:
    1. SSI is granted primarily based on your income and assets. You also have to be either over 65 or have a disability [it can also be for children with disabilities]. Like unemployment benefits (usually), the amount of your SSI benefit will decrease based on how much more you earn past a certain point.

    2. SSDI requires that you have worked long enough to be able to have a benefit, firstly. Unlike SSI, it doesn’t matter what your income was or what your assets are. Once you know you have a benefit, you have to meet their criteria for having a disability that prevents you from working substantially. Contrary to popular opinion, perhaps, it is NOT easy to get. Assuming you do . . . Most hire a lawyer and then Social Security keeps a portion of your benefit once you get it. If you don’t have a lawyer, then you get the full benefit. I was denied the first time, which is customary, and thankfully got it the second time around on the reconsideration. I did not have a lawyer. Regardless, the amount is not a whole lot of money.

    Many people, as I think Natasha pointed out in one of her responses, work part time. SSDI allows you to do that without having the benefit amount change. Of course there is a cap amount that can be earned, which serves as a signal to them that this person maybe isn’t as disabled as they once were. SSDI benefits are reevaluated every three years anyway, generally.

    3. People can get both SSI and SSDI simultaneously. They may apply at the same time, or what is probably more likely, they have one or the other first and then something happens allowing for the second one too.

    [End SIDE NOTE]

    Now it’s September again (the month I wrongfully lost my job two year ago, the month I was *arrested*!?!?, the month of my first psych hospitalization . . .) I’m downsizing in where I live, I am stable for the time being (it’s been 3 weeks so far; that’s good. It appears to be my 2nd good cycle), and aside from the still-proceeding legal issues, that’s basically my life. A lot different from what it used to be, but that’s ok. I’ve also been involved in physical therapy and personal training, so I’ve regained a good deal of strength that I had lost or perhaps never even had.

    But dealing with this reality that you present is so hard. I think I would rather face a prognosis that just says it’s bad and it’s only going to get worse. Why? Because that CYCLE itself is torturous. Knowing that I am going to go through it again and again and again, and not necessarily have any idea when it’ll shift or how long it’ll last, is worse to me than just having to live through what are harder and harder days.

    It’s like a beating. You withstand the beating and the violators in their NOT-mercy, let you up for a while. You get a drink, maybe wash your face, and they knock you down again, beating you more vigorously. But they’re “merciful” again, letting you up before you die. And the cycle repeats. Which is worse? This cycle, or to be beaten to death the first time?

    I’m not, clearly, advocating beating or suicide or anything like that. It’s just a mental image. A strong one at that. I think the one difference, and maybe the ray of hope here, is that as Donna intimated, we can get stronger in between beating. We can learn coping skills, patterns, signs, have a direction for our lives, build a support system however we can, be encouraged by research and new treatment options, basically take control of our treatment while we’re HEALTHY, so that when the cycle actually hits, it’s either not as hard of a beating or we’re better prepared and handling it with more skill. Maybe even both if we’re lucky!

    But yeah, the idea of the cycle. Not a fan of it. But, mine are less severe and farther apart than they were. Be grateful for the little things?

    Thanks for reading my essay!!

  42. judy says:

    SS”D”I – thank you, Julia. I realized my mistake after reading your side note. I meant to say SSDI is not so easy to get – as many seem to think it is. I am surprised that you were initially denied given the multiple hospital stays, but it does illustrate that you really need to demonstrate the need for it to qualify. It isn’t just handed out.

    It is easier to face a prognosis that is just bad and going to get worse. No wasted energy having hope, and you know what to expect. I often say that I would rather get kicked it the gut than deal with cycling. The physical pain is very short term by comparison.

    Glad to hear you’re doing better.

  43. Julia says:

    I think at the time of my initial application, I didn’t have the hospital stays yet. I got it essentially one year after I had first applied. So I got it in March 2013, I’d applied in March 2012. I wasn’t hospitalized until September 2012. It probably was precisely because of the hospitalization that I wound up getting it.

    It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who would simply prefer a prognosis that just gets worse.

  44. judy says:

    Well, I guess no one really want what’s worse. No one deserves that!

    Cycling is painful, though, and I could understand the frustration. Someone here on healthyplace wrote an interesting piece called the five year recovery theory that I found interesting.

    http://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/bipolargriot/2012/10/02/the-five-year-mental-health-recovery-theory/comment-page-1/#comment-326

    It sounds like things are actually better for you now, and I am glad to hear SSDI worked out for you. People have the false belief that it is a cop-out, and somehow MH is used to manipulate the system, but if they had to go through the grueling process of BP cycling themselves, they would understand how necessary it is. What you went through is really tough.

    Much luck on your continued recovery.

  45. Andras Nagy says:

    Sadly, many of you have been brainwashed by the “magical” qualities of medical science and the silver bullet of cocktails of meds. Of course when you find a good combo of meds that works for you, take them. But more often than not meds can make you worse. Lets face it medical science has no idea of the exact effect of some powerful psychosomatic meds. Often the side effects are worse then the illness itself. Having this illness untreated will not make you worse as you age, having this illness while you drink and take drugs will. Also sugar, caffeine and alcohol are the foods you should avoid, regardless if you medicate of not. I am bipolar II and use only sleeping aid, SAMe, 5htp. No meds! I am 58 and if I need meds in the future I will take them but not because the “drug pusher” medical establishment scared me into it! Do not believe everything you hear, especially about big pharma.

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