Things I’ve Had to Let Go

wooden sign that says let it go

Sometimes life just doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to you want it to. For instance, I’m supposed to have Bradley Cooper’s looks, and Bill Gates’ money. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but I’m learning to accept that neither are, or will be, true. What can be harder to swallow are the hopes and dreams that aren’t so pie in the sky. Letting go of some of the basic goals and desires in life can be far more difficult.

Sierra’s Dad

There’s no one I love more than my 19-year-old daughter, Sierra. I’ll never forget my tears of joy the second she was born. Her mother had a caesarian, so while her mom was sent to recovery, the nurse pulled me into the hospital nursery so that I could spend some alone time with my new baby girl. I thought I’d cried as much as was possible in the operating room, but when I lifted her out of her basket, and held her against me, the waterworks started again. That exact moment in time was the highest point of my life. I can’t imagine anything coming remotely close to that feeling. I was thrilled that I’d have a front row seat to watch my amazing daughter’s life unfold.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go as I planned. I didn’t have that front row seat. You see, I have this damn disease called bipolar disorder that went undiagnosed for years. Like many, I self-medicated. While my precious baby girl grew up, I spent most of my time 1,500 miles away grasping on to any job I could hold, struggling to keep a roof over my head somehow. I wasn’t always successful. I spent many a night on a park bench. She came to know her dad as that guy who would call occasionally when he didn’t have a bottle in one hand and a glass in the other.

The Executive

My whole life I knew I was really going to be somebody. I’d be a famous artist, or writer, or cartoonist, or more. Once I grew up and got into the work force, I became greedy and cast those dreams aside. I didn’t have time for such frivolous ideas. I was going to make it big in the corporate world. Every time there was a promotional opportunity I saw that would get me one rung higher up that ladder, I worked my ass to get it. I can’t think of a single time I failed. Every single opportunity became mine for the asking.

Eventually I had the big office, with the big desk, looking out the big window. I had managers reporting to me that oversaw the hundreds who worked under me. I was chummy with the Vice President of my division. I was riding high, until I wasn’t. For about the third time in my life I was diagnosed with depression (this was years before I was accurately diagnosed with bipolar.) The meds worked the best they could, but did nothing for my hypomania. This was around the time that my alcoholism was going full force, so the anti-depressants were no match for the alcohol. Overall, I was pretty high functioning, but eventually had a few goof ups that didn’t look so good on my file. I still had a promising career, but my ego was so badly bruised that I decided it was time to move on. I left the company and made a series of very bad decisions which led me to the sad drunken state I described above. I may have had the big office, but my hopes of moving up another rung and getting the big ‘corner” office were shot to hell. My corporate career was dead.

The Minister

Some of you who have been following me for a while, may recall the days I use to frequently post about working towards being a Unitarian Universalist minister. I don’t know if I ever explained why, but those posts abruptly stopped. I had no desire to run a church. I already had the opportunity of running a business, and ministering at a church is too similar to that. I wanted to be a chaplain. I wanted to be there for people in hospitals, or hospice care. I don’t care what a person’s faith is, or lack of faith is, I only wanted to be there to minister care to those in need. Being sober and properly medicated was going to make it easy for me to breeze through school, right? Right? I failed miserably.

Returning to school was a humbling experience. Sure, it was hard to get use to the other students referring to me as “Sir,” but that’s not the type of humbling I’m talking about. I’m talking about it being damn hard. It was impossible to complete a project and get it in on time when having panic attacks so severe that I could barely function. I didn’t want to accept that I may only succeed by taking one class at a time. Hell, I’m not even sure cutting back that much would help. I finally had to stand back and look at things realistically. Even going to school full time was going to take me many years to get my masters. I then would have to work internships to advance. I also found the cost of going to theological schools, are unbelievable. I was looking at finishing college in my 60’s with mountains of debt to last the rest of my life. All I wanted to do was help people, but nope, that got shot to hell.

Things I’ve Had to Let Go

These are examples of many things in my life that didn’t go the way they should have I wanted them to. I had to let them go. It was painful, but eventually I reached the point of acceptance. Does Sierra still have a dad? Hell, yes, she does. I’m not the dad I wanted to be. I’ll never be able to sit down and share the memories of her first school play, winning on the debate team, or taking her prom picture. I had to let those go. But, I do get to be the dad who chats online with her while she attends uni in England. I’m the dad who gets to talk with her on the phone and hear her excitement from having climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. I’m the dad who got give her a tour around Los Angeles, go shopping with her for school clothes. I’m the dad who gets to sit with her and laugh while swapping stories at a funky coffee house. Right now, I’m being the best dad I can possibly be and I can’t ask for more than that. What I’ve got is pretty damn good.

