I was robbed in life, by life and circumstance. I literally lost my mind in my early 20’s due to the onset of bipolar disorder. I was delusional and completely at a loss with reality. The onset occurred the year I was going to be attending my fourth and final year of University. This was a big deal to me for so many reasons, one of them being I had worked my ass off to come as far as I had come. I created and directed the Visual Arts Carleton club and had a voice in the art community as a regular volunteer/bartender at Gallery 101. I had even come to take a place on the board of directors at Gallery 101 but had to quickly retire the role due to my mental health, and that was devastating. The whole experience of losing one’s mind is made even the worse when said person has to pick up the pieces after the carnage is over. And the end result of my declining mental health was a hospitalization stay against my will in a psychiatric unit. The ultimate betrayal of my mental health was that I could not attend my fourth year of University and finish my degree which was my biggest dream. It was like what I had said before…devastating.
I was robbed in life, by life and circumstance. My life would come to be defined by these episodes of mania and depression that I would experience as a bipolar person. Both landed me in the hospital at some point or another. My depression is not like your depression, its crippling and mind consuming. My brain looped on this one thought “You are a failure, you couldn’t even finish your degree after completing three years of University.” I would lay in bed twenty four hours of the day and sleep sixteen of those. I was trying to put my brain in a coma if I’m being completely honest with myself. It needed to heal and recover from its loss. I had come so close, cheek to cheek, to my dream of finishing university. It was heart breaking to come that close to achieving my ultimate life’s goal and not being able to have it. There was a lot riding on my education, mainly my parent’s hopes and dreams but also a giant student loan. I had to come out of those four years of studying obsessively with something, even if it was just a piece of paper. That piece of paper, that degree, defines you. It says “hey I made it!” and “I am capable.”
It has taken me years to come to terms with not only my disorder but the reality that I may not ever finish my degree and now that I’ve accepted that, I can honestly say it will be okay. As of late I’ve been thinking it would be nice to finish my degree even if its closer at home at Brock University and in a slightly different program than the one I started at Carleton University. However, while consistently being hospitalized the past few years my finances have been depleted. It may not be feasible to attend University anytime soon with my current financial situation. That being said, who says I need to finish this now? Who said I even need to get my degree in my 20s? Why not my 30s? I think my mentality that I should have achieved the goal of getting my degree by the time I was 22 was limiting me. It was only setting me up to fail. If you open and expand your mind to the possibility that everyone’s timeline in life is different than you leave more room for success. It’s all relative in the end. I have to make allowances for my mental health and accept that my condition has deferred my educational timeline for now. I may not get my degree in my 20s but I am feeling optimistic I will have my finances and health sorted out by the time I am 30 and can then try again to get my degree. I am not going to give up but I must admit bipolar disorder has been and caused the greatest set backs in my life. This will not deter me from setting goals and trying to smash them though, not anymore. I will not lie in bed like I used to wondering “why me?” I was given this illness for a reason because God or the powers that be thought I had the strength to handle it and frankly, I NOW accept the challenge.
An Image from my First Year at Carleton University, I am the eighth person from the left.