Moving Beyond Mindlessness

Being more mindful can boost your self-esteem, lift your spirit and restore hope.

 

Are you locked in by a label: “I’m bipolar”? Are you caught up in a category: “the disabled”? Are you pigeonholed by a flawed philosophy: “I can’t possibly take charge of my own recovery”?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of the above, it’s no wonder. Our mental health system tends to focus too much on mindless methods, like classifying diagnoses, controlling medication and containing symptoms. A person confronting the challenge of bipolar can easily end up stuck in a rut, passively pursuing recovery instead of actively managing it.

In the early years of battling bipolar, I failed to embrace the full extent of all that recovery entails. I blindly and unwittingly followed a prescribed treatment plan, without taking genuine ownership of getting well. I was guilty of taking a very hands-off approach, just doing as I was told without asking any questions.

My halfhearted attempt at working toward wellness was counterproductive and costly. I increasingly started taking on a victim mentality, developing learned helplessness and losing any sense of control over my situation. Reclaiming a full and meaningful life began to seem unlikely, if not impossible.

In time, my mindlessness became more disabling than bipolar disorder itself. My misguided mindset and pessimistic perspective sabotaged my self-esteem and weakened my will to get well. Being mindless destroyed my confidence, crushed my spirit and diminished my hope.

Granted, my recovery was unnecessarily delayed for years. Fortunately, you don’t have to pay the same price. You don’t have to muddle through life, needlessly believing many myths, like I initially did.

Here’s an easy exercise to get you going in a healthy direction. Consider the following myths one by one. Then, make a conscious choice to dismiss each falsehood in favor of the more reasonable approach, instead.

Resources are limited: Don’t let cost concerns keep you from getting help. You can find competent, caring professionals through, for example, public mental health programs.

Statistics tell the story: Don’t think that your ability to achieve wellness is limited because statistically the chances are against you. Make a decision to work on defying the odds.

Only outcomes matter: Don’t focus solely on end results. Take one step at a time and enjoy the process.

Things can only get worse: Don’t doom yourself from the beginning by forecasting future failure. Decide that you can and will have a better life.

Options have been exhausted: Don’t conclude that you’ve fully explored all possible routes to recovery. Acknowledge that there are always other potential solutions.

Circumstances are unique: Don’t assume that what works for most people cannot possibly improve your situation. Accept that proven strategies can work for you, too.

Are you guilty of falling prey to such fabrications? All too often, mindlessness can doom a person to a future of disability and dependency. For many, it can easily become a way of life. I see the evidence every week in the support groups that I lead.

Succumbing to a diagnosis, downplaying the importance of a positive perspective or allowing others to take sole charge of your recovery are all mindless choices. It’s time to take command! It’s time to put bipolar in its place, adopt a healthy attitude and champion your own recovery. Moving beyond mindlessness simply makes sense!

 

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Are you mired in mindlessness?

The more you answer “yes,” the more likely you may be caught in its trap.

1. Do you dwell on the past and the way that things have always been?

2. Do you discount that tried and true treatment techniques can work for you?

3. Do you depend too little on yourself and too much on others for making recovery a reality?

4. Do you detour off course by not tackling known triggers?

5. Do you doubt your own capacity for achieving and maintaining wellness?

 

Printed as “Mind Over Mood: Moving Beyond Mindfulness,” Spring 2011