So, writing about my bipolar journey and life isn’t always the most cheerful experience. Those of us with mental illness know that there are some pretty tough times we have to work ourselves out from. But, I am so freaking blessed in my life and never want to lose sight of that. Ever.
Take my ma. Please. (Just joking, ma…I won’t let you go.). I call my mom my ‘bra’ because she’s been so supportive of me all of my life. I remember lying (gasp) as a little girl (BTW, when I type ‘girl’ you need to say it like Linda Belcher does: ‘giorl’) that I was sick just to stay home with her during the day…and this was from someone who loved school so much. In high school, I had a party at our house in which I was told I could invite a few friends. So, I did. And those few friends invited a few friends, etc. The party of 10 grew to be a party of about 40 (some of you reading this were there!) and even though I swore with the best (ahem) intentions, alcohol miraculously appeared. It was a GREAT time though! I got to kiss my long desired dreamboat (who smelled of whiskey and polo…a combination that still gets me a bit hot) while others were doing Mexican hat dances on the carpet, with tortilla chips under their feet. When mom and her husband came home, they didn’t yell like I thought they would. My step-sister and I had cleaned the best we could in our inebriated states, and since I was still ‘tipsy’, I think mom figured she could yell at me some other time. I would have been furious at my kid doing this, but mom was pretty cool about it. She put me through hell the next day though by vacuuming, emptying ice trays, and anything else she could think of that was noisy as hell to further compound my hangover headache, but besides that, nothing else was said. Except…that I could never…EVER…EVER…have a party again. Go figure.
I’ll never forget when mom took me to lunch one day after Hubby 2, our son, and I moved back to IL from Kansas where we had lived for 3 years. I remember the weather, the restaurant, the booth, and the food on the table when she said this: “I found a lump.” I don’t think words can adequately describe my feelings at that moment. Mom fought like a warrior over the next year though and survived a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation to treat this metastasized cancer, and has now been cancer free for a little over 20 years. She’s a fighter like no other I’ve seen.
When I had a breakdown a couple of years ago, my mama saved my life. Literally. She and my doctor were my salvation and she had to work with me everyday to make sure I was just eating and showering. I was at her house all of the time either crying, staring off in space, or just being close to her so I couldn’t cut myself anymore. She doesn’t take enough credit for what she did for me. She should though. I wouldn’t be writing this if it hadn’t been for her.
And my sister? When I was a tot, I could hardly speak to where anyone was able to understand me. The roof of my mouth is incredibly high and when I talk, I can’t use my tongue against it to help form words. So, T was my translator. She’s OLDER than me (see that, T?? You’re OLDER!) and was truly my voice. In every single pic of us at little kids, she is standing with her arm around me, and when we were in grade school and both of us were getting bullied, she protected me.
On snow days, we’d tie our beanbag chairs together in the downstairs, and pretend we were stranded at sea and couldn’t move off of them! We’d take bike rides to Grandpa and Grandmas, and as we got older, we’d boogie off to the drug store to buy make up and try it out on one another. I was the sickly, puny one as a kid and then with having anorexia and bipolar, I know T has often been second to the attention I took…and still take. She’s the smartest, most kind-hearted person I know. Really.
And my son? Well…what do you say about perfection? OK. I know he’s not perfect (sorry, porkchop), but he’s damn close. He was the funniest, sweetest, most adorable kid ever and grew up to be such a good, kind, talented man. O has aphantasia which is the inability to see pictures in your brain…you actually don’t have a ‘minds eye.’ We didn’t understand this had a name until a few years ago, but as early as Jr. High, when his geometry teacher told the kids to picture a cube and then to rotate it in their minds, O couldn’t do it. He simply couldn’t see it. He would always tell me he didn’t really dream and when he did, it was like fleeting images of black and white. His dad and I had no idea that such a condition existed, but now I can see how he’s had this all his life.
O always wanted cameras. When he was 4, we started going to pools every summer afternoon, and he would ask for underwater cameras and took amazing pics even at his age. As he got older, I’d get him more and more disposable cameras before buying him the real thing. Now, he’s a professional wedding photographer who has already received national attention. I understand how for him, photographs ARE his memory, and his passion is to create those precious memories for others as well. Have I mentioned how amazing he is?
Another blessing in my life are my students! I taught elementary school for a couple of years before getting my M.S. and I loved my 5th and 6th graders so much! When I started teaching college at the ripe old age of 28, I feared I’d miss that close connection. How wrong I was! I absolutely, unequivocably LOVE my students! Each and every one of them. They have given me so much more than I think I’ve given them, and when I’m at the store, and I hear someone shout “Ms. P!” or “Professor K!” my heart soars!
So many of them are on my Facebook and to see how they have succeeded in their careers, started beautiful families, and become incredible people is more joyful than I can express. I may forget names after having so many thousand students over these last 24 years, but I remember every single face…and I’m touched that they remember me as well!
There are so many other blessings I could talk about: all of my other family (yes, Edward and Dottie, this includes you), my colleagues, my home, my neighbors, my health, my finances, and the list could go on and on and on.
And who do I have to thank for all of this? Well, the big guy himself. God. Yep, I’m a believer. Have been for as long as I can remember. I could go into a big testimony of how God came into my heart, but I’m not going too. As much as I think it’s wonderful to share your faith, which I do with people who want to share with me, I also think it’s kind of personal to talk about since words actually minimize that experience. I talk to God a lot, and I also pray. And yes, those are 2 different things to me. He’s very good at listening to me chit-chat, and I know he hears my prayers since they’ve been so generously answered. I haven’t deserved the blessings that I’ve received, but like any father, God gives me exactly what he knows I need. ‘Nuff said.
You know it’s so easy to lose sight of the positives in your life when you deal with the negative ramifications of mental illness day to day, and I think it’s important to always keep those in mind. I don’t ever want to forget what’s wonderful in my life and get mired only in the lousy. That wouldn’t be fair: it would be ignoring all of the people and things in my life that are so incredible.