This is day seventy-nine of a recent journey back from the abyss of depression. I had been crying for a few days, nearly nonstop. I looked at my husband and said through my tears, “I don’t want to be here anymore. I’m just so tired. I’m exhausted. I can’t stand this pain. I want to go home to heaven. I don’t want to live on this earth. But Mike, I thought of a plan. I don’t have any intentions, but I’ve felt this way before and there has never been the thought of a plan. I’m so scared. I need to go in.”
I’m currently reading a book by Brene’ Brown called “Daring Greatly.” She begins the book with a speech, from which she gets that title, delivered by Theodore Roosevelt in Paris France on April 23, 1910.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…”
Anyone with a mental disorder lives life in the arena. I’ve been living there for over thirty years, possibly longer. I believe most people with mental disorders live in the arena secretly and ashamed. That makes me want to cry for myself and every other person fighting and surviving. I wait until I’ve known someone for years, decades before I tell them, practically whispering it like some dirty little secret. Well, no more of that. I won’t be ashamed. I won’t live as if I’ve done something so wrong or that there is something so unworthy in me that I should fear being cut off from love and acceptance if anyone should ever find out. The stigma is unfair and unwarranted. It astounds me that it should be so hard for people to fathom that the most complicated organ in the human body should differ so greatly from another that some people need medication to regulate parts of that organ. The human brain is as vast and complex as outer space or the depths of the oceans. THAT is a documentary I would pay to watch, “Deep Brain Exploration, Unlocking The Mysteries Of The Human Mind!”
I’m going to take it a step further and say that there are gifts that come with having a mind that works a bit differently, seeing the world in a different light. My outpatient therapy group was filled with artists, writers, a gemologist, and a writer who was also a computer programmer (Yes computer programming is an art-form. I demand it.). You don’t have to have a mental disorder to be a creative human being, but so many of the greatest minds in history did. It isn’t a matter of being defective or not working “right,” rather it is a matter of simply being unique. And, every single human mind is absolutely a unique work of art.
I have bipolar disorder. I was leading up to the discovery of this as I wrote the stories about raising our five children. Shit is about to get real, as I will be writing stories about the manifestation and discovery of my mental illness. This frightened me so much, that I forsook my greatest outlet, my greatest gift, because I was afraid to write “the” story. It’s a story worth telling.
My therapist (of course I have a therapist, silly) asked me why I wanted to write about my journey living with bipolar disorder. She doesn’t recommend people putting themselves in a vulnerable position by telling the world about their disorders. I told her this, “I want to write it because when I was a young mother failing daily, exhausted from the swinging pendulum I was stuck on and wanting to give up, I needed to hear that I was going to be alright, that I didn’t need to live in shame and fear, that I should be kind to myself, that I should forgive myself for shortcomings, many of which I had no control over, that I was SO very strong, that I was enough.” If there is someone out there who needs to hear my story so that you can identify and know you aren’t alone, so that you can set aside shame and self-deprecation, then I’ll risk, I’ll be vulnerable, I’ll be courageous… I’ll dare greatly.