Soul Survival

I woke up this morning to a night sky and headed for my rocking chair that sits outside on the porch facing the horizon. Stars and a sliver of the moon were still in the sky. Looking up I wondered why we readily make wishes upon stars and struggle to believe in ourselves. We are here in the flesh with all kinds of talents and dreams.

Why indeed. By the time you are in your 50s, chances are you’ve had plenty of opportunities to lose faith. For some of us, our failures and transgressions become tattoos. The things you are good at, the things you really love to do, become an addendum to your life story.

I have a cousin who has bipolar disorder. The disease has derailed him several times. After each episode, he brings himself down a notch. Listening to him talk about how he wants to be a better person breaks my heart. He is so good already – smart and thoughtful and handsome and athletic, but he doesn’t see it.

I am bipolar too. I heard myself in his regrets and sadness. With this illness, you can do some really gnarly things when you are too up. My specialty is saying exactly what’s on my mind when I lose my temper. In a manic outburst, I can deliver a message with stunning clarity and laser precision. My words are a shot to the center of the heart. I’ve lost friends. I’ve worked extremely hard on this, and it rarely happens now. Nevertheless, I have a history.

When you’re way down, you can’t do a thing. That has its consequences too. When I listen to my cousin, I can’t believe that someone as capable as he is feels so bad about himself. But I get it.

People with bipolar illness have to pick themselves up again and again. Sometimes you start from scratch. You have to be willing and invested in mining your goodness and finding faith over and over. It is no surprise to me that this disease has the highest rate of suicide among people with mental illnesses. When I tell people I am bipolar, I act all nonchalant about it. Some people are shocked. Not because I am mentally ill, but because I don’t “show signs.”

Being bipolar is one of the reasons I try to be positive in this blog. I’ve dusted myself off many times. I know failure really well. No matter how many times I nearly disintegrate, my soul keeps on clean and healthy. You have no idea how grateful I am.