If you have bipolar, you probably understand well how the disorder mimics a silent criminal lurking in the shadows. Whether the villainous swings of emotion are heavy and drawn out or bent towards rapid cycling, where total peace one minute can morph into rage the next, the roller coaster ride can be ominous.
And battling such an oppressive illness while raising children takes a toll on our fragile mom hearts because behavioral boundaries often break without warning or protocol. A petty argument with a child can send us reeling into emotional oblivion, leaving the child to slink away full of confusion and hurt. The aftermath for the bipolar mom is a guilt-soaked soul.
For me, remorse over irrational behaviors I couldn’t control, yet desperately wanted to stop, ruled my inner world for decades. Unaware of my condition and convinced I was just a screw up, I prayed myself raw, begging God to make me normal. Nothing worked. Maybe you’ve been in a similar emotional vice grip.
It wasn’t until 2008 when I was 38-years-old, already 14 years into parenting three kids, that my bipolar diagnosis emerged. This after a very dark night of the soul and a morning after laced with Divine intervention. My life looks much different now after years of healing counsel and proper medication, which helps me sustain a manageable equilibrium.
Although I thought I’d worked through much of my guilt and regret, a trip with my family to Arizona in the summer of 2016 caught me off-guard and showed me otherwise. In a singular moment in time, God used art to uncork years of stress still aging in the recesses of my heart. He’s amazing that way.
Our family was mingling inside an eclectic store called Earthbound in downtown Flagstaff. As I strolled across the split wood floors looking at all the trendy and worldly goods, my eyes fixed on a display of canvas prints lining the back wall. A square piece with cotton candy hues caught my attention. After reading the message looped across the canvas, a geyser of emotion unleashed within, soaring up and through my body. Tears unleashed without warning and a part of my heart unburdened in grand force.
The phrase was only six words, but contained enough power to bend me over from the rush of energy: It’s a fine day to wander.
My middle son didn’t know what to do, so he just held me and told me he loved me. My uncontrollable tears actually caused me to laugh because I couldn’t understand what was happening. Dense emotions pressed on my heart. Over and over I contemplated why this phrase unglued me.
Then it hit me.
The universe was giving me permission to release myself from the unruly guilt tied to my bipolar disorder. The pressure valve now twisted in the open direction, allowing a rush of freedom to drain out of my pores.
Up to the moment of reading the words on a pastel canvas, 1900 miles from home, I was unaware how deep the scars of my debilitating chemical imbalance. All the years I spent tying my hands behind my back with cords of guilt, remorse, regret, fear, and anxiety were now exposed. Six words gave me permission to cut the ties and wander away from the self-incrimination and shame.
God was saying, “It’s a fine day to wander, Shelby. To embrace life. Accept the good days and the bad days. Believe you were, still are, a good mom even in your weakest moments.”
Six words urged me to inhale and exhale my circumstances and surroundings; to explore the depths of my yin and yang without peril; to begin real authentic healing. I’ll never forget this moment. Not only is it stamped on my soul, but somehow my saintly hubby managed to capture the moment on camera.
The reason I share this story is because the same six words apply to all of us, whether we have bipolar or not. Every one of us carry burdens of varying sizes and shapes, meaning each of us deserve the freedom to stray from our guilt, fear, sorrow, stress in search of joy. Even the struggles of life need to breathe for a while, bask in the fresh air, travel to unexpected places.
May we all commit to embracing the unknown, one foot in front of the other. It’s a beautiful thing to wander unencumbered, loving ourselves for who we are, and leaving our baggage at the door.
Today is a fine day to start.