First published in the BC Catholic Newspaper on July 13, 2021 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/choosing-an-attitude-of-hope-can-carry-us-to-the-next-day
Splashing my toes and stretching my arms past my head, I smiled and breathed in the warm summer air. With each throw of the frisbee and swimming to catch it, stress washed away in the spray. Not even the pesky Canadian geese trying to eat our cherries bothered me.
Surrounded by dark green trees, boats bobbing on the water, and sea gulls soaring over the docks, I felt a deep peace. But our external environment alone cannot bring us interior freedom. It is our thoughts that make us feel at ease.
Sheer delight can make me forget I have a diagnosis of a chronic mental illness. Floating on my back in Cultus Lake on a weekend getaway, I felt free to be.
An attitude of hope can help us appreciate living each day as a gift.
Viktor Frankl’s classic memoir of surviving a concentration camp, Man’s Search for Meaning, observes that some of those who held on to hope to be free one day in the future lived to see it come to pass. Others said they would be free at Christmas, but when it never came to be, they gave up and died.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
I used to think and speak to myself with hurtful words. My self-worth was my diagnosis and how people treated me.
Bipolar disorder was a glaring label. I thought it would limit everything about my life and future. What could I ever be good at if I suffered with suicidal thoughts and felt numb from medicine?
The depression, weight gain, loss of friends, and dropping out of college pained me. I am a dreamer, and this experience was like a nightmare.
It must have been the day I got the diagnosis when I decided to find a way to become whole again. In the hospital, I complied with the nurses and calmed patients who were trying to escape the locked ward. I even entertained them with origami soccer ball games I made up. On walks every day to get exercise, I learned to hope again. I began to look at the diagnosis as something to solve.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves,” Frankl writes.
I wanted to step out of the shadows and into the light. “Here I am. It’s Lisa!”
My delight is in the warmth of friendship. I had not seen my dear friend for a year. It was extra special to finally catch up in person. Staying at her home for the weekend and spending quality time at the lake is a blessing I will cherish.
My friends never look at me as “less than” or “troubled.” They love me for who I am – completely, illness and all. I have received healing and learned to love who I am and who I am created to be.
I am blessed to offer up any mental suffering. It can be for my loved ones, souls in purgatory, and the whole wide world. It is a passive mortification that I can offer to the Lord in prayer.
I see now, having lived with bipolar disorder for more than a decade, that what is painful can also lead to refining.
“So that the genuineness of your faith – being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Pt 1:7).
It took many years to have the courage to share my story even to new friends. In prayer, I kept hearing Jesus tell me not to be afraid.
I hold on to my only hope, my dearest friend, Jesus. And I do not have to produce, perform, prove, or please to be worthy.
His love called me out of the shadows. And he encourages me to take time to jump in the lake and swim. “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
Lisa Rumpel’s podcast, The Will to Thrive: Stories of Resilience, is available on popular streaming services.