Victor wrote a personal account which appeared on my blog and then disappeared when I hit the delete button in error. No amount of trying would bring it back, so I am re-blogging it. Please forgive a blogging grandma for any errors I make.
Hypomanic – Mad in England by Victor J. Kennedy.
My name is Victor . Kennedy and I was diagnosed bipolar in 1996, the same year I graduated from university. At that time I made a promise to myself that as much as I create and consume during the remainder of my life, I would always stay curious and keep learning. I decided to ask questions of everyone and everything to learn more about how to master both my condition and more importantly, myself.
I don’t remember any early bipolar symptoms at primary, middle or upper school, nor do I look back now and realize anything unusual about my biology at that time of my life. So, having a normal childhood meant I could not look backwards to find answers. We had no concrete evidence of bipolar being part of the family bloodline. Whilst at university in my final year, I was not sleeping – deliberately not sleeping to try and write a better dissertation so I could gain a better mark, so get a better graduate job and have a more rewarding career. My latent ambition became my downfall. After the initial breakdown, I decided my new story would be about my recovery my fight back. I would not let what happened to me also define who I was. I put one foot in front of the other in the form of one question in front of the other. I educated and trained myself to beat what in my growing perception was the second most frightening diagnosis after cancer. I had the bone-rattling realization that for people like me, there is a new order at work called stigma. It feels much more real. IT feels like the whole world is against you. This is when you really need to dig deep and find the courage to keep asking the questions that will help you understand yourself and how you can survive in this new world you’ve discovered. As you learn and grow, the stigma seems more fragile and less entwined with the other more superficial everyday annoyances and frustrations that we all have. As time goes by, you find the power to brush incoming stigma off your shoulder at will, then you’ll really discover a breakthrough. At one profound moment, to your amazement, you will make a little joke to yourself about stigma, and you’ll laugh along with it, quietly and confidently to yourself.
The self I am today, is not the self I was in 1996. And there have been iterations of myself as I’ve gone through the process of learning. Simply put, I’ve grown up by taking the following footsteps. Firstly, I made myself ready to manage my illness. Then I grew ready to treat other people with respect and became more of an open person despite feeling the omnipotent stigma was there, even when it maybe wasn’t. That openness enabled me the confidence to meet my wife, who took everything I am to heart; so I’ve grown to love someone else and been ready to accept her love in return. I worried for too long about my bloodline and passing on my condition to any future children, but alongside my wife’s support, I’ve grown out of that negative, lonely perception. With her behind me, I grew responsible enough to feel I could be a good father, not just to one child, but now I am blessed to have two. I can’t imagine what my life was like before they all came into it.
Some say that my life is complete, but I am too focused on the promise I made to myself at the age of 24, and I know there are as many questions to face as there are to ask, but as long as I stay curious, I know I’ll stay well.
Victor: thank you for sharing your story with us all. I think that you are a very courageous man and I wish you and your family everything that you wish yourselves. I’d like to take this opportunity of wishing you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year. Jill