Questions on Remission

As could be expected and as due diligence dictates, before starting this site I looked around for a forum for people in remission from mental illness. I called my local NAMI chapter. I went through what the Internet has to offer. I didn’t find nothing, but I didn’t find a discussion either. I periodically redo my search, looking for resources to post in the Reading Room and to maybe link up with individuals.

Yesterday’s hunt yielded mostly things I had found earlier. Here are some things I (re)read today: Healthy Place Blog (2010), Everyday Health (2010), Anxiety Insights (2006), Overcoming Schizophrenia (2009), PsychCentral (n.d.), Anxiety Self Help Blog (n.d.). Since definition, self-definition, multiple definitions, and clear definitions, are ongoing themes here, I tried to focus on just that. Given my recent reading and that the last post asked about metrics for wellness, I thought this discussion makes sense.

You can follow the links or trust me on the fact that they are a mixture of “the definition of ‘remission’ is different for everyone” and narrow declarative statements with clear-cut definitions. They are also a mix of “Remission happens when you do the personal work to achieve it,”  “Remission happens when you’re medicated,” and the positions in between.

Personal Viewpoint: I am currently in remission by my own definition. I am also not all that interested in using other people’s definitions. I have my own ways of measuring and determining that Remissionland is where I currently reside. I also believe that Remissionland is a neighborhood within the Town of the High-Functioning and not exactly the same place. This is because I have a different definition of “functioning” that includes different measurements. The Venn diagram would look like this:

After drawing this diagram, I considered that many people would find this ridiculous — that many people might even reverse the circles to say that you must step into remission before you can work toward higher levels of “functioning,” whatever that may mean. So, here I should just own up to the fact that my criteria for functioning are not as strict as my criteria for wellness. I should probably also own up to enjoying how much work I produce when I’m off my metaphoric rocker. I should own up to probably deriving too much of my sense of accomplishment from whether I’m in the blue circle regardless of whether I’m also in the red circle. Maybe I should own up to not knowing if that’s an OK thing.

Questions: What the hell is Remission? How does it relate to defining “Functioning” for yourself, to feeling good about how you’re getting by? Does it matter or is it just something doctors and medical statisticians like to talk about?

  1. erinire said:

    Remission is absolutely a smaller part of being high-functioning. I was a very high-functioning depressive. I graduated from college cum laude, I co-produced a $3.4 million documentary for PBS, I planned my own WEDDING for God’s sake, all the while suffering terribly. I was in the process of bringing my next co-production to stasis when I finally snapped. Ironically, while my job was largely to blame for my breakdown, in the months previous to my hospitalization I did the best work of my career.

    You can use “high functioning” like a blanket. Wrap yourself in that, and maybe nobody will notice how you’re dying inside.

    Remission is feeling OK. Remission is being able to think good thoughts. Remission is the absence of self-loathing and the presence of love. At least, that’s my take on things.

  2. Meredith said:

    Well, I was going to write a response to the post, but the above says very much what I would say. I was very high-functioning despite being unmedicated and crazy when I could be. So I agree with your Venn diagram. I’m in the process of getting to Remissionland (I like that) but could only get there by being more and more high-functioning (i.e., taking meds and going to therapy).


  3. said:

    Completely agree. Your description of a “blanket” is exactly why I started this site. Feeling like I’m in remission sometimes doesn’t last very long, but the blanket is pretty much always there. For that, despite how I feel on the inside, I know I am insanely lucky. After drawing that diagram, I felt the sort of pang of a twisted survivor’s guilt knowing there are others without blankets, because it’s only through some circumstance that I can do what I do and sometimes feel good enough about that to feel OK.

    • I know what you are talking about, the survivor’s guilt. Although the only other bipolars I “know” are online, by talking to them, I get more validation of how lucky I am. Perhaps it was this post that sparked a remission for me, but it is puzzling because it’s lasted way longer than any I’ve had before. Am I hiding something from myself? Is something going to pop out at me all of a sudden and I’ll be doused in self-hatred again?

      • erinire said:

        I totally get that last sentence – I told my shrink the other day that sometimes feeling OK is worse than feeling bad, because it’s like you’re always waiting for the hammer to come crashing down again. Always monitoring thoughts, actions, words, looking for a sign that you’re doomed. Maybe that’s not what you meant, but that’s what it made me think of.

      • said:

        Check. [That’s me checking the box next to “strongly agree” re the hammer and the self-monitoring.] Here’s what sucks about chronic illness: people keep telling you that you won’t be cured, i.e. “remission” ≠ “all better.” Here’s what sucks about chronic mental illness: those people also tell you it’s your frickin’ HEAD that won’t get better. Question: how is that NOT going to start messing with our heads? I hate not knowing where the line is drawn between Careful and Paranoid…and I think it’s completely unfair that while worrying about an illness, I’ve also turned into a hypochondriac.

  4. Meredith said:

    LOL E. Ok, not funny but we have to laugh cuz it’s all so fucking ridiculous. I jinked myself on my blog. I woke up this morning feeling normal, aka waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the shit to kick in, for the anxiety to weasel its way…wait a minute, that had already happened.

  5. Jess said:

    I consider myself in remission. As with you, I think the definition can vary from person to person. If you don’t have a diagnosis of “in remission” that’s okay. Personally, I haven’t had that diagnosis (or at least not when I get my psychiatrist’s bills, it’s not updated), but I believe I’m in remission. I am lucky in that I haven’t had a depressive episode in a year and a half. I finally sought treatment after a year of cycling from normal (and maybe hypomanic) to depressive at least every week. It was horrible; I blamed it on stress of graduating, and then stress of my job in a psychiatric hospital. Whoa, off topic, sorry!

    Regarding “functioning,” well I’ve talked about that before, but I love the Venn diagram and agree with out how set it up. I think functioning is definitely bigger than remission, and I think you work your way to remission. Also, it can be fluid; people can go in and out of remission, by being symptomatic, but also high functioning.

    Just my thoughts.

  6. Kathy DeHarte said:

    Remission for me is being able to get out of bed. Take care og the house and kids. Thats a good day. Alas they are rare.

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