Learning to ‘Play the Hand You’re Dealt’

Last Updated: 22 Feb 2019
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Depression can be a lot like a lousy hand of poker. It doesn’t matter what we do the depression lingers.

 

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand. —Randy Pausch

This applies to Texas hold ‘em poker, as well as, to life. I pretty much have lived my entire 55 years this way. I have never spent much time wishing I was someone else, wishing I had more money or material possessions. I grew up on a small family farm and learned early on that when something needed doing you just do it—without a lot of moaning or groaning.  When depression and then bipolar struck me down, after having a pity party for a while, I learned to play the cards I was dealt.

I play Texas hold ‘em poker on a regular basis at restaurants. For the record, we DO NOT play for money! We play for points in our poker league. In poker, I have to learn to play the hands I am dealt. Sometimes I can bluff and pretend I have a better hand than I do. Sometimes I get dealt a really great hand but get beat by a better hand or by someone who makes a bad call but hits on the flop. Either way, I still have to play the hand I was dealt.

Playing poker is a lot like being on that roller coaster of bipolar disorder. Sometimes I get good hands and everything is wonderful, like those grandiose feelings when hypomanic. Then there are times I get lousy hands, when no matter what I do I lose.

Depression is a lot like those lousy hands. It doesn’t matter what we do to try and get out of it, the depression lingers. We can go through all the motions but don’t feel a bit better.

For me, playing Texas Hold ‘Em Poker gives me that adrenaline rush I get when hypo-manic. The thrill of being in a big hand is comparable to a hypo-manic high. It is exciting and gets my heart racing.

If you were born without eyesight you would learn to live that way; if you lost your hearing you would learn to live without hearing sounds; if you were born with only one foot you would still learn how to walk. Yes, you would need to make adjustments to compensate for these physical deficits but you would eventually learn to live without sight, sound or a foot.

My advice to you if you are still having a pity party because you have a mental illness is to learn to live with it.

Focus on what you can do; not on what you have lost.

You will be far happier if you focus on the blessings in your life rather than your heartaches. Be grateful you have eyes to see with; Be grateful you have ears to hear with; Be grateful you can walk and run. Many people don’t have these things yet still find meaning in their life.

We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.

About the author
When Lynn Rae was 39 years old two psychiatrists told her that she would NEVER work full time again. She had accepted the diagnosis of bipolar disorder but would never accept the prognosis. After working part time at several different jobs between episodes of depression & mania Lynn was finally able to work full time and has been since 2009. She has now enjoyed over 10 years of good health. Lynn Rae can guide you in making those important decisions in your life surrounding Family, Friends, Fun, Fitness, Fulfillment, Finances & Faith through her Keynote “The Seven F’s to Your Fantastic Future.” She has written 3 books and self-published one of them which are available for sale on Amazon. Lynn received the Marilyn Nearing Award from York Support Services Network for the contribution she was making as a volunteer in the mental health field. Lynn Rae has her own business, GTA Office Services , in which administrative tasks are done virtually for her various clients. She makes her own home in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.
27 Comments
  1. I am so beyond disappointed with this article. When my mother was sick with Bipolar I in the 1970s, she was told to ‘snap out of it’ then, but to hear such a statement as ‘pity party’ in the year 2018, is just so shameful. I worked for 20 years straight until I was hospitalized back in 2005 and 2006, where I was diagnosed with Bipolar II, but I fought back after that and earned a master’s degree in 2014 in Professional Counseling and became a Mental Health Therapist, only to end up in the hospital again. I have not been able to work for the past three years now, and it is devastating for me, especially when I fight every single day, tooth and nail, just to pick myself back up. In the meantime, I started my own blog on mental illness, and I can’t even begin to imagine saying anything like this.

  2. I am trying to cope with a terrible depression and am not a stranger to suicidal feelings. I am not eloquent at this time. I too have be a victim gosh awful psychiatrists and psychotherapists…. leaving me a bigger messier piece of blob than when they picked me up and trying to play superhero leaving me worse than before.(Thank goodness for spell check). I am not unintelligent. I am different, and have been since i was about fourteen years old. We band of brothers and sisters do not have an easy life. Some of us reach the light. Some have stretches of victory or even are able to maintain a grasp on the light with fine turnings here and there.,and then there are some of us who are only able to glance through a hazy fog. We are all different within our selves as we battle this stigma, this disease..We each have a story to tell.

