"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear" - (C.S. Lewis)
I learned the truth of these words early on in the first few years of struggling to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. I also was reminded at this time that the condition of grief is nearly universal, and yet its forms are exquisitely personal for each of us.At its heart, the word "grief" comes with a looming assumption:death.Yet grief is not always about death—It's about loss, which can appear in many other forms.For those of us living with mental illness, grief is not reserved for death alone, but can also ripple out to a myriad of other types of frightening losses.
Many of the losses that I have weathered as an individual living with a mental illness occurred gradually, quietly slipping in under my radar, while others suddenly crashed in loudly, demanding to be heard
In addition to this sense of self-identity loss, I also saw many of my family, friend, and business relationships become fractured, quality time with my children and husband become compromised, my faith and trust in myself dissolve and my hope for renewed health and symptom management dwindle
Yet soon I began to marvel at the potential for positive change and growth within the grieving process
Living with a mental illness can change us in many ways, yet accepting and working with the grieving process can transform us as well.Perhaps loss can fuel how we choose to lead our lives. Personally, I learned how to move through life with a more open mind and heart toward others, always reminded that they too are likely struggling in some way. When facing my many regrets in life, I was forced to make a choice as to how I wanted to proceed in the future so that all was not lost.Second and third chances can be hard to come by, but I vowed to find them and do what had to be done to make good use of them in my life. In doing so, I learned to be more patient, to regain my self-respect and my trust in myself and others, and to recognize my own resilience again. Most importantly, I began to believe again in the capacity for good in every one of us.
Although I can never have any of these exact moments in time back, what I do have is the chance to make my way through loss and fear and to grab hold of life with both hands and let it pull me forward
Written by Pamela Landry