Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Gift

Once upon a time, when I was not I, but just a little mote of not-awareness waiting to be born, I was given a gift of light and dark. It was wrapped up in bright paper and pretty ribbons, remarkably festive trappings when you consider what was inside.

I did not see the giver, so there was no one to blame (except maybe mucked up genetics) and no Cosmic Customer Service to give it back to: "Excuse me, but this manic depressive illness really doesn't go with my eyes. I haven't worn it yet…could I just return it and choose something else?"

If the guy with the trench coat and the shifty eyes had sidled up to me and said, "Hey…you…check this out…I've got this thing you can have…it'll give you extreme sensitivity, let you experience highs like you've never dreamed…but you'll also have to deal with crawling through the muck of depression for months on end. And some people will want to drug it away. And other people will want to lock you up and keep you away from the Pretty People. Whaddya say?"

What would I have said?

Would I trade what has been my own unique experience of the world for something more conventional, more "normal"?
Would I choose not to have it?
That's like asking me if I'd rather be someone else.
I would certainly choose not to have all the pain and grief and guilt and anxiety it has caused me. And I would certainly choose not to have hurt the people I have hurt, broken the relationships I have broken.

But…if I'd never had manic depression, I would be a different person than I am now. Like it or not, this illness has shaped me. And even if I didn't know what to call it for most of my life, it has been an integral part of my identity, my deepest self, for as long as I can remember.

Despite the treacherous path I've walked, I cannot wish to be someone other than who I am.

But if someone at the Cosmic Customer Service counter would take it back without a receipt, yeah, I'd like my money back, thanks.

No comments: