The Wrong Goodbye, Grieving For The Loss Of Mental Illness

March 5, 2013 Alistair McHarg

All good things must come to an end, according to the sage of old, but did you know this also applies to bad things? That’s right! Here’s the shocker; when it comes time to bid a fond adieu to your particular mental health challenge, you may find yourself dragging your heels, gnashing your teeth, dotting your tees, and crossing your eyes.

Ridiculous, you say? Stifling the urge to cough derisive laughter up your sleeve? Well don’t let a little counter-intuition embolden you overly; allow me to share a personal vignette for illustrative purposes.

As many of you know, Bipolar Disorder is my particular albatross and it ruled and wrecked my landscape like a series of Old Testament plagues. For years, life was defined by my relationship to this demon and I graduated from mere survival to combat to mastery until, at last, it lay in a heap at my feet, vanquished. (Aficionados will point out that Bipolar Disorder is incurable. While true, I must add that one can reduce it to inconsequence and insignificance so that, for intents and purposes, it is neutralized.)

When Bipolar Disorder was in full flower it made me zany, newsworthy, and interesting beyond my wildest dreams. This splashy, sensational illness became something like a really bizarre, all-consuming hobby with a huge payoff, continued existence! It even provided the subject matter for my first book, Invisible Driving, the original bipolar memoir. There were times I wondered what I did for entertainment before the onset of my “fine madness”.

Seventeen years in therapy raced by until, before I knew what hit me, sanity arrived and with it, the challenge of adapting to normal society as an insider. No longer shivering in the rain beneath a tattered blanket, marooned on the outskirts of town, I bravely faced a life of acceptance. The thought of being ordinary was oddly unnerving. It was then that I experienced what trendy psychologists in California refer to as “the wrong goodbye, grieving for the loss of mental illness.

Remarkably the process broke out over the classic 5-phase evolution identified by Kübler-Ross in 1969.

1. Denial - I refused to believe that insanity had abandoned me.

2. Anger – I was furious at losing my most marketable attribute.

3. Bargaining – I furiously crafted disingenuous deals with a deity I did not believe in.

4. Depression – I tried to rekindle the illness by immersing myself in depression.

5. Acceptance – Began insisting on being accepted as a sane person and threatened insane reprisals if I was not.

Only by going through this 5-step process in good faith did I come to understand that saying goodbye to insanity can be a good thing; and that sanity can be a lot more messed up than one might imagine.

APA Reference
McHarg, A. (2013, March 5). The Wrong Goodbye, Grieving For The Loss Of Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Alistair McHarg

Clara Koblosh
March, 6 2013 at 12:20 pm

Saying good bye to insanity. All I can say is now that I am free of most of my symptoms I still depressive symptoms every now and them. But for the most part I am sane. I always had a mental illness since I can remember. I thought that sanity would end my problems. Well I got it and I am not to happy with it. I still lose job after job. Istill have irrational fears and rational ones. I am dealing with reality now and I really don't like it. At this point I would rather just curl up in a ball and never get up or feel the confidence of mania. Without it I feel like so this is what I fought so long and hard for. The work is so much harder and the rewards seem to be smaller. I have to relearn how to work with my depressive symptoms and not let them get to me working with real issues not the "imagination" ones I used to get. I have to learn to perform well even though I do get depressed. I have a big hole in my development as a human being from being sick for a long period of time. I still have my struggles and to tell you the honest to God truth this is not much better than being sick.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
March, 7 2013 at 5:25 am

Clara - Thank you for reading and taking the time to respond. Please bear in mind that my column is intended to be humorous. That said, I do know what you mean. Sometimes in AA we joke that - after getting sober we imagined that life would be smooth sailing - hah! Whether you are recovering from a mental illness or addiction or whatever - life will still be as hard on you as it is on everyone else - but chances are you will feel it more because you are more sensitive. That's okay, just don't take it personally. The rain falls equally on the just and the unjust, keep trying. -- I hope you write again!

March, 6 2013 at 8:31 am

What's wrong about that goodbye? It's great news and should be celebrated. That said, I know what you mean about the need to grieve. I just don't like your title. ;-)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
March, 7 2013 at 5:21 am

Hi Cate - Thanks for reading, and especially for writing. It's a play on the phrase - "The Long Goodbye" - reflecting the sentiment that one is saying goodbye to what is wrong.

March, 6 2013 at 7:21 am

Hi Alistair! Being sane is great,and it's even better to be considered sane by the rest of the population. Sometimes though, the rest of the population does leave me crossing my eyes and dotting my tees, and wondering if I'm coming or going. Have a great week!

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Alistair McHarg
March, 7 2013 at 5:19 am

Hi Cindyaka - Thanks for dropping by. Just keep dotting those tees, especially on the golf course, and you'll be all right!

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