While there I saw folks I've known for years now. They've "grown up" with me in this business of writing. We've loved on each other, prayed for each other, and kept up with each other's lives. So, hearing "I'm praying for you and your family" was not an uncommon line for me to hear over this past week.
I love knowing that ... Especially from these people, because I know they mean it.
I also got to see two of my favorite people: Laura and LeeAnn. Both diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. Both successful. Both agree that it is time for the covering up and pretending to stop. LeeAnn is so open she practically adds her diagnosis to her introduction. Like going to a support group and saying, "Hello, my name is ... and I have ..." Her daughter had me laughing out loud as she talked about her mother's openness.
I love the openness.
Bipolar Disorder is not something you buy on the sly at some tacky online store. It's not something you plan. Not an achievement to work toward. It's an illness. Think: a cold. The flu. Pneumonia. Diabetes. Cancer. Cystic Fibrosis. Carpel Tunnel Syndrome!
I've had CTS. It hurts. I had to wear a brace on my arm/hand. People would ask, "Carpel Tunnel Syndrome?" and I would smile and say, "Yep." I didn't try to hide it and I didn't shy away from the treatment, as uncomfortable as it was.
My friend Kathleen was diagnosed with breast cancer about five years ago. First part of October. By October 31, she'd gone through not one, not two, but three opinions. Seen several specialists. Had a number of tests. Prayed like crazy. And, by Halloween night, while many walked around in costumes and masks, she'd had a double mastectomy. She wasn't quiet about it either. There was nothing to be ashamed of, so why be ashamed? It wasn't like she'd gone out and bought breast cancer in a bottle, silly girl ... After October 31 and to date, she has aggressively done everything necessary to make sure the cancer doesn't return and that she lives as normal a life as everyone else. She's also a voice among many to those on the brink of the same to say, "It's okay. You'll be okay."
Because that's what you do when illness strikes. You take a pill. Wear a brace. Cut away the bad parts, if necessary. But you don't pretend it doesn't exist. Or that "love and love alone" will cure it. And then you do whatever you need to do to let others know ... it's gonna be all right.
Treatment may not be painless. It may not be fun. No one who has undergone chemo has said, "Man, I wish I could do that again!" No one who has worn a brace for Carpel Tunnel Syndrome has thought, "If only I'd have that kind of pain again ... so I could wear that horribly uncomfortable brace ..." No one who has taken several types of medication before finding just the right prescription, undergoing the side affects but wanting to get better more than wanting to stay sick, ever said, "Goodness! If only I could go through the vomiting ... the diarrhea ... the headaches ... the hallucinations ... just one more time for old times sake."
But to get well ... to get better ... to live life ... we'll do whatever it takes. Because human nature is to live life. To survive, even.
So let me ask you a question ... if your child were diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, or any disorder, would you want your child to live life ... or go through it sick? And, would you allow your child to make the decision as to whether to live life as normally as possible or to live life sick? Would you insist on trying anything ... everything ... to assure they can reach adulthood, happy and whole?
Or would you hide behind the lies? The lies that say this disorder is to be ashamed of. This disorder is the worst of all disorders. This disorder you could help ... if you really wanted to. The lies that say this disorder will keep you from any dream, any goal, any life whatsoever.
What would you do?