Friday, March 16, 2012

Finding a Purpose

When you get diagnosed with a condition that you're going to have for the rest of your life, and battle for a good number of those days, there is rush of emotions. First, you're glad to have an answer. Better yet, you're glad that there's medication that can help with it - though unfortunately not cure it, but it's a start, and it's hope. Next, you go (or at least I went) into "I'm going to take this on and win" mode. Then, reality sets in. Knowing what you're diagnosed with doesn't mean that you can conquer the world. It means, well, you know what you're diagnosed with. It also means that you can start to understand it, treat it, and most importantly, deal with it.

After a while, you get into a rhythm. You have good days and bad days, up days and down days. Then at some point, you have a really bad day, or week, or month. Your optimism takes a big hit. In the case of mood disorders specifically, it may start to affect not only you, but those around you, those you care about. This is when many people, and I'll admit myself included, get into the "why me" phase. You have a terrible day, it's not fair, you're doing every thing you can, why do you have to deal with this, etc. There are two schools of thought in this. One is what I call the 'there are starving kids in Africa' approach, which is when people tell you things like "it could be worse", "there's always someone worse off", "at least you have....".  Fair enough, these are true and it is important not to always let it get you down. But guess what - it's also true that it's not fair and you didn't do anything to "deserve" this. It's a delicate balance for yourself and those around you.

Just before I started focusing this blog on my new journey, I was in the "this isn't fair, why do I have to deal with this" phase. Then something shifted. Slowly. Very slowly. I started to realize that yes, perhaps it isn't fair. But I don't have a choice. I can't give my cyclothymia back and say "no thanks, what else do you have that might not suck as much, because this isn't working out too well?" It was time to stop being a diagnosis and start being me again, as I discussed in the first post I wrote about my journey. Equally as important, it was time to start being ok with having the diagnosis and stop trying to hide. All of a sudden I stopped being afraid of what people thought, and this was monumental.

Unfortunately, I was still feeling lost. I knew I wanted to work on myself, but I was still having trouble with my "purpose". I don't typically believe the familiar statement that "everything happens for a reason". But somehow I couldn't help shake the idea that if I was going to have to deal with this pain in the a** of a condition, there must be a really good reason for it. Put a different way, I had to do something with this condition other than feel bad about it. Gradually, it started to occur to me. Other people were reading my posts, commenting on my Facebook page when I discussed some of my issues, "liking" my thoughts about my journey in various discussion forums. People were actually saying I inspired them. And just like that, it hit me over the head like a ton of bricks (though much more enjoyable, fortunately). I was living with this because I was not only strong enough to deal with it, but because I was strong enough to help others dealing with this and similar mood disorders.

This week I started a Facebook group called, appropriately, Mood Disorders Support System. Right now, it has a very impressive 8 members, several of whom I personally said "hey, I know you're going through something, please join my group, I think it will help". But it also brought in a few people that surprised me, that I didn't realize were going through these troubles. I actually find myself feeling closer to these people, discussing things with them that I don't even discuss with some of my close friends because I feel more understood with these group members. For the first time in a long time I'm started to feel empowered rather than overpowered by my condition. I'm truly hoping to grow this group. I'd love for it to be live some day. My next step is to put together more concrete goals and a plan for expanding my reach and ability to help people with mood disorders. I don't mind that it's not a paying job  (because I have one that is). It's a passion. It's something that I need, and that others need. Even if right now it's only 8 of them.

I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I don't feel quite so lost. When I'm having a bad time, I can reach out to my peers who deal with similar issues. I can, in return, help them with theirs, if even just by listening and letting them vent. Having a group such as this helps you reason through things and take your own advice. Discussing with others provides a deeper understanding, because it allows you to look at an issue you have, but not when you're in the thick of it, frustrated, confused or upset.

I am wide open to any suggestions people may have for my new mission, for getting people involved in the group and for goals down the road. For those already participating, I can't thank you enough, and I truly hope this can help you as much as it's already helping me. For those that are interested in joining the group, you can either search for it on Facebook or you can just tell me and I can add you (though you might have to be my Facebook friend for this second option - I'm still learning the group rules). For confidentiality reasons, it's a closed group. This means that anyone can request to join, but I have to "approve" them, and it allows only the people in the group to see the content. I feel this makes for more honest and open sharing, as people feel more safe to do so.

To close this blog I'd like to thank all of the women of the I AM WOMAN Facebook group, who unknowingly inspired this a-ha moment. I was discussing within the group about things I've gone through and how I'd love to be able to help others going through similar issues, when all of a sudden it dawned on me that I already am and I can continue to do more. So thank you, all you amazing WOMEN, for helping me find my purpose, even if unplanned.

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