Auld Lang Syne (Long, Long Ago)

Last Updated: 12 Aug 2019
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My best friend in junior high and through most of high school was an objectively beautiful, very funny, and fiercely intelligent girl named Pam. I adored her. We spent virtually all of our time together, flanked by other girlfriends, guy friends, and our families. What time we did spend apart was in our slightly different, but still creative, intellectually driven endeavors, like theater, art, journalism, or religious things, among others.


We were best friends like that, until I started to get sick.


Of course, I didn’t really know at 16 that I was getting sick with burgeoning bipolar disorder, and neither did my dear Pam. And as a brilliant teen with her own things going on, her own plans, her own challenges, ambitions, trials, and family expectations, there’s no way she could understand. If I didn’t get it, if my folks didn’t get it, if no one else got it, how could my best friend get it?


I went silent my junior year of high school. A normally talkative kid, outgoing, popular, sunny even—I just stopped. I ignored Pam for a whole year. I also stopped eating. I called myself anorexic. I suppose I was, but it really was the depression side of bipolar. After that year, and some therapy, I apologized to Pam and we started up again. But we paddled around, painfully, never really regaining what we had before. I resented her ambition, her self-focus, and her leaving me behind in my illness–though I still was unaware of all that, really.


Over the years, we occasionally visited, wrote, phoned, emailed. Still, walls seemed impenetrable.


In the last year, she and I have risked. We’ve started writing each other in sort of baby-step ways, gently coming to learn from one another, that, after nearly 30 years, and as women who have separately experienced the miracles and some consummate horrors of life, love abides.


It’s not just a matter of us growing up–that’s just tiny part of it. It’s not just a matter of my ongoing recovery from bipolar, or her ongoing recovery from her experiences, though that’s bigger part of it. It is a matter of forgiveness and grace. It is a matter of understanding another’s life journey, her losses and her gains.  Pam and I are getting back in the boat of real friendship that I like to believe will take us into our old age in a new, renewed understanding of who each has always been.


We collectively get it now. It really is a circle come ‘round right.


Should old acquaintance be forgot? Never. Sometimes an “old acquaintance” from auld lang syne, can return to be a support never known before.

 

 

Have you rediscovered “Auld Lang Syne”? Who might be an old acquaintance who could support you?

About the author
Beth Brownsberger Mader was diagnosed in 2004, at age 38, with bipolar II disorder and C-PTSD, after living with symptoms and misdiagnoses for over 30 years. In 2007, she suffered a traumatic brain injury, compounding bipolar recovery challenges that she continues to work on today. Since these diagnoses, Beth has written extensively about bipolar, its connection to PTSD, physical illness, disability, and ways to develop coping skills and maintain hope. She also writes about bipolar/brain disorders and family, marriage, relationships, loss, and grief. Beth finds the outdoors to be her connection to her deepest healing skills, where the metaphors for life, love, compassion, and empathy are revealed, and how her bipolar and other challenges are faced head-on with perseverance and determination. Beth served as a contributing editor/featured columnist for bp Magazine from 2007 until 2016, and as a bphope blogger from 2011 until 2016. She returned to blogging for bphope in 2019. Beth continues to work on her unpublished memoir, Savender. She holds a BA from Colorado College and an MFA from the University of Denver. Beth lives in Colorado with her husband, Blake, and her service dog, Butter. Check out Beth’s blog at bessiebandaidrinkiewater.wordpress.com.

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