Nelson Mandela once said, “it always seems impossible until it’s done.” I’ve found this to be true time and again, in my struggle to overcome mental illness in recovery.
My name is Marissa Kristina Varcho, I am 32-years-old, I am an attorney licensed to practice law here in my State of Ohio, and I live with and struggle to manage what’s been termed a “mental illness”, known as Bipolar I Disorder. Basically, this means that my mood is never static, but always manically high, depressively low, or otherwise rising into mania or descending down into the depths of depression. To be less clinical, what this means is that my head is most often filled with infinite thought, which builds and builds upon itself in layers best described as a web, and I often get stuck in thought because the web gets sticky and thick and difficult to navigate through on my own. Recovery then, I have found, is in large part knowing when I have gotten stuck, or recognizing that my thinking is leading me to a place where I will get stuck, and thereafter knowing this means it’s time to get some help.
Now, as an introduction to recovery, I would like to note that I do not really even like the term recovery in a sense. “Recovery” to me, sounds like success achieved; but in my experience, recovery is more about resiliency. For me, recovery is the evolutionary process of learning how to overcome inevitable setback in both of two ways:
- Cultivating a self-directed effort towards (a) identifying life goals and (b) setting into motion action to achieve them; as well as
- Working always to develop and strengthen “resiliency” – meaning, the ability to (a) pick ones’ self up off the ground after failure, (b) accept the failure and make amends to anyone else unjustifiably harmed during its process, and then finally (c) let go of the failure and let it be part only of your past as you move on forward to creating the present.
In specific regard to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary’s definition of “recovery” in the form of a noun, it describes “the return of something that has been lost or stolen.” For me, growing up with mental illness in this stigmatic and discriminatory American society, has meant losing grasp on the ability to cultivate each of the following:
- Hope for a better future filled with opportunity;
- A belief that I possess external worth; and
- A sense of belonging within my community.
Accordingly, recovery, for me, is about finding the courage to search for these missing items, the pieces upon which finding, will hopefully restore me from this broken state into a human being once again whole. Perseverance is at times difficult, facing a future with its conclusion unknown, fearing there may be no worth left for me in the end. Which brings me back to Mr. Mandela, who once also said he’d “learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave [wo]man is not [s]he who does not feel afraid, but [s]he who conquers that fear.” And so I battle on…