A Life Changing Decision

One day, in December, 2006, I made a decision that would change my life. It was a bad day. I couldn’t get of bed. My preschooler and toddler begged me to come play with them. “Mommy’s too tired. Play with each other. “But we want to play with you, Mommy,” my eldest begged. I saw the sad look of rejection in her eyes and knew what I suspected all along. I had a mental illness, and I needed to get help. My babies deserved it. My husband deserved it. I deserved it.

I knew it was not simply depression. Thinking back to a 6-week time period earlier that year of euphoria, frustration at the inability to follow by big dreams, and even my thoughts of leaving my family in order to do the things I was destined to do, I knew I had bipolar.

I didn’t really know where to go for help. It’s not like you can just ask your neighbor that sort of thing. I did know of one person who I knew would not judge, had the knowledge to point me in the right direction, and was bound by confidentiality. My pastor was the man to see. Being a recently recovering alcoholic with depression himself, I knew he could and would help.

I am one of the lucky few who found a great therapist, medication that works, and a great psychiatric nurse practitioner right away. I know what a miracle that is, and I am grateful every day.

I also know that the other thing working in my favor was that I don’t drink alcohol ever, don’t use drugs, and, before the bipolar set in, was resilient with a strong spirit and healthy coping skills.

Sparing you the details of the last 7 years of my life, I will tell you where I am now. I have my good days and bad, but overall I am healthy and happy. I am successful with a good job that I love, my two children, a home in a nice and safe neighborhood, friends, and a fairly stable mood. I know how to monitor myself and am willing to take action to keep myself out of potentially bad situations and fix what’s wrong when I need to. This could include changing my diet, getting more sleep, organizing my house or desk at work, hanging out more with friends, eliminating negative influences in my life, and/or seeing my doctor. I do whatever it takes to remain as stable as possible for both me and my children.

Why have I just told a bunch of strangers this personal story? First, because I believe the only way to break the stigma is for “normal looking” folks like myself to step out of the shadows and break the silence.

Secondly, to let others know there is hope. Mental illness can be treated. You can have a good and meaningful life. You are not alone.

May will be Mental Health Awareness Month, however mental health is such an important issue, please don’t save these conversations for just one month out of the year. If you have a mental illness, consider speaking up. If you don’t have a mental illness, become advocate. The more we talk, the more good we can do. >

Where is your resurrection?

I made it to church today with my kids. Admittedly, this hasn’t happened in almost year for no other reason that I am tired. Between work, tutoring, sports practices, and an entire Saturday of games, by the time Sunday rolls around, I am beat. Even when my kids are at their dad’s house, I still attend all of their games, leaving me with little time of my own. Add in the time involved for a relationship, and well, I’ve got little left.  To credit my significant other, he is very understanding and encouraging of my need for alone time. There was a time when I found the too tired excuse a lame cop out for making time to worship. Now, I apologize to all those people I judged and eat my words.

The message my pastor gives is almost always something I can relate to, but today was something different. Today she talked about expectations. She reminded us through stories and scripture that expectations can be a self-fulling prophecy. That when we expect bad, we focus on it, and delight when we are right about the bad we anticipated. Likewise, when we expect good, we tend to find the good in any situation, even if there is plenty of not-so-good to go along with it.

There was a time when I was hopelessly optimistic, often accused of wearing blinders and rose-colored glasses. I saw nothing wrong with this view. It made me see good, and in turn, made others see good, as well. Due to a life crisis almost a year ago, I lost that optimism, trust, and I think my rose-colored glasses got lost in the couch or something. I became negative, sad, distrustful, critical, and at one point, self-destructive. Luckily the self-destructive phase passed quickly; unfortunately the others did not.

I’ve been living the last year expecting the worst. As a result, the worst has often happened. I’ve pushed people away based on what I was afraid would happen, even though those people did nothing to deserve such suspicion. I’ve hidden out from people and opportunities, not wanting to risk whatever could go wrong. I doubted myself, my intuition, and my ability to handle whatever came my way. Before this time, I had honestly never felt this way. I didn’t like my new attitude, but didn’t know how to make it go away.

Today, I heard the message. “STOP IT!” Stop expecting the worse. Stop doubting yourself. Stop worrying about what could happen and enjoy what you’ve got. Instead, start being the person you were before you let one person ruin your life. Giving that person the ability to ruin me gave someone power they do not deserve. It gave that person the power to change who I am at the core of my existence. I let that person dictate who and what I am. Although that person was physically gone, I let the effects of that person’s choices live in my heart.

I’m here to say, “no more!” I’m reclaiming my life. I’m looking forward with optimism and expectations to receive the best in people. I’m resurrecting my spirit; the person I have always been has been hiding, but she’s back!

Maybe your story is not just like mine. Maybe you’ve been suffering with an illness, depression (which I also know plenty about, but that’s for another day), losing a job, relationship troubles, or some form of loneliness. Whatever it is, I challenge you to look within yourself and evaluate your attitude. Consider your expectations and how they are influencing your life. If your expectations are less than good, resolve to change them. Like myself, you deserve good things! We all do. Now, resurrect the great things within yourself and use them to go out and show the world you good, happy, optimistic side. You’ll be glad you did. Not only that, but…

You deserve it!

(I wrote this on Easter Sunday in response to the service I went to, but it fits the Daily Prompt perfectly!)