Thursday 10 July 2014

"How do you treat bipolar? Will my friend recover?"

Someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder is unlikely to ever be permanently 'fixed' or 'cured', but that's not to say there is no hope, or that life will be unremittingly grim. Each person, like each diagnosis, is unique. Some people have periods of remission and stability lasting for years. Others may be less fortunate, but our experience is that it is possible to recover from the acute phases of mania and depression, and to take positive steps towards maintaining stability and wellness. These steps involve developing habits and strategies (including taking medication as prescribed) that foster self-care, and remaining vigilant for behaviours which might herald the approach of mania or depression.

During an acute episode of mania or depression the focus is on managing the symptoms and restoring the person to a place of balance. Once relatively stable, the emphasis shifts to maintaining balance and minimising the frequency and severity of future episodes. It is neither an exact science nor a fine art. Each change in treatment, especially a change in medication or dosage, requires time to stabilise and assess, in terms of useful effects and side-effects.

For someone with bipolar disorder, and for those who love and care for them, wellness can never be taken for granted. It's not something you can find and hold on to, or somewhere you can reach which is forever free from illness. It's more like a skill which has to be developed, practiced and refined: an ability to navigate a route through shifting sands, or sail a steady course through treacherous waters.

Gum on My Shoe: One Step at a Time with My Bipolar Best Friend Chapter 3 ("The Well of Wellness")

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