What about shooting further up the corporate ladder and being a high level executive? To be honest, I was miserable and it wasn’t just because I wasn’t medicated. I remember on many occasions just staring out the window asking myself what I was doing. I wasn’t making an impact on the world in any significant way that appealed to me. I thought it was great, but it was really all about ego and I would never go back to it.

As for becoming a chaplain? Yeah, that smarts too, but if I was busy running off to hospitals or hospice units, when would I have the time to be sitting down and working on my first novel? Simple fact is I wouldn’t.

What an amazing life my life has become. I’m married to a man who loves me more than I ever thought possible. I have a daughter who loves me and we get to have fun doing adult stuff together. I have an opportunity to sit down and proudly announce, “I am a writer,” and then do it.

I’m not going to try and pull the wool over your eyes. I do grieve for those and many other things. Some days it hurts more than others, but wallowing in self-pity and wishing them back would only serve to make me old and bitter. I don’t want to be that guy. Today. Right now in this very second, I am the guy who is grateful for all the good he has in his life and keeps doing the best he can.

  23 comments for “Things I’ve Had to Let Go

  1. January 22, 2017 at 02:45

    Great post! I’m currently writing a book on how to recover from severe mental illness, and one of my chapters is going to be something along the lines of “be honest with yourself- what do you need to let go of.” I think that sometimes with this disease you don’t realise the things you’re clutching which are actually only working to keep you dragged down.. once you’ve identified those things you can start to move forward again. Thanks for sharing, and take care.

    • Bradley
      January 22, 2017 at 11:36

      Good luck with the book, Alex. Thank you for popping in.

  2. September 28, 2016 at 02:55

    Thanks for sharing all this Brad. Glad for you you’re move on appreciating it all either way 🙂

    • Bradley
      September 28, 2016 at 10:31

      It’s hard to find that silver lining sometimes, but I believe it’s there…at least most of the time.

  3. September 27, 2016 at 20:06

    Thank you so much for this piece – I found it really moving and I can relate personally to it. I feel like I’m learning to appreciate the pleasure and mindfulness I get in small things rather than the big dreams of lifestyle and success… While I’m letting go… I’m not sure where I’m going anymore… But like you I have loving family which can ease the anxiety and distress to some extent. I’ve started to write a blog myself – in part cathartic and in part hoping it will help others like myself feel less alone. The blog address is https://2angelsandablackdog.wordpress.com (if you don’t mind). I really liked how you discussed your relationship with your daughter and how you described your role as a dad. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what it’s like to be a parent with mental illness and a lack of support. This was really informative. Thanks again.

    • Bradley
      September 27, 2016 at 20:18

      Thank you for your kinds words. I wish you well with your blog and I hope you found it as cathartic as I have with mine.

  4. September 21, 2016 at 17:11

    Bradley
    You’ve walked thru some difficult lessons which tale a blow to ego and self confidence. One key is you made it thru, it doesn’t matter how ugly or whatever, you grieved, regrouped and moved forward. That’s all anyone can do. We both have complicated diseases and both had problems with alcohol. I have not blamed or put my bad decisions off on my mental illness even though it clouded my judgment while hypo/hyper. The think many people have to reset goals as they move thru life, circumstances change, you readjust to what your new reality allows. I spent almost 10 yrs, in Hypo state, was in the prime of career, making huge money allowing me privileges never even dreamed of. I never got to full enjoy for fully examine myself, my face in the mirror was so different when the years of hypo ended.
    I felt like God put these great opportunities in front of me and I failed, never adding in a factor of my illness. We ere both highly successful careers and lofty goals. We both had reality force us to reset the goal, too make or not. When I here your post speaking to me, you’re a voice of reason, you take into consideration how Bipolar Disorder.
    I have failed many times in my life, made horrible decisions which made things worse. I set one goal at a time without the strict time line from the me before. I was a millionaire from a lawsuit I won, life looked perfect to all. We had all the nice material things I could wish for, got divorced at a time of depression, gave away the farm my lawyer said. I was bankrupt a year later. My hypo went straight to hell with the Black Dog. I was also unable to piece together the hight powered career or much of anything.
    You reached a point of acceptance, reevaluate what I want to contribute which will in return fill your heart with joy. That desire to help is the reason I became a Minister. I’ve been ill and haven’t walked the path yet but the desire is strong.
    I believe your past experiences and alcohol issues have given you the strength to reach where you are today. I work hard when not with the Black Dog to give myself credit for past success and the success I want in the future. We both take big bites, set big goals, it helped us reach a certain level of success at the cost of our health.
    Since 2003 I have not worked, cared for both grandparents as they were dying, very dark times with hospital stays, years getting to bottom of heart problems and now Lyme. I’m faced with rebuilding my life once well enough. In that time I went from 39 ti 53 luckily I quit drinking years ago, focus daily on mental illness and look at what life without rose colored glasses. I am happier than ever before, blogging alone has helped my self-confidence. I don’t want to feel like a failure again, my plan is volunteer time and energy instead of jumping back into the pressure put on myself when working.
    You have Survived with more knowledge than before and sharing the knowledge can lift you spirit. Any choice you make is a good decision because you continue to move forward.
    I feel better dumping all that in your lap, it helped reinforce my passion. If hope there is a nugget in the post to bring a thought to mind.
    Keep pushing thru.
    🙂
    M

