Mental Illness - Does It Get Better or Worse?

April 2, 2012 Natasha Tracy

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.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2012, April 2). Mental Illness - Does It Get Better or Worse?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 21 from

Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate, and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar. She's also the host of the podcast Snap Out of It! The Mental Illness in the Workplace Podcast.

Natasha is also unveiling a new book, Bipolar Rules! Hacks to Live Successfully with Bipolar Disorder, mid-2024.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleX, InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

April, 2 2012 at 12:17 pm

VenusH are you bipolar?

April, 2 2012 at 9:08 am

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....

April, 2 2012 at 8:55 am

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.

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