“I don’t really know how I got here but I’m sure glad that I did. And it’s crazy to think that one little thing could’ve changed all of it. Maybe it didn’t turn out like I planned. Maybe that’s why I’m such, such a lucky man. For every stoplight I didn’t make. Every chance I did or I didn’t take. All the nights I went too far. All the girls that broke my heart. All the doors that I had to close. All the things I knew but I didn’t know. Thank God for all I missed. Cause it led me here to this.” – Darius Rucker, “This”
I never thought I’d be here. I never thought I’d get this far. Every time I stop and truly reflect on where I am today, I’m stunned. When I was in high school, I’m what you would call a rising star. I was one of the more accomplished students in my county: interning for USA Today and the Baltimore Sun, winning two national scholarships, and the list goes on. I don’t say this to brag, but really just to give you an understanding of where my life when I threw it all away. I thought I had recovered from my mental health episode. I thought my severe depressive episode junior year was going to be it. I was diagnosed with depression, put on meds, in therapy. I was golden, right? Yeah…not so much.
I spent my entire freshman year manic. From the moment I set foot on Syracuse University’s campus to the moment when the psychotic rupture led to my hearing voices and nearly getting arrested on a Habitat for Humanity Spring Break trip, I was living a manic lifestyle. I was excelling in school (at least second semester), taking upper level courses, getting involved in every student club imaginable. Then it all started to slip away. I served as a Young Life youth leader and enjoyed getting to spend time with some wonderful high school students and serve as a mentor to them until some manic behavior led to my dismissal. It was a crushing blow from an organization that had played a huge role in my life in high school. I went from having intelligent things to say that inspired awe to speaking at such a fast pace that I inspired fear. I went from thinking so quickly that things came easy to thinking at a speed that I couldn’t keep up with. If I had been in my right mind and able to observe from a distance it would have been terrifying. But obviously that’s not what it is like when you are in it.
So things fell apart long before I was admitted to inpatient treatment and heavily sedated (totally needed), long before my month spent there and three months in intensive outpatient treatment. But the before was nothing compared to the after. Afterward I was shattered. I was incomplete. I was looking at what I used to be and getting more and more depressed by the day because I just knew in my heart that I would never be the person I set out to be. I’d never be the prizewinning basketball columnist. And I was right. I never became that person. I became such a better person than I ever dreamed.
I became someone who was completely other-centered. I learned a level of empathy that allows me to feel other’s pain and look from their perspective. I learned that there were things in life more important than grades and one of them was the wellbeing of the people in my community.
I learned how to rely on other people for the first time. I learned who I could trust (and who I couldn’t). I learned who would be there for me no matter what and who would only be there when it was convenient.
I learned to treasure every day because life can change in an instant. I learned never to take friendships for granted because without people to lean on when I’m weak, I’m completely unable to stand.
I learned that there is nothing that is insurmountable.
I learned that no matter how isolated having a mental health disorder can be, that if I lived openly with mine that other people would disclose their own struggles to me.
If I hadn’t had my psychotic break, I would have continued to live in the college bubble that so many students get trapped in. I wouldn’t have learned to look beyond myself and my struggles. I would not have had the opportunity to meet the people I’ve met in the mental health community and in the service community that I almost certainly would not have been a part of.
So for that I am thankful. It’s easy to look at what I’ve “lost” and it’s easy to point to the hassles of managing bipolar disorder in a health way. It’s so much more than that though. It’s not all of who I am, but it made me who I am. I can’t pick and choose which parts to experience. So if I’m thankful for my friends, family and my life then I have to be thankful for the ache and the pain and the agony and the suffering. I have to be thankful for the depressions that seemed so dark that I thought the sun would never rise. If I’m thankful for walking outside the hospital walls with a greater appreciation for life and freedom then I have to be thankful for the month that I was locked in a room with 24 hour supervision.
It’s easy to blame. It’s easy to scapegoat. But the good things in life don’t come easy and in this case the good life didn’t come easy.
I’m thankful that BringChange2Mind has allowed me to be a part of their blogging family and I’m thankful that you’re reading this right now. I’m thankful for YOU. What are you thankful for?
With love and great thanks,