“You’re using the wrong four-letter word,” my Aunt Sarah told me.
I was confused. Did I just swear? I would never swear around Aunt Sarah. She’s the kind of aunt who sits across from you at a restaurant table and wants to hold both of your hands and pray with you for ten minutes straight. It’s sweet, I guess, but it’s tough for me to focus on God when I’m sitting there with my head bowed and eyes closed while thinking, “EVERYONE IN HERE THINKS I’M A TOTAL WEIRDO RIGHT NOW.” Even though obviously most people are just eating their food and absolutely not looking at us. My eyes are closed, though, so how I am I supposed to know? Everyone knows you can’t open your eyes during prayer. It’s like cheating on a test or something. It’s just not done.
Anyway, I had just told Aunt Sarah about the bipolar diagnosis. I really didn’t want to… It was a compromise made between my husband, my therapist, and myself. Apparently I need to compromise with people on how to run my life now (that’s frustrating in and of itself, but that’s an entirely different post). My husband and therapist are worried about my imminent demise – like I’m going to off myself any day now (which I am SO NOT GOING TO DO). My therapist wanted me to go to an inpatient facility, my husband wanted to tell my parents so they could help, and I said absolutely not to both of those options. No to inpatient because…just…NO, and no to my parents because they’ll just freak out and my dad will make some degrading comment like, “Seriously girl, snap out of it. Shouldn’t you be over this bipolar thing by now?” He’s actually said that to me. Like this is a weird phase I’m going through, and when I’m bored of it I’ll decide to un-bipolar myself. Okay Dad.
The compromise was that I would tell another parental-type person my secret, because then in the event that I needed somewhere to go in a moment of panic, I would have an option other than “be home alone.” Also, maybe the person I told would be wise because they’re, you know, older than me or whatever. I don’t know. I just know I had to tell Aunt Sarah in order to keep out of inpatient and out of disappointing my parents again. It was a worthwhile trade to me.
When she said I was using the wrong four-letter word, though, I was confused. I asked her to clarify.
“Beat,” she told me. “You keep saying you want to ‘beat’ bipolar disorder. From what I know of this disease, you don’t really beat it. You more live with it. There’s your new four-letter word: L-I-V-E. Because you need to be able to live without beating this.”
I don’t know if I agree, even if she’s right. I know that this is probably a life-long struggle. I know that I can’t, technically, “beat” this thing, but do I really roll over and say, “Okay, well, I’m cool with it now”? I don’t think I’ll ever be “cool” with having bipolar disorder. I don’t know that this will ever be “okay” to me. Perhaps, however, I have to get to a place like that in order to live again (not survive, mind you – because I am surviving. I’m just not living. Two very different words). When every day I set out to slay a dragon who can’t be killed, I’m setting myself to every day feel like a failure. If I set out to every day to simply not be killed by said dragon, then I would feel more successful. Like, “Ha. I won today. I didn’t have a panic attack and I didn’t want to kill myself. WIN.”
But REALLY? Is that the highest goal I want to set for myself? I thought I was a little better than that. I thought I could do a little more. Maybe one day I will.
One of my students who loves inspirational quotes colored a picture for me today and put this quote on it: “Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life. Tip toe if you have to, but take that step!”
Maybe my step is acceptance. Maybe my step is moving from “beat” to “live.” Maybe that student is eerily perceptive. Sheesh.