I’m the type of person who is never late. In fact, I show up 15 minutes early to being early. Early for work, early to dinner, early to dates. The feeling of running late has always given me a sense of horrible anxiety. Running late makes me feel as if time is chasing me, nipping at my reluctant heels.
But recently I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been running late for my entire life. I’m about 4 years late to apologizing for myself. I’m a decade late to explaining myself. And I’m a lifetime late to forgiving myself. I’ve been a lot of things in my 25 years of life. I’ve been light: a student, a worker, a nomad, a poet, a songwriter, a friend, a lover, a daughter, an aunt. And I’ve been dark: an addict, an insomniac, a recluse. I’ve been absorbed by darkness more times than I care to admit. I think what I fail to remember, though, is that I’m more often absorbed by light. I allowed the darkness that has so often consumed me to define my soul. I’ve forgiven others, I’ve allowed them to forgive me, but I’ve failed to do something that I don’t often think about: I’ve failed to forgive myself.
I was diagnosed 10 years ago. It seems so strange to think that I’ve been dealing with this illness for a decade. I think I’ve been fighting with myself since then too. I could never understand my own sadness. I would often say to myself, “You have no right to be sad.” I started to believe that, and then I started feeling guilty because I was feeling emotions that I couldn’t explain. I couldn’t explain my depression or my mania, so I felt at fault. I blamed myself for making my parents worry about me. I blamed myself for keeping my little brother awake when I couldn’t sleep at night. I blamed myself for struggling with bipolar disorder. I thought I was broken. I desperately longed to just be “normal” like my siblings. I held out hope for a future that didn’t require prescriptions and therapy.
I fought against my illness like a prizefighter, but in reality I was a rookie in the ring opposite an opponent who far outmatched me. I spent years going off of my medications then back on them. I repeated that cycle like a bad Ferris wheel: up and down, up and down. I went to more therapists than I can count on one hand, lying to each one along the way. I lied about when the sadness started. I lied about why I used the pills the way that I did. I lied to them out loud, over and over again. But what I didn’t realize back then was that I was also lying to myself, so much more than I had ever lied to anyone else. I had myself convinced that I could only be darkness; I believed I could only feel pain and sadness. So why fight it? Why let them help me?
About 4 years ago, something changed. I was 21. I was still an addict. I was lonely. I was sad. And perhaps, worst of all, I was empty. I had hollowed myself out of anything light in order to preserve my darkness. Perhaps I thought that allowing myself to be dark would keep me protected. Perhaps I thought it would protect the people I loved. But I woke up one morning and decided I didn’t want to be those things anymore. I deserved to not be those things anymore. I deserved to get better. I decided that day, in February of 2012, that I was done. I was done making excuses for my pain. I was done fighting myself. I was ready to stop fighting myself, and I was ready to start fighting my illness. Bipolar disorder versus Megan Littler: I was ready for that fight.
I took that opportunity, that energy, to make an appointment with a counselor, my first in years. I also made an appointment with my doctor to have my medications adjusted so I could start feeling real again. It’s been almost four years now, and I’m still sober. I’m stable, and I’m happy too. I saw the birth of my niece, who is the sunshine in my world. I met the love of my life. I came clean with myself. I looked in the mirror last week to say, “I’m here to apologize for all that I have put you through. I’m sorry I’m so late.”
If you’re reading this, I hope you remember that it is never too late to find your hope. It is never too late to find your light.
It is never too late.