Nicky Chinn writes that recovery can be a pain. Perversely, the process can be almost as punishing as bipolar itself.

A minefield of uncertainty that plays games with the mood. Frustrating and elusive, there are times when it has felt completely out of reach. A dot on the horizon. I can walk my way blindfolded into a depression overnight. That’s simple. I have been doing that for most of my life. Getting out is another story.

"my pain was so great I didn’t want to wake up"

Depression had me in its grip. Squeezing the life out of me. Stealing my soul. Every night petrified that if I closed my eyes and went to sleep, I would never wake up. On the other hand, my pain was so great I didn’t want to wake up. Bipolar is full of contradictions, overflowing with inconsistencies.

I had been admitted to hospital on several occasions. I was back there again. Depressed. Again. I locked myself away. Strictly out of commission. Subconsciously, was this somewhere I thought I could hide, and leave my pain outside? Quite possibly. But if that was my plan, I had ignored one significant factor. I took the pain with me wherever I went. Always. There was no escape. Depression is a dark unrelenting place. Temporarily an effective smoke screen from the outside world. But only temporarily. The same pain will be waiting for me when I come out.  Some things never change. Until recovery. And that process would largely be up to me.

My world had become the four walls of my room

In hospital I had no responsibilities. There were no expectations. I'm a successful songwriter. I am used to expectations. Used to deadlines. Having none should have been a welcome relief. But it was irrelevant. This had stripped me naked of any sense of belief I may have had about myself, my talent, my creativity. A sad, but typically inevitable consequence of depression. Self-esteem goes on the missing list. Writing was the last thing on my mind, doing it successfully a forgotten relic from a past life.

My world had become the four walls of my room. They were safe. They never talked back. But in case anyone thought of coming too near, I had built what I thought was an indestructible barrier around me. However, it wasn’t indestructible, and it didn’t work. It didn’t take too much for the demons to breach the ramparts. There are no get out of jail free cards in bipolar. There never have been. I would have to work my way through it.

Inadequacy.  Clearly central to my disturbance, it was wrecking my life.

Whilst in hospital I was advised to take part in group therapy.  Pouring my heart out to people I hardly knew didn’t feel particularly enticing. But I was far too ill for false pride or misplaced arrogance.  I went. To my surprise, I was able to relate to a lot of what was being said. One of the group members talked about not liking himself. That struck a chord with me. I looked inside myself and I wasn’t crazy about me either. There it was. In bold letters. Inadequacy.  Clearly central to my disturbance, it was wrecking my life. I had felt it for a long time. Come to think of it, I don’t recall anybody ever telling me I wasn’t inadequate. It might have been reassuring to hear it, but I doubt if I would have listened. The feelings were the habits of a lifetime. They would take a great deal of time and introspection to change. I would have to ask myself some pivotal questions and get some definitive answers. Not easy, but anything worth fighting for never is.

The passage of time buries pain, and it does it very well.

But for now, my priority was to reclaim my life.  If I was going to do that, I would have to regain some confidence. Some self-esteem. When I'm unwell those two essentials are always the first to go and in recovery the last to come back. The most mundane tasks take on a different aspect. Crossing the road, I stood riveted to the curb. I couldn’t move. In a supermarket, I dumped my basket and bolted  before I got to the checkout. But ultimately, with practice and perseverance, I overcame these obstacles.

Over time my mood improved. I had worked very hard to repair it. Armed with the fresh confidence and enhanced self-esteem I had gained, it was time to face the world. Leave my precious safety net. I  was finally ready to put hospital life behind me.

I said goodbye to the patients I had become closest to. We had all suffered together, experienced our own different versions of pain. We had empathised with each other, supported each other. We had sworn we would be friends for life. We were wrong. It was the illness that had been our common bond, but at the time we needed that sense of belonging for reassurance and for tomorrow.

The passage of time buries pain, and it does it very well. But writing this has brought back some difficult memories, uncovered a few  scars that still lingered. I had forgotten how hard it had been. But I had survived, yet again. I always do.