At the time, what impressed me was that Frankl was able to live such a fruitful life, and help so many people--despite losing his entire family (only his sister survived) in concentration camps. But I didn't really see what logotherapy could teach me.
According to Frankl's book, we can discover meaning in three ways: 1. by creating a work or doing a deed; 2. by experiencing something or encountering someone; and 3. by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.
He writes that the first point, which is about accomplishment or achievement is obvious. The second, whether it is experiencing goodness, truth, beauty, nature (or something else)--or loving another human being, enables a person to actualize his own potentialities.
The third, which was the most confusing years ago, is explained this way: "We must never forget that we may also find meaning in life even when confronted with a hopeless situation, when facing a fate that cannot be changed. For what then matters is to bear witness to the uniquely human potential at its best, which is to transform a personal tragedy into a human achievement."
Although I have read this book at least three or four other times during various stages of my life, it wasn't until today that I suddenly thought, "Viktor Frankl is right about this, and it applies to everyone who's bipolar."
While I'm not suggesting that being bipolar is hopeless, what I am saying is that our ability to speak out about this condition (bear witness to it), and to transform our illness by writing about it and helping others, is truly an achievement. And when I look at the passage I quoted yesterday, it makes even more sense to me.
"One should not search for an abstract mission in life. Everyone has his (or her) own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone's task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it."As I read that quote, again and again, I realized that I needn't feel bad about all my suffering. I needn't feel that if only things had been different--if the medication had been better or the doctors more competent--I would have lived a more productive life.
Rather, I can say that suffering from bipolar depression and surviving more than 120 depressive episodes is my unique mission. For whatever the reason, I had to spend 40 years of my life "struggling" with this illness. But, as I approach my 58th birthday on Sunday, perhaps I don't have to "struggle" any longer.
Despite how "lost" I sometimes feel during a depressive episode, the truth is that I know a lot about coping with depression. In the last ten years, I've learned a lot about wellness. It's finally time to implement what I've learned as a cohesive plan and practice it on a daily basis. If anyone has the self-discipline and will to "overcome" bipolar depression, it's me.
And perhaps it's time to feel proud of what I've accomplished rather than sad because of my losses, or angry because of a litany of things (many of which I've expressed in this blog). First and foremost, I am a Survivor, and always have been. As I approach this birthday, it truly is time to let go of the past and delight in the future.
To my friends and long-term readers, I want to thank you for spending the last year with me. Since February 2007, I written 315 posts. I feel blessed to have received so much support from so many. As we move forward, I hope that we'll all begin feeling a renewed sense of hope and purpose!