Of all the encouraging things I can say to those of you who have been struggling with the pain and loss and regret that bipolar so often brings, I’ve discovered the absolutely most encouraging fact is that if you live long enough, you’ll see how those shattered pieces of your hopes and dreams have come together in an altogether unplanned yet compellingly beautiful life…..if you abandoned yourself to the Great Craftsman somewhere along the way. I cannot speak for nominal Christians, or those without faith in God through Jesus Christ. However, if the agony of bipolar drives you to throw everything at the feet of Jesus – and let go – it is with an exceptional boldness that I tell you the day will come that you have a beautiful life worth living. You just have to live long enough for enough of the pieces to come together that you can see the big picture they point to.
When this scourge hit just after my 31st birthday, the only way to describe it is “tragic.” Coming at the prime of my life, only halfway through preparations to secure employment as a professor in an educational institution, breaking into a full-blown psychotic manic episode constituted a betrayal by my mind of enormous proportions. Now, at 61, I can see that my life – my whole life, from conception to adoption to accomplishment to bipolar and beyond – has been bone-crushingly difficult, but it has not been tragic. It has left me wounded, but not broken as I had thought I was most of those 61 years. But I had to live this long to see it with my own eyes, and believe it in my own heart. Had I checked out even 4 years ago, I would not have seen the masterpiece as easily as I see it today – and it is becoming more clear all the time.
I realize it’s not easy to live long enough for the pain to make sense and be swallowed up in the larger context God is constantly creating. Your family and loved ones will never know how hard it is to keep going without the things to your name you could easily have earned, were you not out of your mind half the time. For me, it was those framed documents on the wall – the Ph.D and the Mrs. One I never earned, and the other I earned and lost twice. People look at you sadly, shaking their head. “You had such potential.” I got so tired of having potential. I ached for actual – and for the most part, it never came in the typical worldly ways. It’s not easy to walk in the world of “haves,” when you are a “would have had if I wasn’t sick”. No one knows how hard and painful it is, except someone else who has to walk the road. My children and family will never know how hard I fought to stay alive, or what it cost me. But I did it. And it turns out, the beneficiaries really aren’t my children or family – staying alive benefits me most. I can see what my life was all about – and it is good. The sting of bipolar, the tragedy of it, is gone for good.
So, do what you need to do to stay alive long enough for the picture to come together. Your blessings are on this side of the River Jordan. If you’re not alive, you will miss them. Surviving doesn’t have to be pretty. There’s no extra credit for gracefulness or good form. There are no deductions for stumbling and muddling through. In the really bad days, you can learn to say, as I did, “Thank you, God, that I’m alive to feel this shitty.” Just keep going. When you fall down, get up and keep going. I promise, the day will come when you will be very glad you lived long enough to see how things are working out.