Present Day, March 6th, 2017

I have entered into a loosely defined two or so week period that is traditionally a bit dicey at best and dangerous at worst for my life. It is the period of, and please…this is not a clamor for attention, my birthday. ¬†Annually one of the most challenging periods of my year.

If you wonder how that might be possible, I would venture to say that you may not have spent the better part of your life wishing at some level that you were not alive. Or at the very least failing to see the upside of still breathing. For those who struggle with Bipolar, depression, suicidal thoughts or ideation, or other battles to stay alive it is difficult to differentiate the difference between celebrating having survived another year, and mourning having survived another year.

As is normally the case for me, there are soldiers on both fronts attempting to win the battle. It was the first full year of my life married to my beautiful wife. I was able to see my daughter achieve a massive life dream of heading off to college in the city of her dreams. My son performed an amazing senior recital and will soon find out where he will next venture to for his master’s work. My relationships continued to grow with three unique step-children. Together, my wife and I were able to purchase and launch our own business. I seem to have achieved a new level of stability in regards to medications, therapy, and management of my illness.

However, in almost the smack dab middle of all this was an unscheduled, unannounced train ride that resulted in a pseudo-arrest and eight-day hospitalization proving once again that no matter how well things may be going I am more than capable of losing my shit on a moment’s notice. There was an intense struggle with a depressive low at the Christmas holiday which almost resulted in a second hospitalization. As predicted, by the resident psychiatrist and staff at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the addition of medications to my life have added 15 pounds and climbing to my frame. And my inability to keep my mind together that glorious week will likely cost our family a cool $8,000 thanks to a health insurance policy that is “ass.”

I suppose every life has its yin and yang. For the Bipolars in the crowd, it is more like a damn yin and mother fucking yang. And it all makes the “celebration” of a birthday a little more precarious for a man who is notorious for over memorializing landmark days and moments.

In a few days, I will turn 48. My daughter asked me what I wanted. I told her that I wanted her to save her money. I told her I wanted her to enjoy her college experience and friends. I told her I have everything I need. And I meant it all.

They say money can’t buy happiness, and I happen to believe that. In my case, nothing can. Some days are just happy days. Some days just are not. For year 47, more were than were not. So I guess that means being alive for another birthday is a good thing. Let’s just hope that by the time this little period of life ends I still feel that way.

Present Day – Christmas Day, 2016

I don’t want to live this day.

Not…I don’t want to LIVE this day.

I don’t want to live THIS day.

I have almost been out of the hospital for 120 days. Almost four months of medications, therapy, piecing together broken fragments, sleep logs, mood journals, and trying to live a “normal” life. Probably the greatest emphasis of my therapy time and coaching has been learning to live authentically.

My life pattern is not that different than most of the worlds in my opinion. Bury your problems. Cover them up. For many people who do so the embers slowly die out. For others, they eat away in the form of an ulcer, stress, or social dysfunction. For myself, with Bipolar, they simmer. Stir. Await an eruption. A volcano if lucky. A nuclear meltdown if not so much.

So I have been attempting to live authentically. What you see is what you get (within the confines of adult maturity). Keeping it real…as they say.

Christmas is not about that. At least, not in my life. Not where I come from. Not today.

If I were to “keep it real” today, I would stay in bed. Manage periodical trips to the bathroom free of the gaze of others. Pretend that I don’t exist so that I didn’t have to spend too much time dwelling on the reality of truly wishing I didn’t exist. That would be keeping it real.

I don’t want to fake smile my way through greetings and “how are you”s? (Well…not bad for a guy who was hospitalized a few months ago with a full mental breakdown in a land far away)

I don’t want to eat larger quantities of higher quality food than I will feed myself for another 365 days. (sans Thanksgiving and possibly my birthday)

I don’t want to act over the top enthusiastic about the gifts I open as others look on so as to be sure not to hurt the feelings of the ones who gave them. (nevermind the fact that I probably love them but simply don’t succeed at expressing it in the manner they are looking for)

I don’t want to listen to another carol that talks about how much it looks like Christmas (I grew up in the midwest where 60 and sunny as forecast tomorrow does not look like Christmas) or how 2017 will be free of troubles. (which they sang a year ago regarding 2016 and look what a fucked up mess this turned out to be)

I don’t want to give the impression that I’m perfectly fine with the fact that the other handful of adults in the room are making no effort to pick up the wrapping paper, bring the dirty dishes to the kitchen, stop talking over each other, or leave me sitting on the most uncomfortable chair in the house rather than my own damn couch.

And I definitely don’t want to pretend this day can in any way be complete without my birth son and daughter.

Seriously. Honestly. No one wants me to be authentic today! No one wants to deal with the large, white Bipolar elephant man in the room. They want me to be “normal”. Which, ironically enough, means we want the same thing.

But I didn’t get that for Christmas. Maybe next year when rumor has it “all our troubles will be out of sight.”

For some reason, I’m thinking not. Nor wanting to live THIS day.