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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bipolar Depression Recovery

The ultimate goal of everyone with bipolar depression should be full recovery.  I define full recovery as the absence of bipolar depression symptoms, being fully functional, and participating in society.

You may have a different understanding of full recovery and that is fine.  The important thing is to be striving towards recovery and working out problems.

Aspects of Recovery

The absence of bipolar depression symptoms is necessary to be fully recovered.  For me this means eliminating fatigue, excessive sleeping, depressed/negative mood, cognitive difficulties (e.g., concentrating), hopelessness, and low energy.

Fully functional will be different for each person.  My concerns are to be well enough to work, take care of myself, and doing things I enjoy.  Take care of myself means being financially independent and successful with my management of bipolar disorder.

Participation in society is a broad area.  It could mean regular attendance at support groups.  It could include being active in church.  It may be going to public places without too much anxiety.

Measures of Recovery

I think of bipolar recovery as a continuum.  At the lowest point would be in the throws of deep bipolar depression.  At the top is being fully recovered.  I have divided and defined recovery as:

Fully recovered.  Reached my definition of fully functional; participating in society; and no symptoms.
Mostly recovered.  High level of functionality, some participation, stabilized, and few symptoms.
Work-in-progress.  Some functionality, little participation, mostly stabilized, and symptoms present.
Stabilized.  Limited functionality, minimal or no participation, currently stable, and strong symptoms present.
Destabilized.  No functionality, no participation, hospitalization or other intensive treatment needed, and strong, unmanageable symptoms.  This is the bottom of recovery.

I have been at all of these levels.  At this point I would say I am a work-in-progress.  I am stable and have some functionality (e.g., this blog).  I minimally participate in society.  I have many bipolar depression symptoms present.

Recovery Plan

A plan for recovery is an effective tool for becoming fully recovered.  It is a tool recommended by many folks who specialize in mental health treatment and self-help.  I've heard them called treatment plans, road maps, and wellness plans.

My plan is pretty straightforward.  It is to continue medication management, psychotherapy, lifestyle management, and using coping skills.
  • Medication management is both medication compliance and active management of medicine.  Medication compliance means taking your prescribed medications as prescribed  without missing doses.  Active management of medicine means working with your prescribing physician to optimize the therapeutic benefits available from modern medicine.  It means trying new meds, withdrawal from ineffective meds, and adjusting dosage(s).
  • Psychotherapy is an important part of my recovery.  Here I will be working with my therapist to tackle challenges, better understand social implications, and come up with solutions.
  • By lifestyle management I mean the creation and active management of lifestyle aspects that effect bipolar depression.  Important aspects include diet, excercise, sleep, and my faith. 
  • I also use various coping skills I have learned over the years.  For example, you may need to address excessive stress from work if it is exacerbating bipolar depression symptoms.
Remember to be patient with your recovery.  Don't compare yourself to others.  We all are adveresely effected by the various elements of bipolar depression in different ways and significance.

Nobody told you there will be days like these.  Your parents, teachers, and health care professionals did not and could not have taught you how to navigate the bipolar waters.  It is part of your uniqueness.


  1. I am cheering for full recovery. I know your sister and your two loving nieces are also cheering you on for full recovery.

    We are so proud and happy with the progress you have made.

    We enjoy your presence and company and miss you when your are not around, and think of you always.

    1. Hey Jung - I appreciate the encouraging words! It means a lot knowing you guys are behind me. I just keep hoping things get better.