Chances are you will have heard the cliché, “Everything happens for a reason.” The hard part is trying to find the reason.
If you suffer from an invisible illness, have experienced a significant trauma in your life, or have simply shared some information with a friend about a challenging situation in your life lately, chances are you will have heard the cliché, “Everything happens for a reason.”
It’s true. Everything DOES happen for a reason. Everything happens for a reason because we are human beings and we are able to attribute meaning to our lives through our ability to reason. Unlike other sentient life on earth, humans alone possess the ability to reason, to create meaning, to understand what drives the events around us and to learn from them. It is exactly our ability to reason, to apply logic, to divine a meaning from an abstract situation that makes us human. One could even argue that we are at the top of the evolutionary ladder because of our ability to reason.
I’m no etymologist, but perhaps language was born of our ability to reason. Perhaps we were beginning to understand what was happening in the world around us, and we had a pressing desire to share our newly found knowledge. Perhaps the grunts and signals the Neanderthal’s used to communicate evolved along with the growth of our brain capacity. Along with our ability to reason. Along with our ability to create meaning in the world around us.
It is somewhat worrying that we are of an age where our level of intelligence is such that we have started to create machines that can think for us, but that is a whole different issue which I won’t go into now, but it deserves contemplation does it not? That we are so intelligent and desirous of efficiency that we will achieve it at any cost, even trying to create artificial intelligence, machines that think for us. Where will it end? In some kind of Terminator-esque apocalypse?
Back to the point.
When I was first diagnosed as bipolar I looked at it as a life sentence. A ‘cross to bear’ for the rest of my days. An ‘illness’ that was more of an affliction than a boon. That was the meaning I chose to attribute to my diagnoses, probably driven by the stigma that is attached to mental illness, probably because I had watch my father suffer through 30 years with bipolar undiagnosed in the bush with little or no understanding of what was happening or sufficient medical expertise to help.
Luckily for me, my Dad worked his fingers to the proverbial bone despite his alternating moods and sent all his children to good schools. Plus times have changed, along with attitudes and treatment options for those who are affected by mental illness. As such, my lot in life is much less onerous than my fathers has been, given I was diagnosed early and on the right treatment inside about two years of my diagnoses. It certainly hasn’t been easy, but I’m still upright and loving life.
Because bipolar is just a label. One of the things that I dislike about Alcoholics Anonymous, despite all the fantastic work ‘the program’ does to save people from addiction, is the labels they use. If you enter AA as a 17 year old and stop drinking that day, you are an alcoholic. If you’re still in the program 50 years later at 67, and haven’t touched a drink in half a century, you are still an alcoholic. I don’t see why you can’t simply be someone who used to drink too much but doesn’t any more?
So rather than think of myself as Big Bad Bipolar Brennan, I think of myself as someone with bipolar, who has medication that he needs to take every day, and is blessed with a level of energy and creativity that most don’t have. For most of the time anyway.
If I were to focus on all the difficulties in my life over the past several years since I fell ten meters, broke 17 bones and suffered a brain injury, I’d be a pretty sad guy. I’ve lost my career. I’ve had to give up on a bunch of goals and aspirations that were previously very important to me. I’ve lost my wife. I’ve lost friends. For a while there I lost my sense of identity. My confidence. My love of life. My enthusiasm. My will to live. Not exactly inspiring stuff right?
If I were to try and pick a label for myself I would choose Father. Husband. Stonemason. Cook. Obstacle Racer. Runner. Magnificent Bastard.
What’s your label?
Previously published at MyInvisibleLife.net.
Photo: Jim Linwood/Flickr