Lost years in my life? Not nearly as many as I originally thought!

Yesterday I received an e-mail notice of a blog post on Bp Magazine’s website www.bphope.com. It was called Learning From My Lost Years by Dave Mowry. In that blog post, Dave Mowry reflected on years he considered “lost” from his life, as a result of his bipolar disorder. He wrote that a lot more years were “lost” than actually good, and that though he appreciates the good ones, they just don’t make up for the bad (or “lost”) ones. He ended his post positive about the present, but I felt bad for him and then I started thinking about my life with bipolar disorder. In the past, I have also labeled many of the years in my life as “lost”, with great sadness. I suppose I still do to some degree, but at this moment I realized that maybe not so very many were really “lost” after all. Dave Mowry only emphasized high value for the good years, but perhaps there is value to the bad ones, as well.

I had a terrible depression and mania at around 15/16 years old. I considered age 15 the worst year of my childhood, but without that happening, I wouldn’t have changed schools. That move was one that led me in a direction I would never have gone into otherwise. Maybe I wouldn’t have even gone to university, or at least the university I did. Those experiences were stepping stones to many others I value greatly. Lost years? Maybe not.

My years between 17-31 or 32 were either marvelously amazing, typically normal, or turbulent, but none are “lost years” to me. I’ll admit that the marvelous outnumbered the depressed and turbulent, but the turbulent gave rise to many activities and moves in my life that became the most marvelous. Would I have lived in Asia otherwise? Would I have left Asia in time to meet my beloved husband? Would I have gotten my last job where I mostly shined?

Most all of the months between years 32-40 maybe do seem lost. I was on disability for almost all of that time. Some of the brief months I was back to work were terribly excruciating and led to further psychiatric hospitalizations. Some were actually amazingly productive, so much so that my work has likely saved my former company 100s of thousands of dollars, an accomplishment I will always be very proud of. Of course some of these years were downright traumatic. I was so sick that I couldn’t even be helped well by medication or therapy. Some of these periods and events are wiped out of my memory like blackouts. I felt torn down completely, frightened of everything, and separated from who I had been. My illness hurt my husband severely, as well, in so many ways. That will always sadden me, but he reassures me that none of this was ever my fault.

Between ages 40 to my present 47, I’ve been on disability, too. Some periods were really rough and frustrating. I’d start to feel good and ready to move forward, only to be knocked down again. But I managed to find a lot of success through therapy during this period. That helped me move forward more steps than not. More importantly, I was able to find myself again. That progress I’m extremely proud of. It’s a type of work I had never done. The patience, control, hope, and tolerance I’ve learned are things I know will stay with me for the rest of my life.

I’ve become a more understanding and compassionate woman in recent years. I’ve given more selfless support to others than ever before, and advocated for myself and millions of others. All of this may have been given in drips at times, but it added up to a huge bucket in the end. More valuable things do indeed sometimes result from stressed periods than even “well” ones. I’ve discovered amazing abilities that I never thought I had (like expressing myself well), and continue to develop them further. I’ve learned to have a great appreciation for what I have in the now (however big or little), and learned the value of simple pleasures.

So to one person, all of my years on disability could be considered “lost years”, but as I wrote above, not all of them were, by a long shot! It is well-known that suffering can be a figurative “fire” that when it dies down or goes out, leaves a new soil, however bleak looking, that gradually sprouts new growth of great new things.

When I finally get back to work, I will be extremely proud. But to consider them worth-while years, I need to continue my growth and appreciation of what brought me to them. In some ways, they may not even be as notable as some of the years that led up to them. Of course it’s my choice to try to make them good, and define “great” or “success” as something attainable and significant to me as I know myself now. And I’m a pretty darned good and successful, me!

Note to others: I have a chronic mental illness. I have to accept the possibility that even if I meet my goals in the final paragraph of this post, that I could become unwell again. Let me remind myself, and others with similar challenges, that the fires do sometimes rage again, and again. And again the bleakness gives rise to new growth. It’s a fact of life. May we always look forward to the positives that inevitably come, however grand or small.

