Personal Development

A Tale of Two Faces | From the Ashes

Saturday 15 November 2014

I have always been allured by the phoenix, a mythological bird that I imagine to be colored as crimson as blood and as orange as fire with flecks of sapphire blue and shimmery gold.  Apart from its mysterious beauty, what most fascinates me about this creature is its rebirth from the ashes of its fiery suicide. The phoenix reminds me much of my life – the cycle of a season igniting and burning to embers, and stepping from the ashes into a new one.

I’ve wanted to write my autobiography to share my story with others since I started my Life Book with my social worker when I was seven or eight years old; I’ve known the title since I was a preteen.  My motivation to do so has waxed and waned over the years, with an increase as one season of life faded into the next.

This is one of those times that I need to take advantage of while I still have the motivation to share my story, in particular my experience with bipolar disorder.  In doing so, I hope that my audience will be encouraged and consoled with my honesty, and that this will benefit me as a sort of therapy through the support and encouragement of others with the same or similar illness and situations.

I was diagnosed with manic-depression (a.k.a. bipolar disorder) at the age of fifteen or sixteen.   I remember when my psychologist told me that I had manic-depression, I just figured that it was major depression caused by the sexual abuse and abandonment from my early childhood, that it was a temporary phase that I would eventually grow out of.  (I tend to disregard things that I don’t understand, and since I didn’t understand “manic” at the time, I completely ignored it.)  But bipolar disorder is a chronic, relapsing illness that I will have to manage for the rest of my life.

It wasn’t until earlier this year when I glanced at the session notes that I had requested from my psychologist when I was 18 and discovered, through research, that my episodes of depression and euphoria had another name, that these feelings were abnormal and that I would most likely always be deformed with these two additional faces.

At first, I sunk into a deep pit of self-pity and hopelessness.  I was angry and resentful, ashamed and confused.  Darkness surrounded me.  I became restless, so I blamed my husband for my discontentment and separated from him (for the fifth time since we met five years ago) six months ago in May until I came to my senses several weeks later.

I’ve discovered that major change is one of my triggers for an episode, and a couple of major changes are happening simultaneously now.  I just had my third baby seven weeks ago, and we’re preparing for a move.  About a few weeks ago, I started with mixed episodes every day –  I awoke depressed but was still energetic enough to be productive.

It took a turn for the worse this past Friday or Saturday evening.  Mania was my companion while I was sweeping the dining room floor – my thoughts were racing and they quickly took a dark turn.  I just felt this overwhelming sense of weariness from the stress of everyday life, especially parenting.  I started having suicidal thoughts, wondering how to properly hang myself for a quick death and what I would write to my loved ones before I died.

That quick prayer of “Jesus, I need You,” whispered under my breath in that moment seemed to be heard, because moments later I felt comforted and the tears that were rolling down my cheeks ceased.  And then I got angry at God for His comfort and calm, because I just wanted the hurt and pain to end already.  I knew it would return – it always did.  I was so tired of suffering.

The radio was on and the story the hosts were telling got my attention.  It was about two women facing terminal illnesses, Brittany Maynard and Kara Tippets, who responded very differently to their similar situations.  While Brittany chose to move from California to Oregon for an assisted suicide on November 1st, Kara chose to see God’s love and hand in her suffering and started a blog called “Mundane Faithfulness.”  That’s what inspired me to start this blog about my mental illness.  Hopefully, I’ll be more like Kara – to see redemption win and mended hearts rise from the ashes of a broken life.

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