2017 brings a small miracle with it

Jane Reddington

Sounder Staff

Tuesday, January 10 2017

My children went plunging into the water at Taylor Bay for the polar bear swim on New Year’s Day and I couldn’t have been more proud. We had blankets in the back of the car and later we went for a hot chocolate. 

With these bracing temperatures, it’s never felt more like winter is truly here. Night time means drawing close to the fire, finishing the post-Christmas puzzle and keeping the tree up just a little longer because there really is nothing like it.

2017 is a momentous year for me, marking the 20th anniversary of living with the chronic, debilitating, mental illness that is bipolar. 

Talking with a friend the other day, I reflected and thought about how much having a mental illness has shaped every decision I’ve made since April 11, 1997, when I was diagnosed in the Emergency of a Montreal hospital. 

The life I have built with my husband and my two children here on this island of paradise is truly the greatest gift and I have never lived anywhere for as long as I have lived here, these 11 years, on Gabriola.

But there have been many years between then and now when I couldn’t find my way through the trees to the light in the pasture, when I stumbled along day after day, wishing for another way through, wishing that I could just stop and rest indefinitely.

Twenty years later, I realize life had plans for me. To write, to be part of this great community, to live in Calgary, Montreal and Ottawa, to make every second of this life count. I have learned how to manage my illness so that it is a part of me but not all of me.

For me, 2017, is like a miracle. I’m still alive. I am still breathing, sometimes fighting for the day, but every day I wake up in this new, miraculous year, I can say that I made it and that’s about all I could ask for.

And yet, I still want to learn more about living better with this illness. This past week, I talked to organizers at the People for a Healthy Community about a new workshop for people living with chronic conditions and I thought perhaps they might accept me.

I am eager to learn strategies to limit how my illness affects my daily life and to see if I can work with a peer group on setting goals and meeting challenges that elude me.

The workshop is free and starts January 19, 2017, at the fire hall. It’s a new year, perhaps a great time to acquire some new skills for creating better health and relationships. It seems to me that the greatest challenges always come with a silver lining. Perhaps mine will be realizing my #1 job is taking care of myself and all that entails.