Those are the most terrifying words in the English language for someone with a mental illness who has found mental health.

The prospect of my Bipolar demons clawing their way out of the depths of my psyche, grasping hold of me with the relentless grip of their Jules Verne Squid-like tentacles, and forcefully dragging me back to their torturous lair is enough to ratchet my anxiety to the ceiling.

Active mental illness and acute suffering are synonymous, and finding healthy, sustainable relief from prolonged sheer anguish is akin to a lost, wandering Bedouin, who is dying of thirst, stumbling across an oasis amidst the seemingly endless merciless dunes of scorching, dessicated sand.

Once one has slaked one’s thirst and evaded certain death, the slightest hint that the oasis is evaporating, or worse yet, was a mirage from the start, incites a primal, instinctive terror in response to such an existential threat.

When my Bipolar Disorder is stabilized and I am spiritually fit, I am living in the oasis. When I stop my regimen to stay healthy, or something environmental triggers my illness (despite my best efforts), I am again wandering the unforgiving, moonscape of a desert.

Perhaps the best those of us with a mental illness can do is to accept that there will be times when it will “get bad again,” and to remember to utilize our tools, support systems, and spiritual practices to prevent it from getting too bad.

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

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