Updated: Dec 11, 2019
It is 3 o'clock in the morning and the roads are all but empty. The occasional car breaks the silence of the sleeping city. A siren can be heard in the distance, almost ringing like music. So quiet, the changing traffic lights can be heard clicking as they cycle from green, to yellow, to red, and back over again. A cold breeze fills the air and the faint outline of your breath can be seen as you exhale into the glow of streetlights. Roaming through the streets alone, an almost 30 year old Photographer, no direction in mind, it has been racing for days now. Sleep is the least of his concern. He feels divinely in tune with his surroundings, yet distant. He is chasing art, creativity, peace, calm, and silence to his chaotic thoughts. He's just started a new project where he will document the overlooked, the ignored.. the homeless, those that lay on city streets while the majority of us rest inside of our homes. He finds new friends, he spends time, he gives freely, he prays, he leaves, he writes, he edits his photos, he shares with the world. Generosity kept inside, never shared for recognition. It feels like it is who he is, generous, kind, giving, daring, unafraid and driven. Or... maybe not.
When we are born, we all come into the world with unique differences. Some of us are going to have long hair, and others, short hair. Some of us are going to have darker skin tones, while others have lighter skin tones. Some of us are going to be prone to like art, to like fashion, while others lean towards mathematics or science. Some will play sports, and others will hate to run. Even deeper, some of us will be born with afflictions that we cannot run or hide from.
As a child, I was taught that genuine compassion led to generosity. I learned that charity was the ultimate act of love. Stories of how "Momma(my grandmother)" used to give her last, though she seemingly had none of her own, filled our home. "She would cook and whoever did not have could come here and eat. She turned none away. She passed these things down to us." The grandson of the most charitable lady in her little coastal North Carolina community must be generous, right? If it was passed to my mother, it surely was passed to me. The desire to give my last, it is written on my DNA. These are not impulses. As Grandmother trusted God to say "give" and Mother trusts God to say "give," so also does son.. Or so I thought.
Apart from being taught the beautiful principles of compassion and generosity as a child, I also learned many lessons on my own. Before I remember starting school, I remember learning how to convince myself that life was worth living. Before I learned how to do multiplication and division, I learned how to cope with immense sadness, to smile though I felt like frowning. Before I learned how to ride a bike with no training wheels, I learned how to sneak away into my room to cry, with no understanding of why. Just as a child assumes lessons of compassion and generosity are normal because it's what they have been shown, so a child believes their own life experience is normal. If this is all I have known, I assume others have only known this as well. If these questions and confusions rest in my young mind, they must rest in all young minds. I believed..
What began as sadness and deep questioning as a child, shifted to depressed weeks and months as a teen. When others found ways to deal, I turned to self harm. When others could quote "be anxious for nothing" and trust the words, I sank deeper. Alcohol, pills, sleep.. Whatever to shift my mind from these dark days. Storms are normal for every individual placed in this world. But when the stormy days seem to outweigh the calm, when the rough waters seem to come more than peaceful, we start searching for answers. Nothing bad had to trigger these days, nothing heavy had to be on my plate, nothing terrible had to be in my view. Just sadness for seemingly no apparent reason.
Through college I found myself stuck in my dorm room far more days than I found myself sitting under the lessons of my teachers. While wrestling with incredible anxiety, of which I thought rested on the fact that I could not pick the right outfit each day, I began to wonder if there were underlying issues that continued to bring me to depression's front door. Anxiety was present, I could not go to class. Suicide was on my mind, I could not stop crying. Depression was resting on me, I could not get out of the bed in my dorm room. I needed serious help, but I avoided it, fearing that I would be judged or viewed differently. I kept fighting silently..
Eventually my hidden battle led to an early departure from college and a move back home. Over the course of the next five to six years, I found myself repeating the same cycle. The scary part, things only intensified with time. What used to last a week or two, now rested in my life for months. What used to be fleeting thoughts of ending my life, now stuck in my mind as reasonable solutions. I made drastic decisions without thinking. I quit jobs without any notice. I moved across state lines without planning. I thought I was just chasing something deeper. I thought I was looking for happiness or peace. Little did I know I was very out of touch with myself.
Patrick, the risk taker! That's how my friends know me. Charming, approachable, kind, artistic.. those things describe me. But at the same time, cold, distant, closed off, low.. that is also me. Just the normal ups and downs we all go through, right? The complexity of human beings. But what happens when those come uncontrollably? What happens when we are high today, and low tomorrow? What happens when depression creeps without any warning or reason, when highs come and don't allow our minds to rest, almost to the point of torture?
Over the course of the last five years, I have watched as depression, anxiety, and much more have crippled me on days when I needed to show up the most. Impulse has hurt me at times. Obsessive thinking has caused me to lose trust in people who did nothing wrong to me. Reality has sometimes slipped away from my hands, without me even realizing. Elevated self confidence has made me arrogant and mean at times, and I've also hated all about myself in times where things were the opposite. I have been passionate about a career change on Monday, and unsure about it on Friday. Yet, with the bad, I have witnessed good. Through the inconsistency that so often plagues those like me, I have found constant friendships. If anything has remained, it is those who stand around me. Accepting the worst of me, while protecting me from public ridicule and shame. I have found a love for art and an ability to express myself in many ways. I have learned to make much of the highs, plucking each idea and creative urge from them as fruit from a tree.
Over the course of the last two years, I have struggled to live at times. I have wrestled greatly with highs and lows, so crippling that the idea of giving up brought me peace. While sitting in those classic cushioned chairs in that dimly lit office, my therapist quietly asked, "How are you feeling? It is not easy being Bipolar." I just smiled, shook my head, and said "It feels horrible, but at least I'm not alone.."
We meet moments in life that cause us to question all we know. That is necessary. The past is gone, yet life has caused me to go back and analyze each step. Bold risk taker or impulse? Reality or illusion? Foreknowledge or loss of reality? True view of self or grandiosity? The most difficult to answer, compassion or impulse? I do not know. For that reason, I have found myself generously confused.
So, here I am.. Sharing my fight. Sharing my story. No more hiding. Willing to take people questioning me. Willing to take people not trusting my word. We've all got something to fight, something to conquer, something to live with.. this is mine.
I love yall..