12 thoughts on “Lost years in my life? Not nearly as many as I originally thought!

  1. Revenge of Eve March 22, 2018 / 7:59 pm

    I love this!! Beautiful appreciation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • updownflight March 22, 2018 / 8:04 pm

      Thank you so much for your sweet comment, Revenge of Eve! When I finished writing it I felt really good about where I am right now, despite still being on disability.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. celtics345 March 22, 2018 / 8:47 pm

    Great post! I think 7th grade and 9th grade as my lost years. I was severely depressed and didn’t speak at all I just felt so terrible. I never wanted to eat in the cafeteria. I just wanted to be alone. There were some things I enjoyed like wrestling. The kids were assholes to me along with the teachers. When I finally got diagnosed at the end of 9th grade. I came back very sedated but wrote my book. My senior year was great. I had off and on great years in school. When I was depressed after an episode I wrote books still making it a decent year. Through those relapses I gained a lot of insight to how to help manage my bipolar and know when to seek help. I had a rough year with 5 hospitalizations but I wrote books and returned to doing what I loved and got more support. My DMH worker got another mental health specialist to check on me each week. If things get bad she can come more often. I think there is something positive in each year. I did never get to do had I been mentally well enough is ask this girl out but there are plenty of opportunities left and there is more than one woman in the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight March 22, 2018 / 9:01 pm

      I’m sorry your illness struck so early in your life. Mine didn’t start until 14/15, but I remember some sadness that really stays with me from when my paternal grandfather died when I was 9 years old. I guess that was just serious grief, and not bipolar depression.

      You are so lucky that writing became your passion so early in your life, and that you’ve continued to stoke that passion, even during hard times. I was more of a dancer as a kid, and dancer and explorer in my young adult years. I only really discovered writing in middle-age.

      Having the insight you do at your age will hopefully be a major advantage during the rest of your life. Like my writing, my insight didn’t seem to come until middle-age. I’m just glad that it finally came.

      There will be plenty of girls (or at least a really good one) for you. Maybe it will be that girl you mentioned, but sometimes they seem to be “the one” to later not be. You’re writing always shows a deep respect and appreciation for women. That’s a great kind of guy for a nice lady!

      Liked by 1 person

      • celtics345 March 22, 2018 / 9:44 pm

        Yea I wrote two books for two different girls named after them. Julie who was texted me in the hospital and have a connection through mutual interests. Paris who we have a special friendship she really understands me and I understand her. She’s off in The UK I might see her one day if she comes to The States. Next I am writing a book for AnnMarie she’s one of my best friends and a artist and writer. She is published. I think it would be something she would cherish. I just go through as many girls I can and write them books, musicals, stories, poems and songs. I feel at the moment I have written some big projects for the girls who are overlooked the nice ones and kind friends.

        Liked by 1 person

      • updownflight March 22, 2018 / 9:50 pm

        I imagine all of these ladies/girls have copies of your books and songs? What a lovely thing for them to have and share.

        Liked by 1 person

      • celtics345 March 22, 2018 / 10:17 pm

        Yea they print them out. I wrote the ultimate musical 50 songs for 50 girls one song per girl who i was friends with and those that moved on it was real long. That was lol the end of me I was real manic when I wrote that ultimate musical I called ‘Leading Ladies’ afterwards I went in the hospital and had to do some reconstruction on my meds. Leading Ladies was 200 pgs written in about 10 days. I killed myself writing it because someone told me I could never do that. My writing is important to me.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. shatteredwishes March 23, 2018 / 2:08 am

    Magnificent post updownflight! Truly! I can relate to what you wrote here very much, because I consider 2005-2017, (Ages 25-37), my “lost” years. Those years were FILLED with utter disappointment, countless hospitalizations, and a continued madness as I drowned deeper and deeper into my Bipolar 1 diagnosis. Only in these past few months, (Just the 3 months of 2018), do I see A COMPLETE turn-around of my life as a whole. As much as I am “killin”‘ it now, and kicking the CRAP out of the debilitating qualities of being Bipolar, I am SO afraid of taking that LEAP into full-time employment again. I have tried and failed at COUNTLESS part-time jobs, because they work you to DEATH and make you work for EVERY SINGLE CRAPPY CENT of their below minimum wage. I have a REAL fear that going back to work and losing my disability, (if I fail), will end up destroying my life even further.

