Bruised, Battered, and Blooded, I Was Able to Carry On….
“Don’t quit. You’re already in pain. You’re already hurt. Get a reward from it.”
Enabling me to survive as a functioning human being in competitive, mean-spirited society (while suffering from untreated serious mental illness, cross-addictions, and indoctrinated shame), the above notion, which is neatly summed up by Nietzsche’s aphorism, “what does not kill me makes me stronger,” served as the bulwark of my personal “ideology” for some time.
Having Bipolar Disorder, I naturally took it to an extreme and saw it in black and white terms. For more years than I care to recall, I could see no other basis for my existence. Rather than seeking additional and alternative ways to be and to act, and ultimately, to thrive, I imposed a rather brutal individual Social Darwinism upon myself, enduring unnecessary suffering and even inflicting it upon myself because my Bipolar, addicted mind was closed to any other potentialities. And I believed that every difficulty I endured made me stronger. Which of course is a faulty conclusion. Unless of course one is truly an “Ubermensch.”
Staying in toxic relationships; seeking out more toxic relationships when those ended; choosing spiritual and financial bankruptcy by refusing to seek help for my mental illness and addictions and by staying under-employed in dangerous, difficult jobs; picking fights with people and institutions that provided me with guaranteed ass-kicking’s; self-medicating; enlisting in the Marines when I had an untreated serious mental illness; running up huge debts; nearly running and dieting myself to death; breaking laws with no regard for consequences; and, generally speaking, forcing myself to endure intolerable, miserable conditions to “prove that I could” were the means by which I navigated the world and the ways in which I invested my time and energy.
In retrospect, this self-destructive, grueling pattern of existence was masochistic, irrational, and brutal. And it did leave permanent scars and do some irreversible damage to others and to me. But now that I have traversed the raging rapids of life with untreated Bipolar Disorder and am resting on the safe, peaceful shore of stability, I can look back at the tumultuous waters and razor sharp rocks into which I could have been dashed and feel deeply grateful that I survived. I also feel undying gratitude that, as wretched as those times were, the Higher Power of my understanding gifted me with the mechanism of survival that kept me going. I am electing to call it “hardscrabble persistence.” Bruised, battered, and blooded (physically, spiritually, or emotionally), I was able to carry on, despite tremendous challenges and difficulties. Thank you, Higher Power.
This mode of living (and all of these painful and catastrophic events) preceded and precipitated my “Dark Night of the Soul,” without which I would not have fully embraced AA, medication, therapy, CBT, spirituality, a Higher Power of my understanding, prayer, readings, and all of the modalities that I need to employ on a daily basis to maintain a degree of stability, sobriety, and self love.
And, despite having abandoned his nihilistic, existential philosophy, I still embrace Nietzsche’s aphorism. The trials and tribulations that I endured, self-inflicted and other wise, did make me stronger. They endowed me with experience, strength, and hope to share with others. They shouted down my false core belief that I lacked the backbone to grow into a person with a reasonable degree of character. And they taught me that while I probably won’t ever have to go back into “rugged individualist survival mode” again, I can if it becomes necessary.
Lastly, those excruciating days gave me the gift of the “lens of gratitude,” whereby I can view nearly every aspect and occurrence of my life as a gift or an opportunity for growth. Right down to something as granular as breath.
I just drew one. And I am grateful!