I don’t want to be here today.
Today, I don’t want to be a poet, or a homeschooling mom, or an unpublished writer, or an addict.
Today, I especially don’t want to be a person with bipolar disorder.
Instead, I want to be putting on some professional-looking clothes and driving to my job at a hospital, or treatment center, or therapy clinic.
I want to wear a badge with my picture on it.
I want to sit down in a consultation meeting with my colleagues and discuss clients. I want to write case notes. I want to be giving presentations to groups.
These desires and the regrets about not being able to have them are a regular part of my life. So why do I feel them so sharply today?
In our storage space, there are several boxes containing my textbooks, notes and papers from my time in graduate school. Things I read and wrote between 2002 and 2005–not all of them, but the ones I felt to be worth keeping through several moves. I’ve been looking through them to find some materials I want for my daughter, who is taking psychology this year.
During this, I got reminded of a couple of things. I looked at papers I wrote, and the teacher’s comments on them, and the tests I took, and I remembered how much potential everyone thought I had. My papers were really good, I was smart, and a highly respected supervisor thought well enough of me to offer me a private internship right out of school.
Picture Marlon Brando, crying out “I coulda been a contender!” It’s how I feel sometimes, interacting with people in the field and realizing I was on track to be one of them.
Reading my work and liking it, reading the words of teachers who used to gush over it, and remembering wonderful moments with clients makes me feel so sad, angry and resentful sometimes. I resent this fucking disorder for stealing my career.
Let me be clear: there’s nothing I’d rather be doing right now than helping my daughter get through high school. I’d like to think that even if I had still been working instead of learning to live in recovery and manage my mental health, I would have postponed whatever needed to be postponed to help her.
But I’d like to have had the chance to make that sacrifice–and I’d like to have hope that I could work in the field again when she no longer needs me at home.
I’m not without hope. There are possibilities for me, if I take care of myself; it’s just that the kind of career I dreamed of is beyond my reach. But I could work in the field someday, if I found an employer willing to accept someone with my kind of history. I have my degrees, and I’m smart, and I don’t have a criminal record.
There are also possibilities for volunteer work, or being able to make presentations at places. I write well, speak well, and have things to say.
Acknowledging all of that, I still need to honor my feelings of sadness today. Not just about the big regrets, but about little things I noticed too. For example, my handwriting used to be a lot smaller. Is it just me getting older, or did the years of drug use steal some dexterity for good?
We all deal with feelings of too-late and if-only. We all battle Gazpacho Soup syndrome at times. I’m used to analyzing my past mistakes. But today, I’m grieving a part of my loss that actually was not my fault. I didn’t make myself bipolar.
Accepting my condition works best when I can see the changes in my life as a stage of development, focusing on what I can learn. But I suppose it’s understandable that I’d long to be in a different or more prestigious classroom sometimes.