I’ve ruthlessly discussed my bipolar disorder and the havoc it has wreaked on my life. I felt for the longest time that my bio grandfather struggled with it, too. I met him in Italy when he was 84. It was a glorious reunion. Over the next few years during my visits, I would observe him and see traits similar to mine. He seemed to be just existing. He would sit, slump-shouldered, seemingly incapable of much joy or happiness. The most telling statement appeared to me one day when I saw him walking down the street with his hands in his pockets, looking down almost dejectedly. Why didn’t I go up and put my arm around him? Why didn’t I try to comfort him, me, his long-lost grandson? So I couldn’t speak the language, was that any reason to recoil? The language of love is transcendental.
And my father struggled with BP, too. In early 2012 when I went to visit him in B.C. I met with his endocrinologist, primary physician and dialysis technician on the same day. They all told me that he was doing quite well but that he was severely depressed. His physician said that my father refused medication. That damnable Italian pride. That damnable machismo. That damnable arrogance. He could have had a better quality of life. But he refused. Eventually the doctor convinced him to take half a pill and I noticed a substantial change. Why didn’t he want to go all the way?
Now I find out my wonderful uncle in Italy is struggling with depression. I had no idea. Every time I’ve visited Italy he has been happy-go-lucky, animated, carefree, jovial. You wanted to be around him. I loved just being by his side.
Finding out from my cousin that he’s struggling has pierced my heart. I don’t want him to have this curse. I was happy to think that he had escaped the dreaded “BP”. I secretly envied him for being “normal” and having a wonderful life. He still has a wonderful life, but it is tainted with bipolar disorder. My aunt is worried, so is my cousin. They want to speak with me when I arrive in Italy for Christmas. We are going to try to fashion a way to open my uncle’s eyes about his condition.
I have to admit that i am honored beyond comprehension. To think that I could have an opportunity to bless my family and help them is worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox. I don’t expect much, all I expect is for God to use me as an instrument in my uncle’s life. I will play my part, the rest is in His Hands. What could be more fulfilling than that?
And it’s funny. With the death of my birth father last year I have been rudderless. I’m uncomfortable unless I’m helping someone. Yet, after my birth father’s death I was so spent that I wanted to crawl in a hole and tell everyone to bite the wall. The store was closed. The inventory was gone. Nothing more to offer. I wanted to just veg and never reach out because I felt I got nothing in return.
But the fact is that I got a lot in return. I got an identity. I got a purpose. I got blessings galore. And now I’m ready to get back on the horse. I had truly felt that there was no more purpose for me. And I fought the dichotomy of wanting to be left alone yet yearning for purpose in my life–the purpose of helping, of participating. Of course, not being engaged impacted MY bipolar disorder.
In my eyes, my family in Italy had it all together. I was never stupid enough to think they were perfect; no one is. But I never would have guessed that bipolar disorder had raised its ugly head. Once again, I made the classic mistake of making assumptions based on observations. Now I wonder if I should have said something to my aunt sooner. Could I have helped my uncle years ago? Shoulda, coulda, woulda. The past is irrelevant. We have only today.