First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on August 31, 2020 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/with-bipolar-disorder-come-gifts-and-crosses
I woke up in a foul mood. My weekend sleep was interrupted by noise. My afternoon plans were cancelled. I had a heated and tearful conversation with my brother. A low mood settled on me at lunch. My day was crashing down like my internet connection.
After crying a bit in my room, I joined my sister and her boyfriend on their route to the beach. My spirits kept sinking like a shipwreck. I needed to do something fast. As we were walking, a Wendy’s sign popped out to me. In an instant, I craved a Frosty. I quickly parted and lined up for a chocolate dessert. Tucking the icy treat in my book bag, I walked the rest of the way to a park near the ocean.
Not wanting full sun, I looked around for shade. Many people had the same goal. I walked around thinking I was going to have to bake in the hot sun. To my delight, I spotted a tiny pine tree in the middle of the dried grass. I spread out my blanket and wiped sweat from the back of my neck. The tree sheltered my face as I dug into my Frosty with a spoon.
Only a part of it had melted in the unusual heat. The light chocolate flavour glided down my throat, and I relished the moment. As soon as I had eaten the treat, I felt sleepy and lay down resting in the shade. Pine needles brushed my hair, and the heat felt like a soft blanket on my skin. I dozed to the sound of seagulls calling and bike wheels whizzing by me. Peace washed over me as I rested. I felt like a battery recharging in the afternoon sun.
Bipolar disorder has offered me the opportunity to gain new skills in navigating the ups and downs. Being a woman, I already experience natural changes in energy, mood, and behaviour throughout the month; bipolar disorder brings an additional challenge. At times I can have boundless energy feeding it into multiple projects and loads of social time. But then a few days later, I want to crawl into a ball of blankets and just sip coffee, away from it all. It is humbling and draining.
Part of the reason it is hard is because of the expectations I place on myself. I always expect my performance to be amazing, and when it isn’t, I want to escape. I want to leave sadness behind me. But even nature has seasons.
Now, I see the sadness was signalling to me.
You matter. Take the time to do your creative work. You are worth it. Let the pen hit the paper and twirl.
Just being alive is enough. There is nothing you need to prove. Don’t give up.
I resonate with Talia Kruse, https://taliakruse.com/ a Catholic mental health coach who says, “The Lord gave me gifts, and the Lord has given me crosses – but both are to be offered up for his glory. He gave me the gift of being driven, and motivated, but he also gave me this cross of bipolar disorder which in many ways disrupts these gifts. Why would he give me such contradicting attributes? Only he knows – perhaps for my humility, perhaps for me to realize that not all things are easy. Whatever the case is, he knows and is faithful.”
Every up and down with bipolar disorder I learn something new about the faithfulness of God. He doesn’t give up on me. “With him, I do not feel alone, or useless or abandoned, but involved in a plan of salvation that one day will lead to paradise” – John Paul I Address, Sept. 20, 1978
Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Resilient Catholic: Shining light on your journey to flourish with Mental Health, is available on popular streaming services. It is updated every other Wednesday.