(September 28, 2006)

My last post on living with confidence must have sounded like I’ve got it all together. I hope I didn’t sound like I was proud of my ability to be open about myself. I’m only trying to encourage others, to help others realize that living unashamedly with bipolar disorder is possible. (though I realize not for everyone – but maybe down the road somewhere?)

Having reached the wonderful age of 60 has an advantage. I’ve had lots of experience and very much want to pass on what I’ve learned.

When I look back on my younger years I see a shy woman, very unsure of herself. I became part of a camera club, became good at photography, won prizes, and came to be loved and respected for who I was. The focus there was photography. Personal stuff was not discussed much. There were times when I got sick, obviously so. I’m sure I was talked about. But I was there as a photographer and, as such, was respected. My self-esteem grew.

There were few people with whom I openly shared my mental health problems, though I very much wanted to, even then. But I had to hide it. And because I had to keep this part of me a secret, I felt a certain amount of shame. I felt loved though, and that helped.

Years later I became part of a writers’ workshop. That is where I began work on Riding the Roller Coaster. This group encouraged my honesty and helped my writing improve. They were with me through the entire process. My confidence grew. Despite their knowing my most intimate secrets, I was respected for what I was doing. I felt loved and accepted.

I don’t have time to write an entire book here, though I’m tempted, so I will cut this short:

At church the same thing. Once people came to know me, once I became an active part of their community, I felt loved for who I was. They looked on me as someone special, but not in a bad way. They learned to know me and I learned to be myself.

Most importantly: I repeatedly prayed to God to fill me with His love and to help me share His love with others. When I showed my love to others, they loved me back. Ultimately, this love has to be the most important thing for a meaningful life. It’s the love of God and the loving support from others that helps me be well. Love has strengthened me and given me courage.

When I began this post, I didn’t know that I would end up talking about love. But I’m glad that’s where I ended up. Faith, hope, and love are all great things, “But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) And that’s a fact….Take it from an oldie.