Living with Bipolar Disorder has had its challenges, but what continues to inspire me are the lessons this unexpected gift has taught me. Hands down the most important lesson I have learned is to be true to myself, to listen to my inner guidance, and to honour the wisdom of my soul.
I share this piece with you that I wrote several years ago when I was preparing to come out publicly, for the first time, with my mental health struggles. I was working up the courage to read something at the coffee house evening of a weekend conference for women who love the outdoors. I knew they would be a receptive and warm audience, but I was terrified nonetheless. I had close friends and relatives that didn’t really even know what I had been through yet.
In the weeks leading up to the women’s weekend, I kept feeling as though it was time to talk about what I had been through, but I couldn’t find the words. Nothing I had written in my journal was appropriate and although I was motivated everything I was writing wasn’t working. It was important to me that I conveyed the struggle that came with my health issues, but it was equally important that I share the inspiration that came with it too.
Two nights before I left for the weekend I finally felt the inspiration to write. I sat down and this is what I wrote.
When life had me down, feeling endlessly defeated. It was the most unassuming, ordinary miracle that saved me. Brimming with potential and an idea of a full and realized life before it – the acorn is an unlikely candidate for life-altering revelation. Yet this is where my transformation began.
I was young and naïve, brimming with my own potential, yet speaking often the words of others. Acting the intentions of those I admired. Living the dreams and achieving the goals expectantly formed by anyone but me. Don’t get me wrong, I made willful choices. I knew what I was doing, but I was acting on misinformation. My ego was running the show.
Now I’m no philosopher king. I certainly don’t proclaim to know it all. But I have been to the brink of the human experience – twice. And I’ve lived to tell the tale.
It seems to me that for many of us, there comes a time in our life where we finally stare down that voice that incessantly chatters in the back of our mind. You know the one I’m talking about. It’s the voice that deprives you of your freedom to dream. The voice that tells you you’ll never be good enough, have enough, achieve enough, be happy enough. It plays with your true self. Masks you like perfume on a dirty body. It tricks you into believing you’re something you’re not. The authentic you becomes buried in layers, so deep and so heavy.
For me, the more I denied who I was the angrier I became. My expression wasn’t genuine and I knew it, yet there was no one I could blame. No one I could hold to account, shirk my responsibility to and absolve myself of the pain that follows a denial of one’s true self.
Every day was fast becoming more painful than the last, but only in the smallest of increments so that it snuck up on you boiling over in fiery words aimed at the ones you love the most. Starting at the bottom of your feet and hurling itself out of your mouth leaving self-control so embarrassingly in its wake. Gripping you like nothing you’ve ever experienced before.
The process is so terrifyingly foreign to who you really are, what you really feel, how you truly love. Each time you’re left alone in a heap on the floor, unrecognizable and cloaked in self-loathing, shame, sadness.
Who wants to be defined by this? Who ever thought it possible that someone with so much to be grateful for, with enviable possessions, career attainment and social blessings could feel so utterly defeated?
And then one day, in the middle of the hurricane my life had become, I finally saw it – so simple, so ordinary. Yet it was the perfect metaphor to inspire even the slightest of change. There on a sunny afternoon, with warm spring air and flitting yellow butterflies around me I picked up an acorn, and marveled.
I smiled at the potential that acorn possessed. The simple knowing it had for its purpose. Never doubting its own greatness, that one day it would be called into being as a revered and inspired oak tree.
I planted that acorn, bestowing upon it the most genuine of wishes that it would fulfill its truest self. And then the strangest of things began to happen for me. I learned firsthand the blessing of synchronicity as acorns began popping up in my life over and over. Even in the most unlikely of places.
I would take notice and feel warmth ignite in my inner core. I would feel grateful for this reassurance, for the knowing developing inside me that I wasn’t alone, not at all. Not on that floor, not in those moments of self-reprisal, not ever.
It would take a few more years of emotional turmoil, a mental health diagnosis that took courage to accept, and two psychotic breaks from this earthly reality to realize the simple truth that acorn was trying to teach on that warm spring day. And it would be three years later when life was becoming more manageable that I would get the courage to finally ask, “So what the heck is with all the acorns?”
Not too long after, on a regular trip to my local library, ego finally stepped aside. And a whisper from my true self said, “Choose that book”. Opening it to only the most perfect of pages possible, I found myself reading the spiritual symbolic meaning of an acorn.
A tear lined my face as a sense of peace filled my body. It was as though realignment with my true self happened there in that moment. I had finally cut through the chatter and really heard my own inner guidance. I had listened to authentic me. And life gifted me with an ordinary miracle of my own as I read:
The acorn represents a new idea with sacred potential for long-term transformation and power.
As the Zen Buddhists believe – an acorn holds the promise and potential, this much is obvious. But they also believe that if we stop, look carefully, listen between the silence – we can hear the oak tree calling its acorn into existence as the revered and inspired tree it’s meant to be.
I’ve learned it requires patience and practice, but now I know it’s possible. If I stop, if I listen, if I am brave enough to ask of myself, I can hear my calling into my truest, my most revered, my most inspired existence.