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The Beautiful Lesson Loss Taught Me About Manic Depression

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I had to write my uncles obituary yesterday. It’s strange to examine the life of someone you knew well after they pass. Having questions you can no longer gain answers to. All you have to go on is the remnants and memories collected by those around you. The other people he held dear. Loss is strange. It’s either all-consuming or comes in agonizing waves of “semi-OK-ness.” It’s like one second you’re talking about how you need to call them because it’s been too long, and then suddenly realizing there’s no voice on the other end.

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My uncle battled demons for many years. Demons both vastly different and comfortingly similar to my own. A fellow manic depressant, it took ahold of him. Tossing him into a constantly stormy sea of his own brains making. Sometimes it seems easier to stay in the manic, to not reach for help. You know what to expect from it. Being better is scary because it means you have to put in work. My biggest fear through fighting the darkness within, is wondering who I would be without it. Would I be me? I was terrified of becoming someone I no longer recognized. A face in a mirror that no longer lent a familiar half-assed smile. So for a long time I pummeled through the manic and waded slowly through the depressive states. I rode the high for as long as I could and took comfort in depressions safety net below me.

If there is one major thing he and I connected with, it was the inner workings of our brains. When I lived out of state, he would come and knock on my door. I would greet him with coffee and we would sit as he chain smoked cigarettes and he would just listen. Life was so fragile back then. Nothing made sense to me. I was navigating something that seemed never-ending. But he understood, he never judged and he always knew the right words. Straightforward and to the point. They were always encouraging in the perfect way. He helped me more than he will ever know when it came to navigating this thing I didn’t understand.

I haven’t felt like me lately, not really at least. I remember a time when I prayed to feel the way I do now. A time when feeling semi-OK was the highest wish on my Christmas list. I wanted to be “normal,” I wanted to be stable, I wanted to rid myself of the constant rollercoaster of emotions. But in the grand scheme of things, the end result is really just comfortable numbness with a side of recurring sadness. It’s feeling stagnant, and stuck, and helpless. I am 24 years young and stability scares me shitless. I wrote my uncles obituary yesterday. This loss, his loss, the loss of one of the few people who really understood the messed up twisted inner workings of my mind, has finally made me feel. Ripped me from the numbness and forced me to face everything I have been putting aside. I made a comment to a friend about how this loss prompted writing, and he replied with, “loss is maybe the only reason any of us really write.” And maybe that is true. Maybe it’s the loss of a person or the loss of my sanity that pushes me to open the dam and let the emotions run free.

Augusten Burroughs wrote, “I am entirely made of flaws stitched together with good intentions.” The man that guided me through the darkest parts of my early adult life was flawed, no doubt. But our flaws are what make us human. Even in his passing, he has taught me a beautiful lesson about life. His loss has brought me through the seemingly inescapable rut and has yet again reminded me how amazing it feels to be alive.

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Originally published: September 25, 2017
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