Megan is a blogger at http://www.themanicyears.com and writes about mental illness and bipolar disorder. She shares with us her positive outlook on life after overcoming adversity.
I recently got asked a question that I have been asked quite a few times in my life before now. This question was asked by a distant acquaintance of mine; a person who was – until the past couple of months – previously a stranger to me.
The question was this;
“If you had the chance to go back in time, to redo any of your past choices, what would you change and why?”
I have thought about this in passing, at various points as I have progressed throughout my adult years. Usually, I shrug the question off with a – ‘Yes, there’s probably lots of things I would change’ – without consenting to deeper reflection and proceed to let the thought slowly slip from my mind, like a shallow pool of water that gently drains through the gaps in my fingertips when I attempt to cup it in my hands, leaving its damp trace as a reminder to be embraced again at a later time.
In this occurrence, something about the flow of the conversation between me and this person, made me pause and take the time to delve deeper in to my introspections, generating the need to deliver an open, raw and honest answer.
I looked back, escaping the present moment by retrograding through a virtual journey within my memories, my life, my youth, the relationships that I’d built and the ones that were torn down. And in that first instance; all I saw was pain.
Up until 2013, I endured a heart-wrenching and debilitating conquest to seek the right kind of help for my issues, and was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. After the herculean efforts that resulted in this conclusion, I couldn’t quite decide if I had been awarded with a victory badge, or had my autonomy snatched away from me and handed down a stigmatised label of shame.
I had always been a painfully anxious and emotional child, but my first ‘real’ symptoms began when I was 12 years old; I started suffering from psychotic breaks and harmful thoughts. As far as my fragmented memory takes me, I understand this came about as a result of my mothers illness and attempted suicide . It was an attempt for which the blame was placed on me, when I’d packed up my things and left home one day through the impact of her own mental illness. What once were just about manageable emotional waves, became uncontainable storms.
My teenage years to follow were a struggle. Inevitably withdrawing from my peers, I lost myself in my pain and in the midst of it all and I made a lot of wrong choices. By the age of 18, I had turned to risk taking and harmful behaviours in an attempt to seek some sort of alleviation and my mood swings were wildly out of control. The relationship with my mother, even with my friends, had turned in to a wreck of nothing but dysfunctional scraps. Connecting with others was a difficult task, especially when I went back to my studies. A slow withdrawal from society will eventually disconnect you completely from other people. It puts you in a glass box placed high upon the shelves of the unwanted. In those classrooms, I disappeared. I was invisible, slowly degenerating in to the ashes of battle that I had lost a long time ago.
For the last ten years of my life, I feel that I have lost and wasted my youth. Did I choose to turn my back to my own self worth, to my recovery? Did I make a comfy home in the land of unforgiveness in the attempt to punish myself? Did I regret making these – I could argue – deliberate choices?
But when I look back from this day, I find myself understanding the result and my reasoning to that fateful question. And my answer to the question is; I would not change it one bit.
In this moment, I see the value of what I have in my life now, as a result of what lead me here. I now see that I can thank myself that I did not give up on my studies, turning my hurt in to a driver to fuel my career – a notion that I did not realise at the time. I now see, that those people I distanced myself from who walked away, are those people which I’d unconsciously sifted out from the small circle of treasures I am blessed have in my life and who I call ’true’ friends. I now see, that although forever present, these scars that trace through my whole body have toughened and healed. I now see the infinite possibilities and the beauty of life within the depths of my child’s eyes, and I see a reflection of my own growth in there.
If I had not endured my past at all, would I have been in the place that I am now? Would I even dream of risking all the wealth that I have in my life in this moment in time?
I now see, that I won the battle all along. I now see, that life is possible.
On paper, I may be just an ‘unfortunate’ label of a chronic and debilitating mental health disorder, who drew the bad hand in life. But behind the diagnosis, behind the long term medication, hides an unbelievable journey that led me to this present day. And I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.