  3. So sad that we cannot hold on another up on this forum instead of tear each other down. The author speaks of being down and clearly is just sharing her experiences of her illness.
    She never once tells people to not aeek assistant when suicidal. Instead she speaks of trying to be self aware of symptoms & then encourages self responsibility for managing them.
    Surely we all know as BP people all our experiences of how this illness expresses itself is individual & unique. If her advice doesn’t suit you – move on to another column that may.
    We are all in this battle called life together!

  4. With Bi polar illness, there are thoughts of suicide!
    My request to anyone feeling that way to call the suicide prevention hotline. Some one will talk to you, it is nothing to be ashamed off, and let us not have any stigma, most of us have felt that, I have felt that and called the line many times also when I was in distress and had no one I could talk to
    We have had Kate Spade commit suicide because she did not want to be hospitalized wondering what other people would think of her ,so we loose a great designer and also Anthony Bourdain not telling anyone and committing suicide, I love his travel shows but cannot watch them after his death by suicide,
    Please talk to a trusted friend or call the line for there will b better days and don’t be impulsive to do it even if you feel like it, I have been there so have to share! I love all of you! We are in this together !!!!!

    !

  5. I do not have a pity party, but certainly feel the loss! .From the age of 22 to the age of 62, I have really suffered, lots of hospitalizations. At the agIe of 22 I was a victim of a bad psychiatrist, when my problems started, he made me so upset and anxious, instead of helping me that after seeing him, I became worse and started having obsessions and was then diagnosed with OCD. I may have a genetic predisposition to this maybe, but by mental problems began at the hands of a psychiatrist I was in bad shape, lots of hospitalizations and finally diagnosed with OCD and give wn the right meds, was able to finish pharmacy school and worked for 25 years in the field with few absences cause of depression. Though I had graduated with honors in pharmacy school, I worked harder than other pharmacists and deep inside was not a confident person and wore a mask! I let my diagnoses of OCD rule me and though I may be very good I took whatever hours of work, that other pharmacists did not want, etc, I labelled myself as a woman with OCD and whatever job they gave me and not to be picky about anything cause anything was a gift and I was not a worthy person. Five years ago a lot of things went wrong for me at the same time and I became very depressed. I could not get out of the bed for weeks at a time. Again I got into the hands of a bad psychiatrist who had lied about her 10 year experience and was new to the field. In the 5 years I had I psychiatrist who had cancer and was practicing and I was helping him instead of him helping me , then had 1 good psychiatrist , then had insurance change and had psychiatrist from hell who lied and was going to send me for electric shock when I had not tried all them meds. I now have a psychiatrist who specializes in bipolar and feels I may not even have bipolar2.
    Everyones life is different. Also people having bi polar, it effects people differently , some may have great doctors and support, some have no one, some have supportive spouses, some whose spouses have left them so we cannot compare anyones life or how they are having their pity party. As strong a woman I am, certainly I do have some days when I have a pity party and think of the 40 years of my life that I existed and not lived.
    From reading the author and all the comments, I have to say I have to agree with everyone, people experience things differently and the illness is different in everyone. Some cannot work, right now I am on disability though I was able to work for 25 years!
    I am a 62 year old woman, and right now I have a pity party that I don’t have a good husband and don’t have much of a support system than God. These few months have been good and I appreciate my new psychiatrist and am optimistic for the future, but I don’t look down on anyone having a pity party. As humans we all have our dreams and deserve happiness and hurts when the dreams are taken away by an illness, and mental illness needs as much validation as any other physical illness, it is biological with the brain having a chemical imbalance and circuits may not be working properly!
    I am happy that people like Patrick Kennedy have come out publicly stating their fight with substance abuse and bipolar depression and fighting with the congress for bills for better mental health!
    I have written a big essay cause I want to validate everyone with bi polar, it is a very hard illness, with people having thoughts of suicide, which I have had too!
    Please I love and care about all of you! I want to share what my mother advised me, if any of you feels that way please say a prayer, that time will pass and hope for better days. If I had killed myself , I would not have the good days I am having now! I am doing much better and reading a book that I recommend for depression that has really helped me! ” Living life as a thank you” The transformative power of daily gratitude by Nina Lesowitz and Mary Beth Sammons
    Let us all live one day at a time, if you are very depressed , please don’t loose hope and know there will be better days with .Science progressing so fast, there is hope for everyone.

    LOL I have written an article! I love all of you, please remember God is always with you! Also for the non believers God still loves you!!!

    1. I agree with you.

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