I spent my childhood trying to do one thing, protect my sister. I wish I could say I mastered that goal, but it turned out she had endured her own pain. As an adult, I know I’m not a one man army, there was only so much I could do.
As a sister, my heart aches for the little girls we were, and the lost souls we became.
As each year passed, we were blessed to swim free from the abyss of childhood. We grew up, married, had children of our own, struggled like ‘normal’ people through life.
But life has a way of coming back at the unfinished business of the living.
For me, it was near 20 years ago. No matter how hard I tried to bury, to kick the endless memories six feet under, they rose time and again, as though each one was a mythical creature of yesteryear.
I came out the other side of that battle a bit scarred, hardened by the blows, and trained in mighty ways, so that never again would the past take me down. So far, it hasn’t.
The bipolar journey I’ve been on since has been marked by significant growth and significant failure, but nothing compared to the beat down I encountered back then. And certainly nothing I can’t handle.
The last few days I’ve been angry. Angry that the hungry monster of mental illness struck my family, again..
Last year I had the privilege of watching my precious daughter fight harder than she ever knew she could fight, to regain her entire being. Her victory is truly my inspiration today. She persevered harder than anyone I know, and I truly admire her stamina and strength.
And now our family has been informed my sister, the artist, the life of the party, the joy of my heart, was diagnosed 10 years ago with bipolar!
10 long years she kept this to herself.
I can’t imagine the churning chaos she must have had spiraling in her mind. Alone.
This makes me angry. (Along with the fact that it would have helped to know someone out there understood me.)
She finally made the decision to share her darkest secret with her entire world. It took courage to take that first step. Courage that I know she didn’t realize she possessed. She can now begin a road to recovery.
What do we face with bipolar? We face deep depression. We also face sky high mania. Addictions that only rear their ugly head in the center of a manic episode. Alcohol, drugs, sex, attention, adrenaline.. We face anxiety. We face fear.
We face the many complex parts of ourselves we wish didn’t exist. There’s only one way we are capable of doing this.
It’s the fire within that burns brighter than the darkness we see.
It’s the fire within that ignites the warrior deep inside to grab every weapon necessary and fight back.
It’s the fire within that lights the way out of the hole we began to call home.
It’s the fire within that calms us like a flickering candle on a warm, cozy night.
That fire serves many purposes, and it remains forever.
So if you are struggling, and fighting to simply hold on, remember who you are. Remember the fire that never fades lives inside of you.
Reach in and stoke the flames, breathe the oxygen over every ember.