“No amount of love can cure madness or unblacken one’s dark moods. Love can help, it can make the pain more bearable, but always one is beholden to medication that may or may not always work and may or may not be bearable. Madness, on the other hand, most certainly can, and often does kill love through its mistrustfulness, unrelenting pessimism, discontents, erratic behavior, and especially through its savage moods.” Kaye Redfield Jamison, An Unquiet Mind
As I gain more and more knowledge about the bipolar disorder I live with (manage, fall prey to, overcome, ride the roller coaster car and hang on for dear life) I achingly begin to recognize life patterns which have had a hold on me like an unsuspecting bear cub caught in an unwanted hug from its mama.
I have never stayed in a job longer than three years. I have been married and divorced three times. I considered myself serially monogamous. The only reason I stayed in my first marriage longer than three years was because my husband was in the navy and was gone for more than half the time we were married (seven years). The truth is, I never chose wisely; I always chose the same.
It wasn’t until recently I was able to look back and see how my bipolar 2 diagnosis affected my jobs and my relationships, and cast them in a light for what they were – ancillary parts of my incomplete life lived through an illness which had complete control over me. It also wasn’t until I was diagnosed I could look back and see the same illness in my father. That’s when I was able to love him again and offer him grace and forgiveness for so many shortcomings; the same ones I see in me.
I had a deep, dark fear of turning out “like my father,” and I never wanted my own children to walk on eggshells around me like I did around him. It’s the reason I chose to never have children.
The knowledge I was flawed entered into important life decisions. Even before I was diagnosed, I knew there was “something wrong” with me, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. When I married Husband #1 I didn’t know he was an alcoholic (though he would never admit it). When I discovered it, I refused to have children with him unless he got help. I left after seven years, four of which he was on assignment away from home.
Yet, even after our divorce, something in me held me back from having my own children. I had a deep, dark fear of turning out “like my father,” and I never wanted my own children to walk on eggshells around me like I did around him. It’s the reason I chose to never children of my own.
Husband #2 never wanted sex; I left after three years at the bottom of self-confidence and -esteem and the top of self-loathing.
Husband #3 charged up my credit cards (he had none) unbeknownst to me on multi-level marketing scams while I paid his child support payments which he said he couldn’t afford. That marriage too, ended after three years, after which I filed bankruptcy.
The bankruptcy wasn’t all #3’s fault, however. By that time, my first hypomania cycle had been in full swing for over a year; I contributed plenty of out-of-control consumption of my own and simply couldn’t pay the result of his deceit and my expenses.
After my diagnosis, I began writing Branches, the free devotionals accessible from the Branches Devotionals photo at the bottom of the page and the Free Devotionals tab at the top of the page. They took me well over seven years to write and edit, while also taking a two-year study in Bible interpretation.
Even though I already held two Master’s degrees (business marketing and education), this two year certificate and the nearly eight years of writing Branches felt like a huge accomplishment. It was focused, I suck with a long-term goal and I learned from the Spirit about myself and about the already close relationship I had with God.
I was encouraged, given wisdom and discernment, and reminded of the words of Jesus by the Spirit. I was comforted along the way and showered with compassion by my Friend Jesus. And I was held in the arms of my Father with unequivocal love and generous grace.
Now, I am abiding in the Three that matter: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am bookended in love. I have been invited into a Divine Dance, as Richard Rohr names it, an Eternal and Exalted Empire. I now have a Forever Family, one from whom I will never be fired or laid off, divorced or abandoned.
Thankfully, the patterns in this Family are simple: hope, faith, grace, mercy and love; but the greatest of these is love.