But sometimes, usually at the end of a depressive episode, I see life with a startling clarity. It doesn't make up for the difficulties of being bipolar, but it does give me pause to think. Last night I realized that my bipolarity has reduced me to my elemental self. I've had an unusual opportunity to experience the polar opposites of my life.
I have had "big" jobs that were so prestigious that they garnered a great degree of respect and approbation, and "small" jobs that forced me to struggle to maintain my dignity. I've had decades of "popularity" where people coveted my friendship and sought my companionship, and almost ten years of illness where I have felt like a pariah and lived in relative isolation.
I have known what it's like to feel the responsibility, pleasure, and joy of familial devotion and loyalty, and I know what it's like to feel the devastation, disappointment, and separation caused by familial treachery.
I have spent much of life feeling physically strong and attractive, and I have spent years when I have felt so weak, ill, and impaired that I could barely recognize my face in the mirror. I know the joy of feeling special and blessed, and I know the sorrow of feeling despairing and abandoned.
Last night as I sat and reflected, I realized that my life has now come full circle. I have finally returned to what Parker J. Palmer calls, "the original selfhood given to me by God."
Or as May Sarton has written in her poem,
"Now I become myself.
It's taken time, many years, and places,
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people's faces..."
But now, I am back to the place I began. "What a long time it takes to become the person one has always been," Palmer writes in Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. "How often in the process we mask ourselves in faces that are not our own. How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity--the true self in every human being that is the seed of authentic vocation."
And while it seems to be late in my life to discover my authentic vocation, I believe it is my bipolarity that will lead me in the right direction.
For all of you who celebrate Easter, I wish you a happy holiday! See you on Monday!