Things could always be worse has been my mantra for a very long time. Once I admitted I was powerless over the ways of the universe, my motto felt like a pretty good interpretation of that. It worked for a really long time. But slowly, year after year, challenging experience after even more challenging ones… the meaning has evolved. And now, I’m not so sure it carries the same weight. Then again, my life has drastically changed overnight, as it tends to do every so often.
Things could always be worse has morphed into almost expecting the worse. To be fair, my life track record is case in point. And when things do get worse, I start to fall into the trap of thinking that’s all my life will ever be. One horrible situation after the next. So, am I manifesting it? I wonder sometimes. I feel that at my core, I’m a pretty positive guy. I don’t play the victim to my illness or my circumstances. I’m resilient and can handle anything. Maybe my life is predestined to be one of constant struggle. I don’t know. I do know I’m more than exhausted from being irrationally positive all the time. It’s draining and I can’t do it anymore.
Recently I was venting to my mom. Mindfully, with a filter that children should always have when expressing pain to a parent. I told her that I feel as though I work so hard for everything in my life, I’m always fighting, and I get nothing but more impossible situations in return. She told me that life is hard sometimes and doesn’t always seem fair, and that’s when you take a deep breath, close your eyes, and think of what you are grateful for in your life. She told me that these are my own words to her when she is at her hardest moments and that they comfort her. She also reminded me that we come from a long line of survivors in our family.
Normally, this type of conversation and the response would make me sit up straight and remind myself that things could get worse and to suck it up and keep moving. But it didn’t. I responded to her with one thought. That my life is always hard, and I’m tired. I knew she could only say one thing to follow that. And she did. She said she loves me. And that was that. It was enough for that moment, for that night, for me to find sleep. But I can feel my strength for holding on and moving forward slipping away. It is overwhelming to think that this is it. That this is my life and that no matter how hard I try, I will always have bipolar disorder. Grasping as hard as I can to my sanity only to move through hours, days, weeks, and months of pain for brief moments of relief that crash into having to hunker down again with all my strength until that next brief moment of breathing freely.
So, when I try to comfort myself by reminding myself that things could be worse, I just know that at some point, they will be. It’s like I’ve come to a crossroads of positive thinking and rational thinking. The sweet spot is right at that crux when my positive energy connects with my rational mind to get me through the dark days and nights. Lately it feels like I’ve intentionally crossed that intersection straight down rational lane, leaving optimism behind. I guess that’s not so bad. At least it’s a path of what I feel is rational thinking.
My ‘rational mind’ however is where my mental illness lives, strangely enough. That wasn’t always the case. I’m grateful that my disease has forced me seek the medical care that I need to become a functional person. I work, I eat, I sleep, I exercise and I do it all to be the best father I can be to my little one. I hold on to reality every difficult second and minute of my life to be a good dad. I fear my daughter growing up because one day she will know the term mental illness and the stigma it carries. She will know my pain and my struggle. But right now, I hold on tightly to my rational thinking in hopes that optimism will find its way back in. Sometimes we just have to be realistic though, right? Sometimes positive thinking combined with mental illness morphs into irrational expectations, grandiose thoughts and a very distorted perception as to what is real and possible, and what is not.
So, rational thinking may be a bit dull. But for now, it is the type of energy that I need to hold on and keep taking one step after the other. The hard facts of my current situation are what startles me awake every day and motivates me to put in the physical work and leave optimism for another day. It keeps things real. Things could definitely be worse. But they aren’t today. And if I fight hard enough every second and hold on tight enough to reality and maintaining what others see as merely status quo, most likely tomorrow won’t be worse either. That’s good enough for now.