BringChange2Mind

November 24, 2010

Thankful

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Marc Peters @ 9:00 am

“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”

The beginning of my manic freshman year

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.

Where I am today

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,

Marc

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4 Comments »

  1. Thank you for sharing this. You write this so elegantly and sincerely. I have experienced some of the same things, and haven’t been thankful for some of the “bad” stuff. You make me look at it differently. Yes, the “bad” parts of my life (my mental illness–bi-polar II) have made me who I am. And yes, I am very thankful for where I am now. Bless you for sharing.

    Comment by Donna — November 24, 2010 @ 9:28 am

  2. Marc. You are a blessing to many. Thank you for all you do and all you share. I am thakful for you and I am sure many others are too. Happy Thanksgiving to you!

    Comment by Angy — November 24, 2010 @ 9:38 am

  3. Thank you for an eye-opening, honest and inspiring post, Marc. As the mother of a wonderful man who has schizophrenia, I’m grateful that he is present in our lives right now, in so many ways. I blog about the process of acceptance in “No Casseroles for Schizophrenia”

    Last night, I had that dream again.

    Ben is missing. No one has heard from him since yesterday – or is it a couple of days? He isn’t answering his cell phone.

    Finally I go to the last place I saw him: the beach. We’d dropped him off there for a party – a party. He was invited to a party, with actual friends, and he hasn’t chosen to come home. After these past few years of rebuilding his life, he might have erased it all in 24 hours of what he thinks of as freedom: freedom from the structure of his group home, freedom from the rules when he visits us, and – mostly – freedom from his meds.

    At last, I see Ben. He’s slumped up against a wall. He’s drenched with what I assume is seawater from his hair to his bare feet, and he’s smiling to himself. I’m appalled, disgusted, and relieved, all in one huge rush of familiarity. It takes some work – I have to make my voice clearer than the voices he’s hearing again in his head – but I finally convince him to come with me, back to Harrison House where he lives.

    In the car, I want to scream at him, shake some sense into him: How could you? You were doing so well! You love college! You finally have friends! What’s wrong with you? But I know this will have no effect. I simply say, “Why, Ben?”

    He replies, “I just felt like it. And I feel so happy now. Those meds don’t let me be myself!” And I think: I probably should take him straight to the hospital. He looks like someone I’d report to the police if I saw him wandering in my neighborhood. Is this the same person who was working on his final school paper just two days ago?
    How quickly it can all fall apart.

    I can control none of this, so instead I just remind Ben to brush his teeth when he gets home. I can see how unhealthy and yellow they are. He admits, with a malicious grin, that he never brushes his teeth, and never intends to. And that’s when I lose it, screaming at him at last about the only thing I can grab onto: his hygiene, and the fact that I pay his dental bills and he’s better start brushing his teeth. I want to say: take your meds! take your meds! I can’t do this anymore! Part of me wishes he’d run away so far that I can’t find him. He’d figure it all out himself, then, right? And we’d be free of the burden of trying to “fix” him, again and again. We’d be sad, but we’d be free. And, even in my dream, I hate myself for having these thoughts, for I love this child so much.

    And that’s when I wake up. That’s when this nightmare ends and I open my eyes to the day before Thanksgiving, knowing that Ben is indeed safe in his bed at Harrison House because my husband drove him home last night from school. I awake to only the stress of finishing some work today, and cooking Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Ben will be here, will sleep over, and we will – as always- supervise him as he takes his meds and watch him for a half hour after that so he doesn’t throw them up in the bathroom.

    Easy. Compared to that dream? Easy. I know that dream all too well, because we lived it – in real life, in one form or another – so many times.
    But it’s a better “real life” now, one where – for this moment in time -I can wake up to a world that is a relief from my dreams about Ben. There were too many mornings in the chaos times where I wanted to stay in my dreams where Ben was healthy, for the reality of his illness was so hard to absorb.

    Tomorrow will be our fifth Thanksgiving in a row where Ben is present, mentally and physically. He’d been in the hospital for too many holidays in the past, but he’ll be here tomorrow. Yes, so much to be grateful for this year: Ali’s marriage, the upcoming publication of my book, and Ben’s life. For the moment, all is well – and the moment is all we ever have. I intend to fully feel the happiness, for that’s how we honor it.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Comment by Randye Kaye — November 24, 2010 @ 10:16 am

  4. Thank you for sharing. I would also never change my past one bit because the obstacles that I’ve had to over come with my depression have changed my outlook of life for the better.

    Comment by Jo — November 26, 2010 @ 9:31 am


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