How do people deal with loss after getting sick and having it affect every aspect of your life? This is something I struggle with because my life has changed and I have experienced almost every element of loss that is possible. For example, my socio-economic level has changed; I’ve lost important relationships; and I lost my career. Everything else that has happened in my life is simply fall-out from those three major changes.
Mental illness is often a hidden disease. Most people would have no idea I have bipolar illness unless I told them. Yet I stand on the sidelines of life in many respects because I have been beaten down with so many losses. Then I go out and do something productive and feel good about myself. I recover an inch at a time and then I have setbacks—those times when I find myself feeling sorry for the person I have become, mourning for the person I used to be.
Dealing with loss is no fun. Sometimes I wonder if I had never had such a terrific career if it would be easier and of course I don’t get to know the answer to that question. I can only ponder the “what ifs” the “should have been” for a little while, because ultimately the “should a,” “would a,” “could a” all become hazards to my health and well-being. They hold the losses under a powerful microscope and make me feel hopeless and when you suffer from depression hopelessness is a trigger.
So I play the attitude adjustment tapes in my mind. Life isn’t over it’s just different. I have to indulge a little bit of my “poor Amy tapes” otherwise it’s not realistic. I’m very sad I ended up with a mental illness. I wish I could go back in time and handle it better in the hopes of different outcomes. But we only get one pass through and no returns to the beginning. What I can do is tell other people what I have learned. And yet I continue to search for others to teach me what they have learned—some pearl of wisdom out there that makes this overwhelming loss seem less painful and completely unfair.
I often compare my state of being with someone who has lost his or her limbs. I know many would disagree. But this is how I feel. I am nowhere near the person I used to be. I can walk without prosthetics but not without many hurdles. I live every day with a sense of loss. Sometimes I can shake it and other times I painfully review how my past used to be—the times with lots of friends, good relationships, lots of responsibilities, and a whole lot more money. Now it’s tough times for my psyche.
We don’t get to choose what cards we get dealt in life. All we can do is continue to fight for some semblance of life knowing it could be better and knowing it could be a heck of a lot worse. I’m probably more fortunate than many but to me I will always experience some losses and some will be more difficult than others to let go of.
Mental illness, especially the ones that take you down are cruel diseases. It’s possible to recover and live a happy life but it takes lots of courage and a whole lot of fight. I hope I am up for the challenge.