So, I was suicidal and without medication and therapy. I had loving concerned parents who were clueless. Things did not look good. They would take me on long car drives. I would sit there catatonic and stare out into the rolling countryside of central Pennsylvania. Things always seem the bleakest right before they fade to black, or so I am told. I was existing in some type of shadow land where everything was black, gray and in between and everything hurt, yet I was numb.

The only therapeutic alternative was to attend the Bipolar support group. I went once a week and listened to other’s stories and sometimes shared my own. The attendees varied from male and females from every social economic group. No one apparently was safe from this chemical imbalance of a brain disorder. There were parents of a young man who took his own life. They were there so they could make some sense of their son’s difficult and ultimately tragic life. What courage they exemplified by being there and listening to one disturbing story after another.

There were loud folks who soaked up as a much attentional as they could and there were the timid quiet voices that were there but participating from the fringes. The check list of different traits and behaviors were always on display. At times, it was humorous and at other times maddening, frustrating and even infuriating. One evening as I listened to one person share I zeroed in on the women on sat at the other end of the table. She always wore a visor with a light in it. Apparently, I learned later that the light from her visor helped in the generation of serotonin. The happy neurochemical which when out of balanced caused or helped to enhance the mood swings and changes in temperament and behavior.

It was that evening that I vowed not to be a statistic. I was not going to be the one in five who chose to bravely go where you could not return. I was going to live. I figured if there was an imbalance that it could be rebalanced. It would be a long, hard, very strange trip but I was resolute that I would make it thru and find a way to leave this dark constant state of dread and pain behind. I never figured that after all the trial and difficulties and challenging work and good luck that after it was all said and done that I would have a beautiful daughter, several successful careers, and adventures and more stories that I would end up right back where I started.

I went full circle. It was like I awoke from a coma and the previous ten years was just a dream. There were beautiful moments, trying times, the good the bad and the ugly experiences. But, somewhere during all that time, I was able at times to manage and persevere. At my best, I was present and productive and at my worst – my shadow side would come into view, and at times take over and lead me a stray and at times to ruin. But, I made that decision not be a data point on a graph. Even though the suicidal thoughts returned and the shadow and the darkness returned and took up residence I am here now to tell everyone who will listen that mental illness, depression, anxiety, and stress can be healed, if not cured but it takes work, practice, and awareness. What doesn’t kill you can truly make you stronger, healthier and can lead you to your higher-self and set you free.

We all have a shadow side that keeps us from our purpose, but there is away and the path can lead us to liberation and freedom and transform ourselves, communities and the world at large.

Jeff S Turnbull


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