Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Finding fulfillment

My husband and I got back from our holiday last night. We had a wonderful time - a true true rest. Something I needed. Now I feel refreshed and eager to get back to work. I was even making a list of all the things I wanted to do when I got home...while I was still on the cruise.

Just before we left I was corresponding with someone who has bipolar disorder and hasn't been able to work for awhile. She wrote:

"I personally feel discouragement, a loss of identity, and a lot of shame & guilt having been off work for this long."

I can well remember similar feelings - actually throughout most of my adult life off and on. For many years I scoured the Help Wanted pages of the newspaper on a daily basis, hoping to find work I'd be able to do. I wanted to earn money. I wanted to feel I had some value. But the two or three times I tried to work at part time jobs, I couldn't keep it up longer than two months. Always ended up in tears. The stress was just too great.

I was constantly trying to find something meaningful to do - something that would make me feel that my life had some value. With my photography I tried to earn money; I tried to become famous. Though I did earn a bit of money, and though I did receive a good reputation for my photography, neither of these were fulfilling in the long run. "Is that all there is?" I would repeatedly think to myself.

As I got older I gradually learned what was most important to me. Now I love what I'm doing and don't feel I need to be rich or famous. I just want to help people with mental illness - just get a good feeling from doing so. I want to reduce the stigma attached to mental illness. My life has become meaningful.

But it was a long road to get here. And, even now, there are times that I wish I could earn some real money, even though my husband supports the both of us well enough.

It IS tricky to find a life that is meaningful when bipolar keeps you from being able to make longterm commitments. And I do still have trouble comfortably doing that. Episodes still come along and I cannot trust how I'm going to be from month to month.

My book A Firm Place to Stand deal with a lot of these questions and the struggles I've had over the years. I found out that it IS possible to find a fulfilling life. It's tricky, and it will take a lot of work, a lot of trial and error. A person needs to do a lot of searching to find out what is most important to her and where her talents lie.

The person I quoted also made another comment:

"I'm wondering How can I actually feel OK about accepting this new life, and be at peace with it."

And it does start with accepting our disorder and the limitations it puts upon us, doesn't it? Yet I believe we can create a rich life, in spite of these limitations.

How do you feel about all this? Where have your struggles taken you? Have you been able to find hope in spite of your disorder? I'd love to hear your stories.


Paula Joy said...

Hi Marja!! So nice to hear you are back and that you had a great time!!

Accepting that I am bipolar was a huge thing for me. Once I TRULY accepted it, then I could go on about my life, taking my medications regularly, taking breaks and time outs when I needed them, and living my best life, regardless of what was "wrong" with me. We were all born with a purpose, so as long as we focus on doing what we've been called to do, regardless of a mental disorder (or any health problem for that matter) then we can be fulfilled.

God loves us and We are precious in His eyes - no matter what.

marja said...

Thanks Paula. Good for you for being able to accept your disorder. You're fortunate though in that you're able to keep working. Not everyone can. The person I quoted hasn't been able to - so far, anyway. I wasn't able to either (not a regular paying job). That's when it becomes truly hard to accept, because you start feeling like a victim - a person without value.

Di said...

So glad to have you home. So very glad you had a true time of rest. See you soon.

marja said...

Di, Though I had a good time, it's good to be home. I do like to do stuff - to work - to be fruitful. I'm glad you're doing well. Helen and I prayed for you during prayer time at church today.

Take care, okay?

Love, marja

Merelyme said...

hey there...so glad you are back...you are very missed. you are my role model for all of this. i see in you...a true spirit of wanting to help others regardless of money or fame and all of that. but nonetheless...it is nice to be rewarded for your hard work...with your writing.

i struggle with wanting to help people and with also wanting to make a career. sometimes i am not sure if my two goals mesh. integrity is very important to me.

i do think sometimes of what i could have been or could be if it weren't for my mood disorder...as well as other setbacks. but perhaps i wouldn't be me otherwise. maybe i wouldn't be able to write as i do if i didn't struggle.

anyways...great post. you always have my greatest admiration.

marja said...

Hi Merely Me: Thank you so much for missing me and for your kind words.

Yes, it is nice to be financially rewarded for your work. And it is nice to have a paying career. But there's nothing saying you can't do good work and help people in a powerful way while being paid for it.

My husband often says that if I were being paid for what I do I would not do it anymore. That's because I've always had to quit the jobs I've had - too much pressure. He might be right. Working the way I am now I don't have to answer to anyone. I'm free to put as much or as little into it as I want or am able. It's the best way for me to work.

Jena (Violet) said...

Thank you for this post, Marja. I have been quietly waiting to see what others have said. I have gone in and out of my thoughts on dreams and thoughts on failure. Lately, I have some inspiration, but my motivation is lacking a little bit for various reasons. I want God to use me for something great, and I think if I offer myself to him at all costs he WILL use me for something great- and I have already sacrificed so much. However I still have that element of feeling lost. I have been reading a daily devotional that is sent to my email inbox, and boy has it ever been messages right from God specifically applicable to me. And he has brought people into my life that have been a huge source of encouragement. Please keep praying for me, Marja. I still need wisdom and guidance, but also protection from the grip of the moods that sway me. Thank you for all of your support. :)

marja said...

Jena: Sometimes it's people like you, people who have so many talents, that have the hardest time to know what to do with their life. When you have so many things that you could do, how could you possibly choose one.

And moods do pose a problem too.

You are an artist, a musician and a writer. Where should you put your energy?

I think it helps to look at life as a series of seasons. A season to write - work on a writing project. A season to put more energy into music, etc.

If you read my latest post you'll see that Pastor Don suggests we listen to our hearts. What breaks our heart? What breaks God's heart? Is there something we can use our talents for to make things better? to heal the problems we see.

Just some thoughts. I don't know if they'll help your thinking. These are such good things to explore and discuss with each other though, aren't they?