January 12, 2010
Focusing on the big picture...
"Hello, I'm Linea. I am twenty-four years old and in the middle of a transition crisis. I have been in school for six years now with almost two full majors, only one of which will be claimed at my graduation ceremony. I have no idea what to do with my life or where to go from here. Sometimes I think I would just like to disappear into my bedroom with a couple of DVDs and some candy and never leave..."
And when I try to think about what to say, whether it is to the person I am interviewing tomorrow or the random stranger that asks "what are you going to do now that you're graduating from college?" I simply feel like a failure. Which is funny. On many levels.
The first reason it is funny is the fact that I believe almost every person feels this confusion when they graduate, and I'm sure that more then half of the twenty-four year olds in America probably feel like failures anyways. The other thing that is funny (and a little sad) is the fact that most people would never call me a failure. At the age of nineteen I was hospitalized and completely psychotic, but by the time I was twenty-two I had written a book and traveled to international conferences sharing my story. I just can't seem to see that myself, and therefore continue to only see myself as a failure.
I don't know what makes me feel like more of a failure, the fact that my diagnosis interrupted crucial points in my development, leading me to still remain, (and I am so ashamed to admit it) still very much financially dependent upon my parents, or the fact that my episodes interrupted my college path leading me (the extreme perfectionist) to graduate two years later then my original plan. Either way, I find that my diagnosis and the accompanying episodes have left me feeling far behind the rest of my peers.
And this is what I find important to discuss, my mental health condition has left me feeling utterly behind the rest of the pack. I feel that the herd of mid-twenty somethings have all run off ahead of me finding jobs, furthering their education with bigger and grander degrees, or building families. Not that I want to be like all of them, (especially not want to be the family builders), but I feel like I should be doing more. That is until I really stop myself, look in the mirror and realize, you are doing more. You have much to offer.
I think that it is hard for anyone who has had to follow a different path due to a health condition. It is frustrating to me that I could not simply follow the path I planned out when I was five. I may be slightly financially behind my peers, or in some ways independently behind my peers, but I have in many ways reached much further ahead. I have confronted the hard stuff in life, and there will be more, but I have faced it head on and grown wiser from it. I have gotten to a point that I feel many of my peers, or even heroes may not have reached. I have confronted myself in its darkest, scariest sense and have lived to tell the tale. I have spent the time exploring and fighting and soothing the many selves within me. It is through my battle with a mental health condition that I have in many ways reached far ahead of that self I always planned on being at my age. And it is because of this that I realize that I am worth something and am not in any way a failure.
It is only when I realize the things I have accomplished, whether they seem small or irrelevant, that I realize my life was not ruined by the fact that I have bipolar disorder. It has effected my life greatly, yes, and while it may have held me back in some ways it has pushed me forward in just as many. It is during these moments, the ones that leave me devastated and fearful for my future, that I realize that I need to step back and look at the big picture. Only through looking at this big picture can I finally realize that an unconventional path holds equally impressive results.