I have been off work for 26 weeks this Friday, and I feel no closer to answers than I did in April when I unexpectedly left my job. I’ve spent early mornings at labs for tests, days in doctor’s waiting rooms and nights in hospitals, and I have no answers.

More than once I’ve allowed myself to believe that things had been figured out, that I was stable, that things could go back to normal. Every time I get comfortable, something strange happens -temples will ache, my skin will flare with rash or my hands and feet will start to tingle. The hope wavers as I come off yet another medication and start from scratch again.

However, for the first time since I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder ten years ago, this summer I committed to no more band-aid solutions. No more good enough, no more fine for now.

I’m re-thinking the meaning of what it is to have Bipolar Disorder. I’m realizing that the only way towards long-term health and stability is a holistic approach using every tool I have, from sleep to nutrition, from yoga to CBT. These things act as building blocks to a stable life and if one of them isn’t sturdy then the rest won’t work either. Medication is the corner stone of this structure, and building a life around a medication that may help my mood but makes me physically sick is a doomed proposition.

One step at a time is how long-term solutions are built. Step one is to find the right medication. Step two will be to incorporate all my other strategies into my days consistently. I don’t even know what step three is, so it’s perfectly fine that I’m still on step one.

A long-term solution is going to take a long time to put in place. Jumping to worrying about when I’ll go back to work and where is about as useful today as planning my fiftieth birthday party. For the first decade of my illness I was always desperate to get back to normal, to everyone else’s normal. Now I’m starting to accept that a whole new outlook on health, life and then work is what’s going to make my stability stick for the long term.

Twenty-six weeks is a long time when you factor in blood tests, doctor’s visits, and missed days of work. But in the span of a lifetime, what is twenty-six weeks? It’s six months, it’s less than a pregnancy, it’s not even a full school year.

I’ve got all the time in the world. After all, I’m only twenty-six.

About Sarah Lindsay

Sarah Lindsay is in her mid-twenties and lives in Toronto with her boyfriend and their dog (who also has some anxiety issues). Sarah was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 at the age of 16 and is still trying to figure it out. Follow Sarah’s story on HMC’s Supportive Minds Blog, or additionally you can follow her on Twitter, Facebook or check out her new website: SarahsMoods.com

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