Before I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I felt complete control over who I was and how I presented myself to others. There were few surprises. Sometimes, I would make choices that didn’t match the way I wanted the world to see me, but I understood why I made those decisions and could work on myself, so that I would make better choices in the future.
And then I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. During my first manic episode, I lost touch with who I was and became someone that other people wouldn’t recognize. I acted against some of my core values. It was as if someone else had taken over my body. When I look back at some of the things I did, I feel embarrassed and wish I could have done things differently.
No matter how much I want go back and change how I appeared during my manic episodes, I realize that I can’t. And no matter how much I wish I could act differently in the future, I recognize that when I am manic, I lose some of my rational mind and do things than I normally would not do.
It is hard. It’s hard knowing that I don’t even have control of myself. It’s hard knowing that one night with no sleep could cause me to become manic and land me in the hospital, away from my family. It’s hard to show up in my life knowing that some people wouldn’t accept me if they knew I was bipolar. It’s hard looking for a job in the mental health field with a mental illness.
At the same time, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for my mental illness. I’m grateful for the people I’ve connected with who also have mental illnesses. I’m grateful for that instant bond I have with people who have similar issues. I’m grateful for the tools I’ve learned about to handle difficult emotions. I’m grateful for the great doctors and therapists I’ve met. I’m grateful for the people I understand because I can relate to their struggles.
I’m grateful for the acceptance I have been able to come to; realizing that I don’t have complete control over how I am perceived in the world and that that’s OK. It’s freeing to recognize that things are in G-d’s hand, not mine, and that all I have to do is the best that I can at any given moment. It’s freeing to be able to explain to my kids that I don’t always know what is going to happen, but that everything will be OK. Living with a mental illness has been a blessing, because it has stopped me from thinking that I have control when I have none and has allowed me to find serenity in the unknown.
I am in the unknown right now. I’ve been struggling with some low-grade depression for a while. I just started working with a new doctor and I’m hoping she will be able to help. In the meantime, I have the opportunity to practice acceptance, to look at my life the way it is and appreciate these moments of struggle. I am realizing that life is not meant to be easy, but we can still make the most of our days, no matter how we feel. Today, I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from my life’s challenges.
**To reach out to the writer of this article, please email Rochel@nashimmagazine.com with the subject line “contact accepting the unknown” and your message will be forwarded.