I think that acceptance is key to wellness and recovery. In the first place, it leads to the search for a diagnosis. I actively looked for a diagnosis despite being quite ill at the time. I suppose I was more interested in getting help than getting a label. Some people who I talk to really worry about being called bipolar or whatever their diagnosis happens to be. A label doesn’t define you. Hopefully it will help you to get appropriate help. I really encourage new sufferers to seek help. It is far better if you are in control at this point. It is far better than being thrown into hospital, medicated and then diagnosed. I had a very good “stable” period after I was diagnosed and found good treatment. I was lucky to find a doctor who knew the subject well and I kept a relationship with him for about fifteen years. The stability of this relationship was key to my wellness. I was lucky to find a doctor who was around that long.
Those of us with a serious mental illness have it for the long term, maybe for life. Unless we accept that we are ill, we are destined for a lot of chaos in our lives. Acceptance of the illness (diagnosis) is only the first step. Many of the medication regimes have their own problems. We are often tempted to try going free, especially after a period of stability or particularly troublesome side effects. In my case, it took two attempts and the ensuing chaos to convince me that I really need the medication. Life is not always smooth and sometimes taking medication becomes a lower priority. Even though my first attempt at stopping Lithium led to a major manic episode, I tried again 4 years later when my life was particularly chaotic. I can’t honestly say whether I could have avoided either bad experience. Possibly it would have required strong intervention from family or a doctor. Unfortunately the idea of seeing doctors was a long way from my mind. The second stopping of Lithium suddenly led to a less severe but equally disruptive and painful manic episode. This time it led to a severe period of depression, unemployment, and a suicide attempt. Only stop medications gradually and do it with the agreement of a doctor.
I encourage all sufferers to accept that they are ill, that they need help and that they should keep medication compliant. If I had followed my own advice, I would be in a very different place, mentally and maybe physically. I might have missed out on a lot of good stuff, so it is a difficult call. I might be still living by the beach in Southern California and still pursuing a meaningful career. I am content in my life now but I can’t help saying “What if?” . I do still accept that I have a life long disorder and I need medication. I am as well as I have been for ages, both mentally and physically.