Much of my suffering has been assuaged by my time in residential treatment. The first step was taking suicide off the table as an action I would take. First, I could only do that on a trial basis, to see what that would feel like. After a day, I felt so much freer and open that I decided to make the decision permanent. No more struggling over whether I would do it or not. No more torture when the suicidal visions show up, as I’m sure they will from time to time (as they did while I was there, at various frequencies). They are just a feature of the illness.
This was not an easy decision, and I needed the whole month to let the choice sink in deeply from my head, through my heart, and into my gut. I still waffled with the decision to the end and even a little bit now that I’m home. But I remind myself of my mantra that recalls the feelings of openness and freedom that I experienced: Not an Option. Never Gonna Happen.
The second step I was able to take while in treatment had to do with the intense grief, pain, and haunting I have felt with churchy things and worship and religion in general. I discovered there was so very much overlap between that grief and the grief I feel for my marriage since separating 17 months ago. I had quite a while when churchy things didn’t bother me, but it had started up again several months ago.
As it turned out, both griefs circled around being in The Caretaker role, one I learned from childhood and identified closely with being a woman. Also, just as important, both griefs mourned the hypomania and mania that characterized most of my young adult life before we found bipolar after the brain crash of 2010. My professional life and personal life only knew that mood state as normal, and I again had associated it with who I am at a deepest level, including that of being a woman.
One of the things I was able to do was to say about churchy things that I will use comparable skills again, in some form, probably in ways I can’t imagine, and therefore churchy things don’t have to be a trigger for grief and pain and haunting anymore. I can attend church for the community and service that I’m looking for and talk about it with authority and without deep sadness (other than the deep sadness for all the churches who just don’t “get it”).
The insight about The Caregiver and the hypomania also calmed the grief about my marriage. The grief is more about me and less about him. And then when I think of him, it doesn’t have to hurt or be a trigger. It’s just a thought followed by a feeling, for myself.
So, mostly, I learned to manage my thoughts better in ways that specifically dealt with my anxiety and depression and grief and suicidal visions. I think it was the time with my individual therapist rather than the intense groups that helped the most. I think the intense groups helped my decisions to settle into my being instead of being superficial changes. I already have a pantheon of the coping skills they taught – skills which I haven’t had to use all the time anymore.
The true test will be as time goes on and these things cycle around. Will my convictions stay solid? Will I still be working on myself and letting the grief go? I certainly hope so, especially considering how much I will be paying for the opportunity to come to these conclusions.