My Recovering Story - James B


First, a prefatory note: I try not to use the word “recovery”, as I feel that this word is misrepresentative and inaccurate.  We are recovering, just as, for example, alcoholics and drug abusers are recovering.


Secondly, we are not our diseases. I have a bipolar disorder---I am not bipolar. My stepbrother has schizophrenia---he is not a schizophrenic. It is important to make and keep this distinction in mind.


So…on to recovering. My story begins with a repo man. Strange, I know, but then the road to recovering often has strange or unusual beginnings and stops along the way.


Early one morning---at about 3 a.m. I was awakened by the unmistakable din of a tow truck outside my window. I peeked out and saw my wonderful brand new Jetta being hoisted onto the flatbed. Shortly after, the doorbell rang and after two or three rings I answered to find the truck driver holding a clipboard in his hands which held something I was supposed to sign. I remember apologizing to him for my sins that led to this repossession, as if he were a Volkswagen sales manager, rather than a somewhat unkempt tow operator.


This was the final eye-opener for me.  I had already lost my wife,  my apartment,  a very good job, all my excellent credit. And now my car. Isn’t it wonderful what mania can do!  I was now in a really deep depressive state. Even though I was seeing a therapist and taking meds, I had been mixing alcohol with medications, trying to numb my pain and forget that I had essentially destroyed my life.


Shortly after my car vanished, I checked myself into a nearby hospital, where I spent the next ten days or so. I was there over the Halloween period, and recall telling someone how we should all dress up like mental patients. (we  are allowed to make fun of ourselves)


As my new meds kicked in, and my mood improved I felt rather restless being confined. So I did a lot of pacing through the hallways. And a lot of thinking about what I would or should do with my life. Suddenly I had an epiphany: I realized there was nothing I knew better than mental illness, and therefore the mental health field was where I should be.


 Voila! After 3 years of taking recovering seriously, taking my meds consistently, and seeing my therapist on a regular basis, I now work in a major mental health facility, where I am a therapist---actually a “peer provider”, but “therapist” has a better ring and my i.d. badge bears this label.


This has been, and is, the most rewarding and therapeutic experience of my life. I have an opportunity to work with two diverse populations: adults with mixed diagnoses and adults with affective disorders. From each challenging group I learn something every day I’m at work. I give a lot of myself to them. And sometimes they give back to me. When this happens, as they say in the MasterCard ads, it is priceless.


I’ll end this with an analogy:  Recovering is like a trip down the yellow brick road. At some point along the way you will realize that, all along, you were smart, brave and had heart. More importantly, you will come to learn that you are the Wizard. You’ll also discover that Kansas is long way away and that your return trip begins with one step at a time.



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