What Does Recovery Mean to You?

This morning I was making my usual non-Wordpress blog rounds.  There really hasn’t been much to comment on as of late – I suppose a lot of people are on vacation.  There was one question posed by PhyschCentral though, that got me thinking, especially since I have felt remarkably good as of late.

What Does Recovery Mean to You?

Yeah, we all know this means different things to different people, so I thought I’d open up the floor to those of you who aren’t on vacation and / or would like to de-lurk.  I’m interested to see what common threads, if any, pop up.

This is a really interesting question. I believe bipolar disorder will be with me for the rest of my life, so in that sense, I’ll never recover. I don’t believe I’ll ever be able to return to work, for instance.
But, in the short term, I do recover from individual episodes. What that means to me is that the mood levels out enough for me to pick up the pieces (vacuum, do laundry, get groceries, etc.) and add back in the things that I had to set aside (social gatherings, work, appointments and the like).
And in a bit broader sense, I am recovering some of the memory loss I suffered with ECT and while on medications

I don’t know why, but the word “recovery” as applied to bipolar really irks me. It implies that this is something that will go away and not come back. It’s not that simple. People recover from injuries or surgery. I don’t think the term recovery applies to chronic problems. Do diabetics recover? No, it’s a chronic illness that will never go away. Bipolar is a chronic recurring illness, much like Multiple Sclerosis. We don’t say that someone whose MS is in remission is recovering. They are either in remission or relapsing – which is what we are. Relapsing-Remitting.
I’ve never quite understood it as applied to addiction either: a “recovering alcoholic”. Will they ever finish recovering? My understanding is that it is a life-long battle; ours is a life-long battle. In my mind, the term “recovery” refers to a process that has an end and there is no end. A counter argument is that stability is the endpoint, but bipolar mood stability is precarious at best. It may last weeks, months, or years (if we are lucky) but eventually the mania and/or depression will return. I don’t recover, I go into remission. It reminds me that I could have an exacerbation at any time so I should be prepared for it.

Looks like we are all on the same page with this one. Syntax is everything, right? What makes the English language so interesting is color and context. Recovery implies that what ails has gone. Remission is a much better word for what happens to a BP person as a whole when they are feeling well, but I believe one can recover from a singular manic or depressive episode. So, I’ve recovered from my last depression and am overall in a remission. Which is probably way too convoluted for the medical profession to understand. 🙂 At least we know what we’re talking about.


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