    So I am playing it smart. I am applying for Government and State Employment, putting my Bipolar Illness FRONT AND CENTER of my application, hiding absolutely nothing about my limitations, and hoping that they hire me. I am hopeful, (although the odds may seem against me), because I know there is a “Quota” in place for these kinds of places to hire people with disabilities. I am working REALLY HARD at improving my life right now, and if I end up getting a dream job, I will be MORE THAN ecstatic. (I took a Civil Service test for a “Personnel Clerk” back in January that I am PERFECT for).

    So, I am hoping from here on out there will be no more “lost” years! I am truly sorry for the length of this comment my friend, but since you are such an AMAZING and talented writer, you produce such fantastic thought provoking posts!! Cheers to us enjoying the bliss and being appreciative of the life we have now!! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight March 23, 2018 / 1:15 pm

      shatteredwishes, thanks so much for commenting on this topic. I’m sorry you’re “lost” years lasted so long and started so young, but am happy that you are now “killin” it. Keep living in this greater now!

      My lost years were pretty much exactly how you described yours. All of my hospitalizations we’re mostly clustered in a 4 year period. They were one after another. Recovery was so hard and long and fraught with other related challenges, from agoraphobia to dissociation, and of course, more episodes. A major journey!

      I totally relate to your fears about getting back to work! When I’ve even tried certain volunteering (outside of the house) I became so anxious that it sparked episodes. My husband is frightened about me starting to work and losing my SSDI and then becoming very I’ll again. Of course I am, too. The prospect is demotivating!

      Your plan to work in the government or state sectors sounds like a great idea. I agree that we do need guaranteed understanding and stronger job security, if possible. My last employer knew about my mental illness and was very good about giving me accommodations. That helped! They even held my job for me for years despite very lengthy and frequent absences, although after four years it was too much for them, so I was terminated. Few other companies would be so generous. It was sad for me to lose a good career with potential, but I’m not sure I could handle that stress ever again. I don’t know. I need something less stressful.

      I hope you find a great job opportunity!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. eightoutoffifteen April 3, 2018 / 9:32 pm

    There’s something about the way you write, it’s very, calming…

    I am only 19 but I already see the years between 13 and 16 “lost” due to struggles with depression. My childhood years were also very turbulent and so some of it I simply can’t remember. I get quite frustrated with myself when I think back to those years, perhaps I compare myself to other people and I think “I could be so much more achieved by now if I hadn’t been held back by my mental health” I know that isn’t fair and I should be kinder to myself, reading your post really helped to look at those years in a different way, to remember that there is always some good that comes from the bad and vice versa. Looking forward instead of dwelling on the past.

    I admire your strength, to pick yourself up again and carry on. My mother (The same age as you) has also struggled with mental illness throughout her life and this reminded me of her sheer determination to just keep going. It’s inspiring. So, thank you x

    Liked by 1 person

    • updownflight April 3, 2018 / 9:50 pm

      eightoutoffifteen, your comment has really made my day! Not just because of your kind words to me, but because I’m happy to read that you know you deserve to be kind to yourself. Know that you are strong for weathering those harsh years. Use that strength to move forward. Skip “wishing you had”, just push towards what you want in the future.

      I hope that you have few (if any more) major episodes in your life, but as you know from your mother and from me, bipolar disorder can be a continuing challenge. But there will be many wonderful things you will have during the course of your life. Your mom had YOU! I’m sure she’d deal with all of her episodes again to ensure you would be in her life. You will have even more people and experiences that you will cherish, too.

      Liked by 1 person

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