The Three 'Hs' of Recovery

Following my interview on News Talk Radio last Monday 7th February (if you wish to listen click on 3 and my interview starts after 4 minutes), it occurred to me that I have been forming an important part of my 'recovery philosophy' these past few months. I call it The Three 'Hs'.

My first H is Humility.

The more I live with my current limitations and the more I am convinced that my ego has not been, is not, and will never be an ally in my ability to lead a fulfilling life in Bi-Polar Land. I am not that special - plenty of other people have a hard time and, although suffering can never be reduced to what I call dismissively 'a pissing contest', there is so much more pain in the broad wide world than there is in my own little personal one.  Besides, whether I am well or not, life continues and will continue long after I have kicked the proverbial bucket. Asking 'why me?' isn't a helpful question and nor is it a humble one.  'Why not me?' is both more challenging and more appropriate.

Humility helps me accept my condition. Accepting does NOT mean giving up or giving in.  It means reserving my precious energy to find ways of living a productive and fulfilling life within the limits imposed by my bipolar disorder, rather than waste it by continuously banging my head against the hefty bipolar brickwork. My favourite way of putting it is still that I must accept my limits without defining myself by my limitations. It requires patience, forbearance, and my second H.

My second H is Hope

One great way I have found to visualise my limits is to see them as the banks of a river rather than as a circle keeping me prisoner within its inescapable force field.  I never cease to wonder at how powerful it is to change the way we imagine our situation in our mind. It sounds like the outrageous statement of some self- improvement guru BUT it is absolutely true: change the way we think about our situation and our situation changes.

Not only is hope important but what we hope for is equally crucial.  I no longer hope for me to be the way I used to be.  In other words, I no longer hope backwards.  I now hope only forward. I keep hope alive without dictating hope a list of demands and warning it with a black list of undesirable outcomes.  I just hope for the best and I trust life to know by now what is best for me (probably more than I trust myself!).  Knowing what is best for me requires a level of wisdom I can only aspire to. Of course I hope my level of wisdom will keep rising!  I hope for the best because, frankly, there is no point in expecting the worst. I might just end up 'attracting' the very thing I really do no want.

Hope has a gentle energy and a soft focus. It's free and it is harmless, providing you also hope you will always have the resilience and forbearance to handle disappointment with grace, dignity and my third H.

My third H is Humour

Ever since that day I hopped about helplessly with both my legs in one panty hole, eventually collapsing onto my bed like a demented one-legged grasshopper, I realised there was humour even in the most humiliating frustrating circumstance.  So I set my little internal compass to laughter and I always do my best to go where it points.  Oh I don't laugh all the time, far from it, but I do laugh. I still have a tendency to laugh AT myself instead of laughing WITH myself but I am working on that. Self-mockery isn't any more acceptable than mocking others.  True humour is fuelled by my first H, humility, not by a sense of self-immolation or inadequacy - just gentle humility.

Humour has another subtle quality: it connects us to each other, that's why laughter is so catching. When we laugh we feel human.  In Bi-Polar Land, feeling human has a huge healing power because feeling human is close to feeling 'normal'. We re not sure what that is exactly but one thing we do know is that we need to belong.

Humour plays another wonderful trick in our life: it is cumulative. The more we see the funny side of things, the more funny things we see. It's well worth doing a little 'humour exercise' every day to build those giggle muscles!

My Three Hs are helping me on my Bi-Polar Journey - I sincerely hope they will help you too  :D 

Your wonderful radio interview

Hello Gabrielle,
I really learned a lot from your description of Bipolar diseases I and II from your interview. You really made me think and pause to consider the following ....

I've been planning another cross country America roadtrip in my vintage VW campervan, to take place later this year. This time I'm designing the roadtrip to build awareness for the autoimmune disease, Myasthenia Gravis, a muscle weakening condition that affected my mother for 51 years of her life. Recently I flew over to Arizona to announce my plans to the VW community. This brief trip was fraught with challenges; first with wild winter storms in the north east that cancelled my flight plans over and over, then later with health problems as a result of my determination to get to the VW meeting before it finished. 

In the last few weeks I've begun to re-think my plans and have started to consider starting my drive later in the year and taking a longer time to plan a more detailed itinerary, asking others around the country to help with awareness building events. The start date for the drive from the east coast to the west needs to be either in April or September, to avoid the summer heat in the deserts of New Mexico, Arizona and south east California. Even when I realize that the later departure would enable me to complete important tasks in other areas of my life, giving me peace of mind and the ability to concentrate on the roadtrip whole heartedly, I've still been resisting a later departure date , hoping I can make the earlier one!  

So that's where I was up to. Hearing your interview just now has made me stop and realize I really must take better care of myself and stop pushing myself too hard. I am now going to leave in September for sure.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom and helping me to accept reality.

Best,
Carole

Bless you Carole!

I am so glad you found something that was personally helpful to you in my radio interview.  You are the archetypical achiever and I understand your battles only too well.

Do start your trip in September and let help come to you.  One thing I say nowadays is this: I used to MAKE things happen -  now I LET them happen.  I get out of my own way and yet still respond quickly and enthusiastically to opportunities that come my way, especially offers of help!

Big Hugs

Gabrielle xxx

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The reality of having bipolar disorder

I have found the comments on this website useful, maybe because they are so positive. I was a psychiatric nurse before I had to give up work totally. My work life became interesting when I was exhibiting more symtomology than my patients!!! What I found hard was the stigma even within nursing. Friends become distant when you can't function on the lowest level and when you come to rely on benefits after a long working career, it does not help to have to jump through hoops to 'prove' your disability to people who only seem to acknowledge illnesses that can be explained in quantifiable terms. Better education about bipolar for all might mean that one day we can all exist in your positive world without worrying about our self confidence or wether we make a genuine contribution to society.

Thank you Daisy

You raise SUCH important points! I am regularly stunned by the lack of knowledge and understanding in the mental health medical world. As a nurse I cannot begin to imagine what you must have lived through....

Making a contribution to society is a very important issue for me. I hate to be like a slug (not a very positive word eh?) barely able to function and yet I also understand that there are so many ways we human beings can contribute. My experience tells me that we do not have to be big, we do not have to be famous, but we must be true. As you know this is harder than we might think when dealing with mental illness.

I lost my confidence totally - and I mean TOTALLY when my health broke down seven years ago. It is still wobbly sometimes. If you saw me now sitting in my nighty and dressing gown at 8pm, you would know exactly what I mean....

Confidence comes from worth, worth from love and respect. Self-confidence comes from self-worth, self-worth from self-love and self-respect. Now, the tough bit is this: how can I do all that for myself when I look like a bag lady on a bad day?!?

My answer: I can laugh.

I can't always do it of course. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I howl. But if I keep my internal compass turned towards laughter then I stand a chance of making it because being positive is a choice of focus, not a refusal to see what is.

Much love to you xx

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