Perhaps the only true dignity of a man is his capacity to despise himself. – George Santayana
Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.– Michel de Montaigne
Let us not burden our remembrances with a heaviness that is gone.– William Shakespeare
Emotion has taught mankind to reason.– Marquis de Vauvenargues
In a fight between you and the world, back the world.– Franz Kafka
I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.– William E. Henley
Happiness is the interval between periods of unhappiness.– Don Marquis
Happiness is not being pained in body or troubled in mind.– Thomas Jefferson
We do not have to visit a madhouse to find disordered minds; our planet is the mental institution of the universe.– Goethe
Stress is nothing more than a socially acceptable form of mental illness.– Richard Carlson
Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.– Bill Clinton
i decided to start this post with quotes about mental illness. i inherited a form of bi-polar disorder from my mother who inherited it from her father and so on… definitely a gift that keeps on giving, i have wrestled with mania and depression for longer than i allow myself to remember.
early in my journey i was so enmeshed in her process that i didn’t realize i was learning how to deal with mine. i guess it’s called learning by rote. or maybe it’s a journeyman process like the 12 steps. it doesn’t matter really, either way. it is my experience and i can’t erase that.
our particular brand of challenge seems to be characterized by a meltdown somewhere in the 40’s. there has been a consistent crash that is characterized by the letting go of everything in life and a calling to proverbially circle the drain. this seems to be the point when a medical professional usually comes into the picture and introduces medicine and our lives change – at least for awhile.
that last sentence sounds simple, but it is anything but that. included in this is releasing the romance and relationship with mania. crazy can be much more intoxicating than its reputation. it is perhaps the ultimate natural high. mania is addictive. it’s pretty common knowledge that most folks with bi-polar disorder will follow doctors orders until their lives have leveled out and then tell themselves they are ok and leave the meds behind much like an alcoholic or a crack addict. this must be because the chemical releases in the brain are so powerful that the brain devises ways to get more.
i have come to understand a deeper reason it is referred to as a chemical imbalance. there has been very little balance in my brain since i was 12 or so. it has been a storm of sorts. “tumultuous”,” uneven”, and “wtf” are just a few phrases that can relay the reality of a bi-polar brain. i am now learning that living with bipolar disorder just may be one of the huge lessons that my life has to offer me. there are others certainly. the gift of recovery has been monumental in my life. but years into sobriety, it is being revealed that recovery for me encompasses much deeper issues that substance use.
these last few years of clean time have afforded me the luxury of being in the middle of a storm in my brain on more than one occasion and learning that i can withstand that without disappearing. it has taken 50 years to just get a glimpse of the grace of that revelation.
i’m pretty sure i have spent most of my life judging my mother and her circumstance, her decisions, and her occasional knack to get in over her head. i have hated some of those times. luckily, time has a way of softening the lens. now i know that i am not very different.
so tomorrow, as i spend time with my mom on mother’s day, i will have renewed gratitude on a hugely deeper level. i cannot ever think i would have figured out how to come in from the storm without her wisdom and experience. and especially her mistakes.