May 2003 to now. The cut off date, the life before and after, until now, cut clean by a sharp knife. As easy as that? A very simplistic view of life’s timeline. As one of my life’s inspirations, Dr.David Burns says in his Book, FEELING GOOD, many of us are guilty of cognitive thinking distortions. Those crippled by Bipolar and Depression particularly so.
Writing off an entire decade of one’s life as a lost decade is a sweeping statement to say the least. He’d have categorised this distortion under the ‘All or Nothing’, ‘Over Generalistion’ and ‘Labeling and Mislabeling’ types of thought patterns that are so disabling. Do read this life changing book . I did exactly that some six years ago when my Depression was overwhelming and my mind near the brink.
Coming back to the ‘lost decade’, was it really a lost one in its truest sense?
Okay, to be fair let’s begin with the negatives for a balanced perspective.
As I begin to play this game of ‘before and after Bipolar’, the picture that emerges is dramatic. But is it in stark black and white or does it have all the hues, shades and tints?
The big ones: one of the lesser talked about repercussions is the one on careers. Kaput. My successful enterprise of fourteen years folded up. Bipolar was largely responsible for this debacle. The burden of financially re-establishing myself at the age of forty plus was not easy. Firstly, the mind was an unwilling partner. Secondly I had a new real life partner: my wife. As circumstances would have had it, we had got married barely months before all this transpired. The responsibilities were therefore greater and more immediate: I couldn’t afford to spend ages finding my feet. With great difficulty and a lot of effort, I prevented our marriage from falling apart.
Second, the inner demons. Admit it I must, those were terrifying times. The plunge from euphoric highs, the realisation how ‘crazy’ my behaviour had been~ this depressed me further and that lasted for years without letting go. No, it wasn’t easy.
The body caved in, too. The symptoms of Bipolar were compounded by medication ~ chronic fatigue, excessive daytime sleepiness, lack of focus and concentration. My hand tremor, here to stay, was initially so bad that I could not sign or write legibly. One of the drugs caused drastic weight loss of 10 kg.
The secondary, long term impact is what Bipolar does on the psyche ~ shadows of shadows. Demotivation, utter lack of confidence, energy fluctuating with moods, loss of interest midway through projects, strained relationships, extreme irritability…it is one long list. I became withdrawn, socialised only when I had to, all but became a recluse.
You must be wondering, ‘Where’s the glimmer among all this gripe and grime?’
Great turmoil leads to great turnarounds.
My turnaround story was nothing short of heroic: without sounding immodest, you could ask the millions of Bipolars (and other Mental illness challenged) what the odds are. Of coming to terms, of fighting back with determination and winning.
This post, though, is not about the outcome. It is about what happened on this cathartic journey.
Am grateful for all the pluses. Bipolar dramatically enhanced my skill-sets in many areas.
Leveraging resources for instance. With energy and drive at a premium, I managed to maximise the return I got from what I put in. Earlier, I’d have taken this for granted. My battle against Asthma had made me disciplined many decades ago, this was a new regime to adapt. To my credit, I did not hold back. Yoga, walking, exercise, meditation, diet discipline ~ I embraced it all and I now wonder how empty life was without these new ‘friends’!
One of the biggest gains was a new hunger to learn. From Self help Books to the internet, devouring inspiration, wellness tips, medical research and updates. In the past two years itself I have attended a dozen Training Programs/Seminars which have been of great help in my self development. I can say this with honesty that I have probably learnt more in the past five years than I have in all my life (in terms of importance).
Hindsight now reveals to me that I was more than a tad arrogant in my pre-bipolar avatar. My own vulnerabilities made me more understanding. It made me open up to the needs of others, to put myself in others’ shoes. Since I have been the recipient of so much love and kindness in these tough times, being kind is easier. Compassion,you are a great companion, I cherish your presence in my life.
Creativity and Bipolar go hand in hand. the funny thing is did my genes change overnight? What is it that Bipolar did to crank the Creativity motor in my mind? Everything has its roots but the change in my ability to express myself creatively has been dramatic. A financial advisor is now a Blogger, Poet and writing his first Book ~ all with consummate ease! My ability to come up with ideas and innovate is increasing by the day.
Collaborating is my new mantra. The proud lone wolf of yore is now a hungry collaborator, leveraging cross-border cultures, each offering a fresh dimension. Allowing me to explore undreamt of territories, to set my sights high.
One change that I’m most grateful for is: my new found attitude of gratitude.
When nothing can be taken for granted, when you have recovered from the brink~ that is when you begin valuing life and those that make it happen. Every pore of my being exudes gratitude for all these wondrous people in my life, my Doctors, my family, my collaborators, my friends, Social Media connections which have been inspiring me..
My troubled times made me search deep within for answers. This journey and serendipity led me to Spiritual awakening that makes my challenges seem trivial. It led me to my higher purpose in life. I now live a life of greater authenticity.
There have been hits and misses, but,
Lost decade? Are you nuts?