Dealing With The Loss Of Mental Illness

Waving goodbye to mental illness

All good things must come to an end, according to the sage of old, but did you know this also applies to bad things? That’s right! Here’s the shocker; when it comes time to bid a fond adieu to your particular mental health challenge, you may find yourself dragging your heels, gnashing your teeth, dotting your tees, and crossing your eyes.

Ridiculous, you say? Stifling the urge to cough derisive laughter up your sleeve? Well don’t let a little counter-intuition embolden you overly; allow me to share a personal vignette for illustrative purposes.

As many of you know, Bipolar Disorder is my particular albatross and it ruled and wrecked my landscape like a series of Old Testament plagues. For years, life was defined by my relationship to this demon and I graduated from mere survival to combat to mastery until, at last, it lay in a heap at my feet, vanquished.

(Aficionados will point out that Bipolar Disorder is incurable. While true, I must add that one can reduce it to inconsequence and insignificance so that, for all intents and purposes, it is neutralized.)

When Bipolar Disorder was in full flower it made me zany, newsworthy, and interesting beyond my wildest dreams. This splashy, sensational illness became something like a really bizarre, all-consuming hobby with a huge payoff, continued existence! It even provided the subject matter for my first book, Invisible Driving, the original bipolar memoir. There were times I wondered what I did for entertainment before the onset of my “fine madness”.

Seventeen years in therapy raced by until, before I knew what hit me, sanity arrived and with it, the challenge of adapting to normal society as an insider. No longer shivering in the rain beneath a tattered blanket, marooned on the outskirts of town, I bravely faced a life of acceptance.

The thought of being ordinary was oddly unnerving. It was then that I experienced what trendy psychologists in California refer to as “the wrong goodbye”, grieving for the loss of mental illness.

Remarkably the process broke out over the classic 5-phase grief confrontation process identified by Kübler-Ross in 1969.

1. Denial – I refused to believe that insanity had abandoned me.

2. Anger – I was furious at losing my most marketable attribute.

3. Bargaining – I furiously crafted disingenuous deals with a deity I did not believe in.

4. Depression – I tried to rekindle the illness by immersing myself in depression.

5. Acceptance – Began insisting on being accepted as a sane person and threatened insane reprisals if I was not. 

Only by going through this 5-step process in good faith did I come to understand that saying goodbye to insanity can be a good thing; and that sanity can be a lot more messed up than one might imagine.