I’ve been having a rough couple of weeks. A situation arose at work that has created a tense and uncomfortable atmosphere. This situation also brought with it many exhausting and time consuming meetings. I have not felt like doing anything with my free time except sleep. Until a series of events today gave me a wake-up call.
I was standing in front of our offices having a smoke with my morning coffee when a colleague of mine came out. We work on projects together but she is my superior and we don’t know each other very well personally. I do know that her son has cancer and underwent an operation. I was surprised when she walked out towards me. When she got to me she just broke down. I held her and stroked her hair while she was crying uncontrollably. She told me about the complications with his operation and how she didn’t know if he was going to make it. She told me about her granddaughter who is suppose to be writing exams and her daughter who also has health issues. I waited with her until her husband came to pick her up. She told me how she couldn’t understand why this was happening. I was caught off guard. As she shared some of her life with me, I shared some of mine. Not to make her feel that what she was going through was anything less than horrific, but to reveal myself as a fellow sufferer.
This evening, just as I was about to head out the door to my church small group meeting, I received a message from a friend telling me that another friend’s dad passed away today. It came as a shock, and I am waiting to hear about he circumstances and what I can do to support him. I was caught off guard.
We had just gotten our meeting started and were chatting about our weeks when one of the girls walked in, late because she written a test. She had barely walked two steps when she had a seizure. No one could catch her in time and she fell and hit her head. Luckily someone in the group knew how to keep her cool under pressure and could give instructions. I have some experience with Epilepsy so I knew how to comfort her. After the fit had passed, I held her hand and stroked her hair and kept telling her to breathe while the others were looking for emergency contacts and phoning doctors. We managed to get her to a bed and she came out of it after about half an hour, and she was okay. I didn’t want her to feel too embarrassed as we don’t know each other that well, I didn’t want her to feel like I’m judging because I didn’t understand. She felt bad about the gaps in her memory, so I told her mine has gaps too, from episodes I can’t fully remember. I revealed myself as a fellow sufferer. I still got home shaking. I was caught completely off guard.
I know if I wasn’t on medication I would have been a total nervous mess by now. But it wasn’t about me and I provided support to these people to the best of my abilities. It did make me realise that I often feel very sorry for myself or like my life sucks when really being able to have an existential crisis is a luxury. I’m not playing down the seriousness of my own illness, not at all. I’ve experienced first hand the damage it can do. And I always say that we can’t compare ‘burdens’, because no matter big or small, life is difficult.
I guess what I realised today is that life can always be worse. Things happen that people are completely unprepared for and in a second life can change. I took my evening meds with a little prayer of thanks, that I have meds that work and have stabilised me and that my illness is one that can be managed. I have reached a point where I know it well enough so it doesn’t often catch me off guard. Although I’m sure it will again.
Having Bipolar Disorder sucks, a lot, and I’m definitely not denying that. But there are people, GOOD people, experiencing the same or worse suffering than we are, and I feel quite privileged that I could somehow just be there for people how deserve so much respect for the way they keep going despite their circumstances. There is a certain beauty that is revealed in that state of vulnerability, from both sides. I don’t know if I’m getting my point across effectively, but I suppose what I’m trying to say that suffering is an integral part of the human condition. No one can get away from it, and every person deals with their own form. If those who suffer, regardless of what they suffer from, can support each other, the shared burden will be much easier for everyone to bear.