This December I turn fifty. In June, I received a birthday card celebrating my 49 ½ birthday - as if I needed that reminder. Of any age, turning 50 has been the bitterest to swallow. It’s not so much the number as it is the unwelcome changes in my body: crows feet; gray hairs; extra belly fat; night sweats; and the aches and pains I feel after a work out. Inside, I feel great. My hospitalization and the new change in meds has brought such beautiful quiet to a mind which can tend towards too much chatter. I feel young and invigorated. Frankly, I wish my outsides matched the youthfulness I feel on the inside.
One thing I’ve learned about living with a mental health disorder, you always have a choice when managing unwelcome thoughts and feelings. Having struggled with deep depression across my lifetime, I’ve learned to turn my thoughts towards the positive. Living in the shadows of negativity was never a viable option, not if I wanted to stay on this planet and make a meaningful contribution. On the flip side, choosing to slow down my brain when it runs a million miles a minute and letting go of the desire to save others from their self-inflicted difficulties has been an effective way to manage mania.
My husband and I have been discussing what life should look now that we’re entering our 6th decade on the planet. One thing I’ve chosen is a part time teaching position rather than full time. I am also pursuing an adjunct position at a local community college, so I can pour into the next generation of teachers. I may not have all the energy of my 20s and 30s, but I have a store of wisdom to share with those entering a profession that I love.
In short, I’m trying to approach my 50th birthday as a blessing rather than a curse - something I have practiced across my life. When unwelcome events happen, choices come in so many varieties. Over the years, I have chosen life over death, joy over sadness, and peace over railing against life’s “unfairness.” In that way, I’ve developed the beauty that lasts - a gentle and quiet spirit that bends rather than breaks in turbulent times and learns to dance even in the rain.