There are two characteristics that seem to define people with bipolar and depression who do well, one of them is persistence despite depression, a trait which is described well in the post Trust the Process by a favorite blogger, Bipolar on Fire. The other is a willingness to “do what it takes,” meaning a commitment to wellness even if it may mean doing something you would prefer not to do (take a medication, see a therapist, etcetera).
Persistence Despite Depression
I could not describe this better than Bipolar on Fire…
“I am sitting in front of my therapy light, looking out the window at the somewhat gloomy day and wondering how I’m going to get through this winter, this jobless spell, this life in general. This may be the depression talking, but I seem to have the same struggles over & over. Maybe that’s the human condition. Dammit I would like to rise above certain things for once and for all. Maybe that’s just not possible with Bipolar Disorder. Maybe I have to be patient with myself and not judge my struggles.
I called this post “Trust The Process” because I know there are things I need to do when I am depressed. Sitting in front of this therapy light is one of them. Getting exercise is another. Making connections with people who care about me is essential, no matter how bad I want to isolate myself. Making appointments with my doctor and my therapist are an absolute requirement. Staying off drugs (pot) and alcohol is essential. This is the process. I don’t have to love it. I just have to do it.”
Persistence pays off. But it is hard.
One of the reasons I love to read blogs is that I can find a world of other people who are also committed to the struggle. And I find their stories inspiring.
If you are struggling to maintain persistence, read the blog by Bipolar on Fire and then comment on it. Establishing a connection with others will help.
Doing What It Takes
Early on in a conversation with a new patient I will get a sense of whether they are more focused on solving the problem of depression or on controlling the process of treatment.
Someone who comes in and says, “I would prefer to not take medications, but I am willing to do that if you think I need to” has a much better chance of achieving the goal than someone who says, “I am not willing to do therapy because it doesn’t work for me, what can you prescribe to treat my depression.”
Choose to focus on what you want to achieve. Steven Covey summarized it this way, “Begin with the end in mind.”
Begin with the End in Mind means to begin each day, task, or project with a clear vision of your desired direction and destination.
When you seek help with depression, your goal is to relief from depression. Stay focused on that goal. If you seek expert help, listen to your consultant.
What You Do Matters
Commitment to wellness and persistence despite depression are connected by the knowledge that one one does matters.
If you have ever dealt with depression, you are likely to have experienced the sense of helplessness that leads to a loss of awareness of how your actions are connected to what happens.
Depression focuses our attention on all of the things we can’t control, the glass that is mostly empty, rather than the things that create a slow trickle of water that will eventually fill it. [Psychologist Jim McCullough, who developed a type of therapy specifically for people with chronic depression, has written articulately about the learned helplessness associated with depression, and how to unlearn helplessness.]
These three concepts are the foundations of success.