Life is a challenge. Often in life, our greatest challenges, adversity or suffering opens the way for us to experience the lessons we need for growth.
This has been my experience. If you had said to me fifteen years ago that there are hidden gifts in suffering, I would have dismissed the idea outright. In fact, for a year of my life at age 37, suffering made no sense at all and as my life began unravelling on all levels, the ‘quick fix’ was almost always at the forefront of my thoughts.
I was clinically depressed midway through the year 2000 and, at my lowest point, suicidal. Now I look back at this time as the beginning of my spiritual awakening. There had been many taps on my shoulder during the preceding years and all had been ignored. My life was so out of balance in every area and serious illness was the result.
The next chapter
In the years following that traumatic time, I have been able to reflect a great deal about the illness and the best way to manage it and stay well. There has also been an ongoing search for meaning, as well as the answer as to why this had to happen and turn my life upside down.
The next period of my life was spent walking in the ‘house of mirrors’ having an honest look at myself. It was not pretty. For most of my life, my thoughts went unchallenged, decisions were made without any consideration for consequences and little responsibility was taken for outcomes, unless of course they were favourable. My experience taught me a life lived in this way results in complete chaos. Life can be hectic, stressful and chaotic. It can also be the opposite if we stop and listen to ourselves and be honest about the way we live our lives.
The choices we make and the responsibility we take for those choices is all part of the learning, growing and healing process. Change is always possible, and in my case, was absolutely necessary. If you watch the film Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray you will get some idea of what I am talking about.
In short, if you are keen on doing every day what you have always done, you will keep on getting the same results!
The gift is that I have survived and can share what I have learned
I do not claim to have all the answers, but simply say I am more aware, ready to share and prepared to learn more. Bipolar disorder, like so many other mental illnesses, has a stigma associated with it that makes management of the condition even more difficult than it should be. For many people with Bipolar disorder, dealing with the illness and coming to terms with sometimes severe mood swings is something managed in secrecy, away from the eyes of even close friends and family. I know there is a road back to good health; I’ve been walking that road for 15 years.
My self-awareness is more finely tuned today to my stress levels and when I need to pull back, slow down and rest for the most part, I do. In the area of mental health, I simply want to make a difference. I believe we all need to drop the stigma attached to mental illness and make it easier for those who need to reach out and get help. There have been many blessings that have come from my experience.
A wise man once said: ‘If you want to change the world, start with yourself’.