Be well in 2012
Posted Thursday 5 January 2012
The start of a new year is an excellent opportunity for personal growth, learning new things, and breaking bad habits, but it’s an equally good opportunity for self-sabotage.
When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder ten years ago, I took it very personally. I felt that my periods of depression and mania were personal flaws, rather than symptoms of my illness. I felt bad about myself and I wanted to be better.
I didn’t know exactly what “better” was, but I knew I needed it to be happy, so I began to search.
I’ve heard it said that insanity is doing the same thing more than once and expecting different results. I suppose that particular insight was obscured by the fact that each reinvention really looked different.
In my first year of university, as a psychology major, I wore cowboy boots, men’s shirts and blazers (this was to compensate for my embarrassingly revealing uniform as a cocktail waitress on the nights I worked).
After failing out of two schools (during which I changed my major from psychology to literature to art history and then back to psychology), I dropped everything and moved to New York to pursue acting, my first love.
Four disastrous months and a very bad dye job later, I had arrived in London and found myself chased out of my most recent flat, huddled next to a hysterical ballet dancer at a bus stop in Bethnal Green. The worst part was, I was wearing the leg warmers.
The truth was that although I changed the location, wardrobe, and set dressing, I was repeating the same performance, stuck in a pattern of self-sabotage.
When the depression overwhelmed me, I had to drop whatever I was doing, admit defeat, and start something else. Throughout my years of living this way I lost friendships, relationships, and opportunities. I always blamed myself, yet I felt completely powerless to stop the cycle.
The only thing that kept me going was the belief that once I found “better”, I would be happy.
When I met my husband, I realised that the normal escape plan was no longer an option. I was in love, and my life was now entwined with another person’s. I couldn’t live for a future that might never transpire, waiting for “better” to come along.
I had to have more than “I’ll be happy when…” I wanted to make my life work wherever I was. So, reluctantly, I stopped searching. I not only had to let go of getting better, I had to let go of “better” as a concept.
The results were quite surprising.
Since then, I have felt more content in my life than ever before. I enjoy stronger, healthier relationships with my friends and family, and a happier marriage.
Perhaps it’s the relief that I am no longer searching for something I can’t define, or maybe it’s because I stopped feeling like something was missing, or for that matter, that I was missing something.
I am still in treatment, and though I may have given up the search for “better”, I have begun a new journey, one in which I can live moment to moment.
The past decade may have been about getting better, but 2012 is about getting well.
Michelle Scofield McGinn
Michelle Scofield McGinn was born in Washington, DC and lives in London. She is a contributing writer for The Urban Times.
You can read more about living with bipolar disorder on her blog and you can follow her on twitter at @hexpatriate
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