Admittedly, I have my own sphere of influence. There are people who look up to me; whose lives I would have touched or influenced in some way, whether in the classroom or church hall or from my writings or my work as a community developer or social worker or from my days as a radio talk-show host. I have accomplished much, too, in my lifetime. And, often, those are the things people see and are the things people use as a measuring stick to judge how much of a success or failure you are. Unfortunately, our lives are distilled into number of degrees we accumulate, our professions, the size of our bank accounts and the connections we have. If we do not have those to show, somehow, our lives are characterized as a colossal failure.
Despite all that I have accomplished that can be considered a success, i think my greatest accomplishment has been living with depression for the last sixteen (16) years. More specifically called bi-polar disorder (BPD), I have been surviving this mental disease that has led to the death of many. It is much easier to deal with now, than when I was first diagnosed. I survived the numerous suicide ideations and attempts; the many suffocating, dark moments of not-wanting-to-get-outta-bed, no-appetite depression and the impulsive and manic episodes. Those days I was in great denial, too. I did not want to acknowledge BPD’s presence. I did not want to be seen as crazy. I did not want every opinion I gave or self expression to be filtered through the lenses of my diagnosis. The denial drove me into deeper depression and feelings of aloneness and inferiority and pain and uselessness… Today, I acknowledge its presence. I acknowledge that it and I are equal occupants of this body – this mind – this soul. And, since it and I have to share space, I cannot deny its presence – that I must do things to ensure a harmonious cohabitation.
In some ways, BPD has brought out the best in me. It showed me that beyond the depression and beyond the manic, impulsive episodes that I AM resilient, I AM strong, I AM tenacious, I CAN lead while I “bleed”. I AM a success story beyond the accolades and accomplishments. I survived AND I AM surviving. And so many others we call failures have their own stories of success and triumph and resilience that cannot be measured by the accumulations of things: Mothers with children who were “fathered” by no man, who received no university degree, who worked menial jobs at minimum wage but whose children are now adults who give an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. Often they are not seen as success stories because they have not the “things” to show. But they have conquered much. They survived, despite poverty, perhaps even because of their poverty. Their survival and creative potentials were unearthed and while others buckled under the pressure, they stood.
I am learning. I am finding meaning in the simplest things. Everyday is a lesson in my own strength – being able to stand in the midst of my own weakness – human frailty (at least as perceived by others). I am finding meaning. When i feel down, I no longer feel ashamed. i give myself permission to feel down or low. I acknowledge the presence of depression and I try to move on with my own life and leave it be. It has been 16 years of fighting and recently i got tired of fighting and started finding my own freedom in surrender. This is my journey! I own it. I surrender to it. I acknowledge it. I SURRENDER!