I recently joined a Write Your Life Story group that a friend of mine suggested. The way the group works is we write on our own time, and then each week we share out loud what we have written to the group, which is approximately 25 – 30 people. So far I have shared a fun story about high school hijinks, and a story about growing up in a small town in Michigan. But I’m nervous about what lies ahead. Why nervous? How will I come out as a person with a mental illness?
My first reaction is to avoid the issue entirely. Why bring it up? There are plenty of other stories to tell aren’t there? I can avoid writing about my alcoholism too, correct? The answer is “No” I cannot avoid them for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that if I’m going to be writing my life story, then I have to be true to who I am. Both bipolar disorder and alcoholism are a part of who I am and to hell with those who may want to judge.
The second reason I’ll need to be honest about my bipolar disorder and alcoholism is a bit trickier. Simply, my life is a tale of woe. Now that may sound pretty negative, but come on, if you read this blog you know what a bleak life I have lived. Okay, okay, I’m being a bit overdramatic, but I don’t have much good to say about my life. It’s not that there haven’t been good moments – there have been outstanding moments, but I don’t remember them. My memory of them seems to have drained out of my ears. For example, my best friend and I had a great time hiking along the Appalachian Trail. I remember tiny shards of things, but not enough to write a story about. On the other hand, I can describe to you in excruciating detail my 10 days in lockdown in a psych ward.
During high school my friends and I would spend some summer days in a rented beach house. We had wonderful times. So, what do I remember that was so much fun? We drank a lot of beer and ate a ton of shrimp. That’s pretty much all I remember. However, I can easily tell the story of my first A.A. meeting. I can describe how and why I went, what the room was like, the people, the format (they are not all the same.) And I can tell you all about the lead speaker that night.
High School – now there’s a time in our lives that most of us love and hate at the same time. I had so many good times. Lots of silliness, lots of laughter and not a damn bit of detail as to what those moments were. I can easily describe my fears and insecurities, but would be hard pressed to remember some of the good times.
Birthdays, holidays, etc. are mostly just a blur. I have some photos but they don’t really jar any memories, but I can describe every second of the night my wife and I decided to divorce.
I was told the memories that are lost may be lost forever. I mostly accept that, but does it really have to be the negative ones that stay with me? I remember so much laughter and so much fun, all I ask is that someday to remember why. Sure, I’ve gone through heavy shit, but if there weren’t some good moments I’d probably be locked up right now. Hopefully as I continue to write my life story more of the good times will come back to me. For some reason I believe that they will.