    • Bradley
      September 21, 2016 at 17:54

      Hey Melinda,

      When my disease started kicking my ass, I did allow it to tear my life apart so yeah I do play the victim card sometimes, because I had absolutely no idea what was going on. At the time(s) it was something that was happening “to me.” I like a little takeaway that they say in AA. “You are not at fault, but you are responsible.” That’s how I look back and am able to accept what seemed like fate and have no problem blaming my illness. I do, however, try to make amends to those I harmed. I cut a wide swath greater than Sherman’s army so I don’t know if I’ll ever get to them all.

      It’s been a tough haul for both of us. I’m glad we came through okay on the other side (most of the time, anyway, lol) It’s wonderful to read how happy you are. You are an inspiration to many. Good to see blogging has been as cathartic for you as it has for me.

  5. September 21, 2016 at 05:27

    You’re an incredible inspiration, Bradley. I’m more lost right now in the grief of who I’m not than in the gratitude of who I get to be, but your writing makes me want to try harder, to get better, to keep going. Thank you beyond words.

    • Bradley
      September 21, 2016 at 08:44

      Thank you. Glad I give you inspiration. I know you’ve been going through a tough time lately. You’ll get through this regardless of how you feel right now.

  6. September 20, 2016 at 16:35

    Great post 🙂
    I like to think that all of our journeys enrich our lives, but none more so than our failures.

    I really relate to wanting to help people, to deeply touch their lives in a social work aspect, but like you, it doesn’t suit my financial situation. It’s helpful to remember that for centuries, those positions often were held by those who were steeped in privilege, both time and money.

    And honestly, having that man at the end of the day, having a real marriage that feels like bliss at times, being loved when we’re not always at our best, well, these are BIG blessings.

    • Bradley
      September 20, 2016 at 16:53

      They are big blessings and I try very hard to never take them for granted.

      • September 21, 2016 at 18:15

        Oh my goodness, do you always reply and I don’t get notified? Do I need to check this box below?

        • Bradley
          September 21, 2016 at 18:27

          Someone else had the same problem. They’re getting my posts, but not my responses. If you click the box you should be notified. If it gets too much then I believe you can just turn it off. Sorry about that. I don’t know what’s going on, but because I self host, WordPress won’t help me.

          • September 26, 2016 at 17:37

            Okay. I’ll try it. I kept wondering why you’d come to my blog and be so friendly and warm, but never replied to my comments on your blog. LOL I am a sensitive soul, I tried not to take it personally. 🙂

            • Bradley
              September 26, 2016 at 19:58

              I looked at the WordPress support rooms and apparently there are many of us who are having that problem, especially those of us who self host.

  7. September 20, 2016 at 12:02

    Oh man… I definitely hear you on this one. I lost a significant job opportunity because I was hospitalized right before my start date. And it’s shitty but I’ve tried my best to take on the “everything is meant to be” life approach so I can feel grateful and blessed like you do in this moment. Do you also ever feel like you’ve lost part of your personality too? I miss the person I used to be sometimes without the hypomania and random mood swings.

    • Bradley
      September 20, 2016 at 12:39

      I can’t pinpoint exactly when or what, but I do feel different. Like a part of me is missing and yes, I miss it. I’d love to hover just below hypomania. Unfortunately, my pdoc doesn’t agree.

    • September 27, 2016 at 20:11

      I think I’ve lost any confidence in myself, I feel I have to double check who I am all the time. I can’t tell a time I wasn’t ‘something’ it’s been with me such a long time so I’m not sure if my personality is separate from my diagnosis. But in another way I’m more confident about deciding what is best for me and maintaining my health. but I get you saying ‘everything is meant to be”!

  8. September 20, 2016 at 09:13

    This was full of insight and it was heartrending to read, Bradley. I especially loved what you wrote about your daughter and how you reacted with tears when she was born.

    I’m happy that you have such a great attitude, that you’re grateful for what you have, and you’re honest about the difficulties you still face. You’re one inspiring writer and person! Xo

    • Bradley
      September 20, 2016 at 12:42

      Thank you. I don’t always feel grateful, but love times like this when I am. I hold on to them the best I can.

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