A Good Runway: My Story with the 1st Step Program and Bipolar
Doctors diagnosed me with Bipolar Disorder halfway through high school. Somehow, I managed to graduate while struggling with the illness. I tried to work for two years but found it incredibly difficult to keep my life in order while my mind was in disarray. At one final dark time, I lost my job and the life I had struggled to build after high school collapsed.
It was just after getting out of the hospital that I was admitted to the 1st Step program. It was a new organization then and I was (almost) their first client. I still remember my first session with the counselor. I was still very much thinking distorted thoughts. However even at that time I felt that if only I had something to give me traction with this illness I could beat it. Talking with the counselor, nurse clinician and doctor gave me that solid ground I needed to start moving forward.
The initial progress was slow. It took me well over 7 months to get back to a reasonable state of mind. In those 7 months, 1st Step invited me on group walks, cooking groups and trips to the gym. Sometimes due to my mood I didn’t feel like going but deep down I knew doing nothing is always easier and more painful in the long run than doing something.
There were two vital lessons I pulled from this. First, that taking the medication is a vital tool on the path to recovery. This I feel is an important thing to mention because it is so tempting when you do not feel sick to neglect medication. The second vital lesson was You only have one life. Up until the dark time I aimlessly floated through my young adult years. Saying: “One day I’ll be an illustrator. One day.” Having lost everything woke me up from sleepwalking through life and got me moving towards that goal with newfound resolve.
Going back to college is not easy at the best of times, and still healing was making it harder. That is why I connected with the school-based counselors too. I recommend this immensely. All the while, I stayed in touch with the team at 1st Step. My first two years were amazingly rocky. I was definitely in over my head.
Everyone knows that an airplane needs thrust and a good runway before lift off and those years with the 1st Step program were my runway. Eventually, after a few false starts I finally took off. I started getting B averages then A’s. My relationships became more advanced and deeper. I became more self-sufficient. I was providing my own thrust.
Not only is my life as of writing better than when I was sick but it is far superior to any time BEFORE I was sick. Now I am in an elite class of illustration students, I have amazing caring friends, family, and laugher in my life. Ask anyone, they will say I am soaring. It all started by getting the engines started, slowly rolling on the runway and by taking that very first step.