Recovery & Time: The 4:4:4 Story

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Recovery takes time. It is not instant, and one of the hardest parts of recovering from anything—a loss, an addiction, a mental illness, an unpleasant habit, a trauma—is never knowing just how long it actually takes to recover. There is no shame in that: everybody is different, and everyone responds to any given thing in a different way. This may sound like a negative or depressing argument, but the following is a reminder that it does not have to be bad. Below is an exploration of the idea: “It does get better.”
    This particular post uses a personal anecdote, and for that, I apologize. My struggle is not your struggle, and it does not intend to be your struggle. However, I include elements of my recovery, because other people have responded well to these elements. I explained them to other members of my local Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance group: individuals with depression, bipolar I or II, or schizoaffective disorder. They appreciated it, as did family and friends. My hope is that the lessons I learned, 7 years into my struggle with mental illness, can shed some light on the darkness of your recovery and offer a hopeful perspective.
    As of today (October 13th), I have been struggling with Bipolar I every day for 7 years (despite being diagnosed and starting treatment later), but it has been less than a month since my first, remarkable recovery. In September, I went through a crisis. My meds stopped working and had no effect for weeks. My psychiatrist was no help, even after I begged and cried for help in his office. I scheduled an appointment with a new psychiatrist at his earliest availability, weeks later. For 4 weeks since my meds failed, I grew exponentially more depressed and suicidal. I thought over half a decade of treatment did nothing, and that nothing would ever help me get better. The morning before I saw the new psychiatrist, I experienced flat-affect: nothing (food, music, no one) could make me feel any emotion. It was scary. I was utterly hopeless, thinking I was beyond help.
    However, I met with the new psychiatrist, and he was amazing. He listened, and his meds fixed me (for a few weeks). What I learned was that it was worth the wait, worth the pain, and that time was all it took. It took me 4 weeks, 4 hours, and 4 minutes to meet my new doctor, but his meds legitimately made me happy. That happiness was worth it, and it taught me that I can if I can wait almost 7 years in my disorder, and if I can wait through 4 unbearable weeks, hours, and minutes, I can wait, “4-ever.”
    I am still recovering. I may be recovering my whole life, but now I have perspective that all it takes is time and effort, patience and pain, but if I can just wait and power through it, it can get better. “It does get better.”

Written By Nick Berreth