I have a thing about remembering people’s birthdays. I don’t know how I do it, honestly. I have a lot of my friends’ birthdates floating around in my head. I know people’s birthdays who don’t even know who I am anymore.
On most mornings, I think about what the date is, and riffle through my brain to see if it’s anyone’s birthday. Some days I just know. Other days I have to think about it a bit longer.
Today, I looked at the date: August 22nd. Now, why does that date have so much significance in my brain? Is it someone’s birthday? Hmmmm. No. Is it someone’s half-birthday (an actual consideration on my part)? Hmm. Not that either.
Then it hit me. Yesterday was August 21st, obviously, and that’s the day Ray (a grandfather figure) passed away. He died in 2011.
Eight years ago, August 22nd fell on a Monday. It was the first day of classes at Baylor. I was nineteen, a freshman.
It was also the beginning of a manic episode that led to a psychotic break and my subsequent bipolar diagnosis.
Ah. Yes. This is a date I know well. Why it took me so long to figure it out today, I’m not sure.
Regardless, this week is my eight-year bipolar anniversary. I consider August 22nd, my bipolar birthday. Yes, it’s a thing. Look it up.
Sometimes it feels like 2011 was twenty years ago. I’ve grown and improved in monumental ways, and the Sarah of today is much, much different than the Sarah of August 21st, 2011.
Not only different. I am a better version of myself in all respects. I still have a great many faults, but even those faults have improved and changed over these eight years.
I still have a temper, but I am able to come down from rages more quickly and smoothly.
I am willing and capable of forgiving people instead of holding grudges for all of eternity.
I am still not great at apologizing in person, but I have improved. My teenage self hardly ever saw the need to apologize at all. Now, I know I need to; I just usually opt for some electronic form of communicating my apologies.
My most recent growth area has been letting go of the ruse of perfectionism and accepting myself as worthy and being enough. I’ve waited a long time to tackle this obstacle because it is so daunting. Thank you, unresolved shame. It is hard, letting go of the desire to be perfect, but I have supportive friends and family who help remind me of my intrinsic worth.
I’ve always struggled with thinking people can and should read minds, but I have gotten better at communicating my emotional needs with loved ones.
I’m not afraid to confide in other people, so I’m not emotionally constipated anymore. The old Sarah stuffed and stuffed and stuffed emotions. Don’t let anyone see! Don’t tell anyone about the hurt! Figure it out for yourself; you don’t need anyone.
I’ve learned to recognize and detect my insidious tendency towards passive aggressiveness. It remains a struggle. It’s where I go in weak moments, when I haven’t been taking care of myself emotionally and spiritually. Even just a couple years ago, I would say whatever popped into my head when I was angry. Consequences be damned!
I have more of a filter now, and I have the foresight to know I probably shouldn’t verbally flip someone off when I don’t get my way. That doesn’t mean I’m able to combat it every time, but a lot of incendiary things go unsaid by me these days.
I don’t see it as me versus everyone else on the planet. People aren’t out to get me. I have good friends who are on my side and want the best for me. This means they aren’t afraid to call me on my bullshit, and after I straighten my ruffled feathers, I understand that they are coming from a place of love.
There are probably more examples of growth and improvement, but these are the major ones. Because of all this growth, most of which has happened in the last three years, I feel far removed from my nineteen-year-old self.
I’ve been doing some clinical hypnosis in therapy (long story), and my therapist had me meet my adolescent-self last session. I met myself at seventeen, and after talking to her for a bit, I got the impression that she thinks I’m pretty cool. Don’t ask me how I know this. It feels true and it feels right.
Eight years removed from that hellacious week, I’d say I’ve done pretty well for myself, and dare I say it? I’m proud of who I’ve become.