Almost a year ago I shared my story here on Real Imprints. That was right around the time that I finally started truly opening up about my mental illness. Up until then, I might tell you that I struggled with depression, but then I’d plaster a smile on my face and tell anyone who asked that everything was going great–whether it was or not.
Accepting that I have a mental illness has been one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life. Sometimes that is more of a struggle than the illness itself. But sharing my story here in all of its raw and sometimes ugly truth was kind of like opening Pandora’s box. Once that truth was out there, I couldn’t pull it back in and hide it any more. For better or for worse, everyone knew my secrets.
And sometimes I regretted that. For a while I walked around wondering what everyone else in the world was thinking of me. Everyone was so kind and seemingly accepting of me, but I couldn’t accept it. If anyone was kind to me in any way, I was convinced it was because they felt bad for me. I just knew that I was the neighborhood project and no one really was my friend simply because they liked me–it was because they all felt bad for me, or some sort of guilty responsibility to look after me. So, I did my best to patch up that Pandora’s box and go back to pretending things were fine most of the time.
But then, things fell apart again and my doctors and those closest to me finally helped me begin to accept this. All of this.
And the more I accept this part of my life, the more things have changed for the better. I was afraid that if I accepted it, I would be lost to the illness completely. I thought that acceptance meant giving in. In actuality, the opposite occurred. Accepting that this is a part of who I am has helped me recover the rest of who I am.
I claimed to be open and honest before. Truthfully, I’m still working on that. But, the past year has brought me a lot closer to living honestly. I’ve forced myself to be vulnerable and that is terrifying! But, the good that comes from it is making all of the difference for me.
I’m doing the best I’ve done in over two years. And that is very exciting.
But, that’s where the “happiness is hard” part comes in.
Since I receive no benefit from traditional treatments for bipolar, I’ve had to find my own pathway to mental wellness. For me, that means exercise in the form of training for an upcoming race of some sort (I have serious competitiveness issues and the boost I get from winning a race is huge), spending a set amount of time for scripture study/prayer/meditation every day, being more open with my friends, and going back to school. It also means being a voice for those suffering from mental illness who haven’t found a voice of their own yet. That may take the form of facilitating meetings for a local DBSA group, making time to call that one friend that I can tell is struggling but is scared to talk about it, or saying ‘yes’ to joining an awesome team here at Real Imprints and writing regular blog posts. 🙂
Those are all good things. Really good things! And each of them has brought me joy and helped me rise a little higher from the ashes. It’s been this incredible journey to begin to see what I might be capable of. I thought mental illness had ripped all of my potential away. Now I see that it may actually be an asset.
But, those are also all commitments. Some bigger than others. And I’ve spent the last two years getting comfortable with avoiding commitments at all costs. Commitments are scary. Commitments have sometimes sent me to the hospital when I get in over my head and just collapse completely. But here I am, committing to all sorts of things. I keep thinking I’ve reached my limit and then another opportunity comes my way and I feel prompted to say ‘yes’.
A couple weeks ago, as I was racing from one commitment to the next (after having just made another commitment at the one prior), I found myself thinking, “I can’t do all of this. I’m getting spread to thin. It’s like taking a spoonful of peanut butter and trying to just keep spreading it further and further on your bread.” And then another voice whispered, “People aren’t peanut butter. YOU aren’t peanut butter. You are a daughter of God. With divine potential and the capacity to grow and to expand and to become more than you are.” And I instantly felt peace and reassurance.
I have clung to that peace and reassurance over the past couple weeks as I’ve begun a new semester at school and life just continued to get harder. Until this morning. This morning I decided it was time to quit. Believe it or not, I found myself longing for those days of depression. Sure, it was dark and miserable and indescribably awful. But back then, getting out of bed before 10 AM was cause for celebration. No one expected anything from me. Least of all myself. Even though living like that was impossible, it was also easy in a way.
Contrast that with now: Sure, I feel happiness and joy and light and purpose again. But it’s hard. It is so hard. And there are all these expectations. I feel like I have so many balls up in the air that I’m trying to juggle. And I’m terrified of what will happen if I drop one.
So, today I decided to just put all the balls down and walk away instead. It’s easier to quit than to risk failure. Even if it means going back to a meaningless and painful existence. Because happiness is too hard.
Fortunately, I have a husband who can be very patient and was willing to listen and just validate my fears and my sorrows today. Also fortunately, we had several commitments for the remainder of the day. Of course. So, I quit crying, dragged myself out of bed, and went to church. And from then on, I was so busy with my commitments, that I didn’t really have time to sit down and think about how hard it all was.
So, here I am now. I’m still scared. Happiness still seems like way more work than I want to deal with. But then again, it’s happiness. And this quote from Elder Henry B. Eyring has been running through my mind all day, “If you are on the right path, it will always be uphill.”
People aren’t peanut butter. We were created with a divine destiny to become like our Father in Heaven. The “right path” is uphill because that is the only way we can get there. And we find happiness along the way because that spark of the divine within each of us knows that is the only path to true and lasting happiness.
Happiness is hard. But it’s worth it.
This post appeared first on Real Imprints.