While it takes a holiday for me to tune in to what I am grateful for, I can say I am thankful for that or else I may never be able to focus my thoughts on the topic. Thankful. It’s funny I had to Google the word before diving in. As a research writer, that is the way I approach every article or topic. I find it easier to wrap my head around the facts as I can never quite fully trust my own instincts. I just figure my thoughts are always burdened by cynicism. At the same time, my mom will tell you I’m the most positive person she knows. And I know others that may say I’m full of negativity. I guess it’s all the way you look at it.
But I am definitely thankful. Having a mental disorder I find myself extremely thankful for physical things: access to healthy food and water, dependable shelter, and the ability to exercise. I am also thankful for being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Fourteen years ago when I was 24 years old, I was diagnosed with bipolar I, and it saved my life. Slowly, the pieces came together and the many years before that came into focus. There was a reason for all of the madness and the pain and confusion. And there was finally a reason to want to get better. Finding out I had bipolar was the first time I felt like I wasn’t crazy, if that makes any sense.
I am thankful for the medical professionals I have advocating for me and connecting me with forward-thinking treatments. I am so deeply frustrated with the fact that not everyone has access to strong, competent, passionate doctors. I’ve had many undeniably damaging interactions with doctors myself over the years. And I am thankful that I now can trust my doctor’s professional opinions. I know they are truly looking to not only ease the burdens of the disease, but find a cure for it in some ways.
And in no particular order, I am thankful for my family. My parents, who may have thought they failed for a couple of decades. What they didn’t know, nor did I, is that all of the good values and beliefs I have today are from the way the raised me. There’s not much they could have done better to give me the building blocks I would need to grow up a strong, confident person. The only thing is that none of us knew that would take almost 30 years to happen. But they hung in there, as did I, through the mass confusion and pain bipolar has caused in my life.
Here I am today though. Thankful for my wife, the most patient person I’ve ever met. While some days I’m not sure how I survive, most days I’m completely baffled as to how she survives with me. And in many ways, our daughter has saved me. She has opened up my heart and mind in ways I could never have imagined, and can hardly express. But from one bipolar person to another, you can understand that even your child can not cure you or snap you out of it. But, even on the worst of days, while I cannot pull myself out of the irrationality of the disease, I can still ache with love inside at her sight. She brings me back, even only for a minute, to the simplicity of life. I am thankful that she does not know the afflictions I carry. Rather she is absolutely authentic in everything she is.
While I cannot say I wouldn’t rather not be bipolar if given the chance, I can say that being bipolar has given me insights on my life that I may not have had if it wasn’t for the disease itself. I guess you can relate that to the fact that suffering often makes us stronger. And I am thankful that I am finally strong enough to use my voice. I have always loved helping others find their voice through writing with them. But I am grateful that I can now use my voice, and trust my thoughts, enough to share my journey to educate others about this disease and encourage those with it to fight. I am thankful I finally realized that there is a way to help myself and I want that for everyone.