Well we have come to the end of a very special journey. Over the weekend, it was the last session of the MAPS program. MAPS has been far more than a psycho-education program for me. It has not just taught me about Bipolar but it has also taught me about myself and given me hope for what my future can look like. I have a new found sense of optimism about how I can handle my mental illness and feel like I actually have some sort of control over it now. This is huge for me as not too long ago I was extremely suicidal, not because I was depressed or manic, but because I felt I had no control over my life or my mental illness. I was done feeling like a slave to Bipolar. I was done with life. It felt like a very logical decision to me, this was not the life I wanted or planned for myself, so I wasn’t going to live it anymore. MAPS has given me a new lease on life by equipping me with strategies to not necessarily control my mental illness, but to manage it. And I feel overwhelmed with this whole new sense of autonomy. As a result, if I had to sum up my experience with MAPS in one word it would be ’empowering’.
Apart from the practical skills I have gained in MAPS I have made valuable friendships to help me in the journey in the future. I almost said the journey to recovery but I don’t like that word. I don’t envisage a world where I am ever recovered and I can stop working on myself. That’s why I prefer management because it is constant work to maintain mental health. Mental health is a spectrum not a destination so the term recovery has never sat with me. It is not as though I have a physical illness where we can say I am cancer free. Mental illness doesn’t work in the way physical recovery does. It is managed. But I digress, mental illness management is a journey and I now have more people to share the journey with. Some of the other ladies from the group who I bonded with have formed a support group on Facebook where we can keep in touch. It has been a blessing to meet other people with Bipolar and to form friendships with them. It has made me feel less alone and has given me access to expert opinion of people who have been in my shoes. It has also been wonderful to be able to joke about my mental illness with other people who understand and can relate rather than be concerned that I am not coping adequately. I look forward to keeping in touch with these ladies and supporting one another.
In line with the theme of hope for the future I had a really lovely moment with our facilitator at the end of the day. I had to leave early as I had tickets to see Aladdin (which was amazing by the way) so we had a moment alone while the others completed an exercise. He told me he thought I was going to make a a wonderful psychologist. This meant more to me than I think I can ever truly express. He told me it wasn’t just my experience with Bipolar but the way he had seen me engage with other participants and helped explain things to others. He could see my potential. This meant the world to me because someone who knew, let’s be frank, all of my crazy and madness, still felt I had the capacity to go out into the world and make a difference as a therapist. The fact that he is a psychologist himself just made the exchange that much sweeter. It brought tears to my eyes because lately I have questioned whether and how my mental illness will impact on my competence to be a Psychologist. So it was just wonderful that he had faith in me.
I am very thankful for the opportunity to have participated in the MAPS program. I had been on the wait list for about six months but I can honestly say it was well worth the wait. I would highly recommend group therapy and psycho-education to anyone with a mental illness. It honestly changed my life. I can’t wait to go it on my own now and see what I can accomplish.