And now, isn't it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You're more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. (The Message Bible, 381)I often attend Javamonkey Speaks, which is the open mic spoken word held every Sunday at Javamonkey, a coffeeshop near where I live. I went there two weeks ago with some peers; when I go with peers I usually make a deal with them that if they present a poem, I will too, but I just wasn't feeling it that night. I told them I would just support them this time. But sometimes when I tell myself that I will be quiet at a function, something will happen that will make me feel compelled to speak anyway. First, my favorite Javamonkey regular announced that he had been diagnosed with bipolar and that it was very hard and challenging. I felt bad for him, as even though we haven't talked together much, I hold a lot of fondness towards him. He is one of the most vulnerable poets I know, very quirky and special. That night, he did a hilarious monologue as a German radio show host that made me laugh until I cried. I felt for him but I did not yet feel compelled to say anything. A few poems later, another regular came on stage and announced that she had bipolar too. It was the way that she said it that made me feel that now it was time for me to speak up. She is a teen who I admire for bluntly putting her struggles out there week after week. Unfortunately, being a melodramatic teen, her poems are almost always epically cringe-worthy. This one was no exception. Her life, as she sees it, is terrible, pure misery, and having bipolar disorder just makes it that much more excruciating. I get it, I do. When I was first diagnosed with my illnesses, life was hard. It was excruciating and I was melodramatic too. Yes, it was reassuring to talk with other people who were struggling but what I truly needed was hope, which unfortunately, very few people gave me in the beginning. Hearing this teen's troubles let me know what I needed to do. I quickly found a poem that I didn't mind too much and signed up to share. When I got on stage, this is what I shared, as much as I can remember:
I also have bipolar disorder but I want to say that I am actually grateful for it. Yes, life is hard, but life is hard for everyone for different reasons. Because of my experiences with bipolar, I have learned how to have more compassion, be less judgmental and I have met many wonderful people. I have gone through many hardships but each time it gets easier and I have found that getting through hardships is what gives us resiliency, which is essential for a good life.
I then read a poem that I posted here way back in 2011. How life has changed since then for the better and how I can now trust it will continue to change for the better, even as these good times will, I know, be interrupted by hardships from time to time. I think people were a little shocked when I followed my diagnosis with the statement that I was grateful for it but I really truly am. I am never thankful for it when in the throes of depression or anxiety but I am thankful that I at least have the tools now to get me through it. Earlier today, I had an anxiety attack, which was frustrating but at least I knew what to do and why it was happening - I was experiencing some joint pain and pain usually triggers anxiety for me, so I took some Advil, took my anxiety PRN, and turned up the air conditioning to get myself comfortable again. I really would make a terrible homeless person because being physically uncomfortable isn't just annoying for me but actually triggers my anxiety. In a pretty short while, my anxiety passed, and I laughed at myself out of relief, so grateful that I know how to manage myself now. I believe everyone has their own challenges but as long as we keep trying new things and reflecting on what works and what doesn't, we will grow and get better, despite our setbacks.
I hope this post provides some encouragement; feel free to share it with those who are struggling, especially with a new diagnosis.