Getting stuck in the past prevents you from living in the present. While you can’t ignore your past, you can keep it in perspective while moving forward.
I’m 56 years old. Well into middle age and pushing the envelope on the later part of life. I’m certainly closer to the end than the beginning. But that’s life. And while I’ve managed to find a measure of stability in this period of my life, I can’t help, from time to time, but think of my past.
my first psychotic episode at the age of 18 and endured many years of turmoil
fueled by alcohol and drug use and an unfettered lifestyle. Basically, I was a
mess. The sheer unmanageability I experienced was something I wouldn’t wish on
my worst enemy.
Flash forward to today. I’m fortunate to have a family and a career I love. I have a great support system of friends as well as professionals who help to keep me grounded. But there’s always the fleeting memories of my past, especially since I live in the house where I grew up. When my mother passed away in 1996, my wife, infant daughter, and I moved back into the house with my father (who died in 2016).
All I have to do is look around my house. While the furnishings have changed and the rooms have been updated, I still have gnawing memories of the past. For instance, if I enter my family room, I instantly recall the times when I watched TV while experiencing ideas of reference (the belief that what I saw on TV directly applied to me). While I no longer experience this psychotic symptom, it is still something I can never forget.
Also, living in the city where I have been hospitalized is something I have had to come to terms with. One facility, the Buffalo General Hospital Community Mental Health Center was torn down years back to make room for a new vascular disease center. While the building is no longer there, driving by the site reminds me of my first hospitalization.
There’s also the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, Erie County Medical Center, and Brylin Hospital, all of where I’ve received services (although I was only in Brylin overnight). I have been back on the grounds as well as inside these facilities in my professional capacity. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience a level of anxiety when entering the doors of these places.
I’ve come to realize, however, that I cannot live in the past—I can’t change it, nor would I want to, as terribly hard those days were. The experiences of my past have helped me become the person I am today. In the work I do, I regularly come in contact with people who are either themselves struggling or someone they know is dealing with a mental health disorder. I’m able to use my past experience as a means to provide guidance and support.
And you can do the same thing. The old adage, “it takes one to know one” rings true in this instance. You can help someone else by sharing your lived experience—something that is yours and yours alone.
When I was going through my struggles, I had no one to go to who could truly relate to my situation. The concept of peer support specialists (certified individuals with lived experience) was in its infancy. This practice was not available in my area. Perhaps if it were, my trajectory in recovery might have been different. But I digress.
In my humble opinion, life is all about moving forward and not getting stuck in the past. The past can be incredibly painful and when one fixates on it, the pain deepens. Unfortunately, for many of us, there may be a lot of wreckage from those days, but as I previously stated, we cannot change these things. But we can learn from them. Living in today is one way to come to terms with the past.
Whether you live with bipolar or love someone who does, you can find comfort, wisdom, and strategies (maybe even a good laugh!) in these inspirational books. We can lose ourselves in the power of the written word, compelled by the raw emotions, deep insights, and humorous takes offered by others like us—people who share our...
The back story of the famed golf commentator and humorist’s success at life and love detours through ADHD, addictions, and bipolar depression. Almost through happenstance, David Feherty has spawned the Feherty brand. As in: Feherty, his Emmy-nominated series on the Golf Channel, a combination of interviews and antics now in its ninth season. And “Feherty...
Selena Gomez is no stranger to navigating mental health challenges, from dealing with the emotional burden of lupus to her kidney transplant to bipolar’s depression and anxiety. She’s learned the power of self-care and having the right connections—and how to say “no.” On April 3, 2020, singer and actor Selena Gomez candidly revealed that she...
On the one hand, characters with bipolar can demonstrate that treatment leads to stability. On the other, manic extremes make for better drama. “Surely there is someone out there who will take me for who I am: the good, the bad, the full story of love.” That’s award-winning actor Anne Hathaway as Lexi, prognosticating optimistically...