The Great Risk

I woke up to Andrew singing while making me breakfast tacos. I had a realization the other day that he totally manages my moods. The thing with mental health is, sometimes before you even open your eyes, you’re having a bad day. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, you could have had an awesome night, eaten healthy, gotten lots of sleep but still wake up in a fowl mood.

You realize you’re in a bad mood and then feel guilty about it, which then creates an even worse mood like some ugly downward spiral.

Andrew has learned this about me and I have found that every morning, he gauges my mood. I usually get a happy good morning song, then he asks “How did you sleep??” On good mornings I respond kindly, and on bad, I respond with some grunt. That one response determines how he handles me the rest of the morning. He either chats it up with me or is quiet and gives me my space and the opportunity to work through it.

When I realized that he was doing this it was very humbling. First, because I realized how difficult it can be to live with me, and second, I was overwhelmed with his wisdom and patience.

Over the years, I’ve damaged a lot of relationships due to my Bipolar. I’ve pushed friends away and deeply hurt family. I felt unlovable and broken and would lash out at anyone who tried to get too close. At the time I didn’t realize I was doing it. I felt terribly isolated and misunderstood. I held on to my burden and used it as a weapon. I didn’t believe anyone could understand so I bottled everything up and didn’t open up to anyone thus creating my own dilemma. I wanted help, but didn’t think anyone could possibly help, so I didn’t open up and therefore no one could help. Another vicious cycle.

In a chance meeting with a stranger, a book dropped into my life, Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. I learned a secret that drastically changed my life: in order to be loved and helped I have to first become vulnerable. It’s a huge catch 22. I felt unlovable and unworthy, but to receive love I had to open up about my flaws. I had to allow people to see me as I really am, I had to show them my ugly parts in order to truly allow myself to be loved.

It believe it is one of the greatest risks we take. It’s much easier to hold on to pain and push people away. It’s much easier to only have surface relationships with people. If it gets hard, you just walk away. I didn’t realize how much I was creating my own deprivation.

I had “close” friends who had known me for years who did not know I was Bipolar. I was terrified to open up but was in even more fear of not being known. So I took a chance, went to my friends and told them my struggles.

I was amazed at the response. They responded with sympathy, love & understanding. Our friendship immediately went to a new level of intimacy. I was so convinced in my brain that I was unloveable that I never gave anyone the chance to love me.

After first opening up to good, trusting friends I had the confidence to open up in another space. I shared my story here and was overwhelmed by the response. In return, so many other people started confiding in me about their struggles. I made new friends and my outlook completely changed.

It hasn’t been all sunshine and roses though. When you open up to people, that immediately makes you go deeper which can sometimes lead to conflict. With my new awarness I was able to handle conflict a lot healthier. But I have found that just because I’ve had this awakening, many people are not ready to hold hands and frolic through a field. In some cases, too much damage had taken place.

I have found when you finally come face to face with your flaws, it’s easier to show grace to others. We all have our own issues. Some are not worse than others, they’re just different. When you enter into a relationship with this new understanding, that we’re all flawed, you can more readily process through conflict and other people’s issues.

We’re driving through Kansas on our way to Wyoming. Tall SciFi windmills are scattered across the green farmland. Islay is laying at my feet and Skye is sprawled out in the back. After waking up in a fowl mood, sweet Andrew has given me my space and now I totally forgot that I was even tense this morning. Mama always said, “You can’t control your emotions, but you can control what you do with them.” By Andrew showing me grace and patience, I’m able to process through my emotions much quicker. Moods that used to last all day are gone in an hour.

When you feel completely known, you are able to pour out love to others. If I could share one little thing in this space it’s this: you are not alone. You are loved. And if you could take the great risk of opening up to others, your big overwhelming issues will diminish.

Next time you’re struggling and want to shut down, attempt doing the complete opposite. Call a trusted friend and share with them. Allow someone to help carry the load. Allow someone to love you through it.

I think that our culture praises self-sufficiency. You are somehow stronger if you work through it alone. Which I think is so interesting because it is in fact the exact opposite. By being vulnerable with others you not only strengthen your self, but also lift up the person who is helping you. Have you ever been in a bad mood, then helped someone else and your bad mood goes away? Being known is a powerful thing. I believe it is one of our most deepest, universal needs. To be completely yourself, flaws and all and still be loved. You simply cannot be known unless you become vulnerable with others.

So I encourage you to go against the grain. Choose to live a more fulfilling, satisfied life. Dare greatly, open up to others and see how your whole perspective, your whole world, can be changed.

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