Yesterday was my birthday. If you don’t know me … well, I hate birthdays. Why might you ask? Well because it means I’m one year older and have lived another year without attaining my goals or reaching my dreams.
The only thing I asked for my on my birthday this year is that I could relax all day, do nothing, not cook dinner, and do it all without being judged. My FANTASTIC husband granted me this birthday wish and it may have been the best birthday gift I’ve ever received.
I bet you’re wondering what happened, eh?
Well, it all started at the stroke of midnight (or somewhere around). I was talking to my husband and trying to explain why I was so not looking forward to my birthday this year.
“I didn’t used to be this person,” I told him. “I used to be successful, driven, and I followed through on the things I wanted. These past 6 years I’ve just been such a mess! I’m tired of being a mess!”
And of course, being the logical man he is, he provided me with the most logical answer possible. “Well, then stop,” he said.
Just stop being a mess?
Is it THAT easy?
I slept on it … slept a lot on it. As in almost all day on it. And … after an entire day of doing nothing more than thinking and sleeping and generally enjoying doing NOTHING … I came up with an answer.
No, it’s not that easy. It’s hard. Really effing hard. But I did it before … so why can’t I do it now?
But CAN I do? Can I stop being a mess?
100% of the time?
HOWEVER … that doesn’t have to stop me from trying.
I spent a great deal of my time reminiscing yesterday. I recalled all the things that I had done that made me ashamed to be who I am. But I also recalled all the things I’ve done that have made me happy to call me, Me.
How had I strayed so far from that person who I used to be?
The answer was simple.
I’m still that same person. Except now I have new experiences to learn from and more responsibilities to take care of. Not to mention, dare I say it??? *Gasp* I’m older! It’s true. I’ve aged. I’ve grown up. And I’ve fought every second of it. How dare my life go by so freaking fast! Why can’t I still be 19? Why can’t I still look like I’m 19? WHY!!!????
Well, the fact of the matter is, I can’t. 19 has come and gone … so has 29 … and 39, well that’s not too far away. Life passes like that. You close your eyes one night and wake up the next morning with a 12 yr old daughter, a couple sons and a new van. It happens … and there is Nothing you can do to stop this!
So what in the heck does this have to do with bipolar?
Well, that’s the thing. I’ve been a mess for the past 6 years because 6 years ago I was diagnosed with bipolar. I’ve gone through all the stages of grief. Denial, Anger, Sadness and finally … 6 years later … I’m just getting to the point of acceptance. And acceptance is probably the hardest.
Fact: I am a mess
Fact: I might actually always be a mess
Fact: There are times where I won’t be a mess at all!
Fact: Even if I wanted to, I can’t change these facts.
Fact: There is absolutely NO reason why I have to let the fact that I’m a mess rule my life.
In these past 6 years I have tried so desperately to overcompensate for being this mess. I wrote blogs, and then I wrote books, I studied psychology and advocated for mental health, and then I percolated, at which point I became discouraged and quit it all and then I became a stinking photographer. (A job which I HIGHLY enjoy!)
I did all these things, went on from one thing to the next. Over studied each and everyone of them hoping that one day I’d be the next big thing in that area. But when it didn’t happen I moved on to something else.
In this time I’ve watched authors whom I used to be friends with get book deals and turn into big deals themselves … I’ve watched as my partner in crime made a name for herself in mental illness to the point where she’s a stinking mental health hero (GO CHRISTI!!! WOOT WOOT!). I’ve watched friends graduate college and follow their careers. I’ve watched fellow photographers grow their business and be featured on blogs and in magazines. And all the while I’ve been jealous of ever single one of them.
Why can’t I have a book deal?
Why can’t I be a mental health hero?
Why can’t I have a great career?
Why can’t I be the best photographer in the world?
There’s a simple answer to all of these questions. I can. I can be all of those things if I want to, but they will never happen if I keep moving on from one thing to the next. They’ll never happen if I just keep giving up on things when I don’t get that big break and then shove all the work I have done in a corner hoping it will just finish itself.
I’m a quitter.
A big fat pain in the ass complaining when I don’t get my way QUITTER!
I never thought I’d be a quitter.
I always thought I had what it takes to make it through the rough patches and come out ahead. And in some aspects of my life, I have. But it’s been hard. I’m not married cuz it’s been easy. I’m married because I’ve worked my ass off and fought when other people would have given up. My old author buddies who are now published … they are published because they worked their ass off and fought when other people (including me) would have given up. Same with all the mental health heroes and all my friends with wonderful careers and all these photographers that blow my mind.
But wait … did you just read that? Holy shnitz balls, I’m not a total quitter. I’m not a failure. I just took the one thing that was most important to me and fought and worked hard and got it to where I wanted it to be. I’m married. And to a good man. And all the odds in the world say we should not be married. But we are 🙂
I know this post is random and all over the place, but here’s the point …
We are who we are. Whether we have a mental illness or a physical impairment, some of these things are never going to change. We can deny the obvious for as long as we want to. We can give up and move on to that next better thing a million times over. We can sit and envy those around us who have everything we want and long to have the same without being willing to put in the effort. But none of those things are going to change the fact that only WE can decide what to do with these setbacks. Only WE can choose to let them hold us down or rise above them. WE can choose to be whoever we want to be regardless of our mental or physical health.
WE are our worst enemy.
WE hold ourselves back.
WE choose to focus on our failures instead of our successes.
WE are the only ones make ourselves miserable.
HOWEVER … WE have the power to stop all of the above.
Instead of being our own enemy, why can’t we start being our own biggest fan?
Instead of holding ourselves back because of something that didn’t go our way, why can’t we forage forward and fight to make sure that same thing doesn’t set us back again?
Instead of focusing on our failures, why can’t we revel in our successes, even the little ones?
And instead of blaming the world and our illnesses and everyone else for making us miserable, why can’t we just look ourselves in the mirror and see that we need to stop blaming everyone and everything else and start making ourselves happy?
I’d really like to promise myself that I’m going to do all of the above, but if there’s anything I’ve learned in the last 6 years, it’s to not make promises I can’t keep. So I will not promise myself anything. All I will do is TRY my damnedest to be great. I will fail at times. It’s inevitable. But I need to stop letting those failures hold me back. I need to stop quitting every time I don’t win the prize. I need to fight for the things I want. And I need to stop blaming my illness for the reason that I can’t do the things I want to do.
I can’t guarantee the happiness of anyone but myself.
And neither can you.
So isn’t it time we stop blaming our illnesses, blaming the past, blaming others, blaming our genetics, blaming our parents and just generally blaming everyone and everything to avoid facing the truth?
The truth is, we are NOT perfect. We WILL make mistakes. We WILL fail. We won’t ALWAYS know what to do or how to fix it. But we CAN decide on how we deal with each imperfection and learn from each mistake and take each failure as a sign of growth and ask for help when we don’t know what to do. We CAN.
And so can I!
So I’m extending my birthday wish to all of my AaB audience … PLEASE stop looking for a place to put the blame, stop focusing on your failures, stop lusting over everyone else’s success, and stop saying you can’t when you damn well know you can.
Or can we at least try?
I’m not asking you to stop being a mess … I’m just asking that you don’t let the clutter of who you are stop you from being who you want to be.
Love yourself … Love your accomplishments no matter the size … Love your quirks and your downfalls … Love who you are instead of who you aren’t … and Love the person who, with hard work and effort, you can and WILL BE!