The Best Bradley I Can Be

I’ve had many good things in my life. I have much to be grateful for. However, life has been hell. The confusion, memory loss, insecurities, manic episodes, depressive episodes and all the negative self talk made for some miserable times.

I was relieved when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Finally it had a name. Finally, many things in my life could be explained. Finally I found out that, yes, I am crazy, however, I am not entirely insane. Thank God for better living through chemistry and therapy. I’m healthier and happier. Unfortunately, I’m not “fixed,” and, unless some miracle drug is developed, I never will be.

Today, and everyday, I will be the best Bradley I can be. My only problem is that I don’t know what that is. What is the best Bradley? Who is the best Bradley? Can the best Bradley drive a car? Can the best Bradley attend classes? Can the best Bradley go to work? My doctors have given me the green light on two of those: driving and school. I’d like to think I can do more. Sadly, I’m not so sure I’m capable. Currently I’m thinking that even school may be more than I can handle.

Should I be attending college right now? Well, my doctors gave me the ok, but weren’t 100% sure it was time.  It hasn’t been going well. I’ve dropped so many classes that currently I’m on academic suspension. Basically that means I need to do well this semester or I’m out of there. That thought alone continually triggers my anxiety, therefore, making it hard for me to focus, therefore, becoming a self fulfilling prophesy.

Is it too soon? Is it too soon for me to return to work? My doctors seem to think so. I seem to think so. But, what about going back to school? What about being on numerous committees at church? Have I pushed beyond the limitations that I currently am able to handle? Have I pushed beyond the limitations that I ever will have? This isn’t normal self doubt. This is way past that. Everyone second guesses their decisions at one time or another. For someone like me it’s debilitating.  Every day I have to ask myself, “Am I being the best Bradley, I can be?”

Am I happy or am I manic?  Do I have the blues or am I depressed?  As my pdoc said to me, “Those are the big questions.”  Not real helpful there, Doc.  But he’s right.  Now that I am mostly centered it’s hard to judge my moods.

I have a very difficult exam tomorrow.  I am not prepared for it.  I have so much to study and I’ve barely scratched the surface.  I’ve had way too much distraction.  Have I been procrastinating?  You bet your ass I have. But it’s not the type of procrastination of the type that I just don’t feel like studying. I know that studying is not fun, I know that studying is boring, but I also know that studying is necessary to pass this exam and possibly this course.  Yet, I’ve felt paralyzed.  Studying was never my strong suit, so it’s not anything new.  But, as my therapist says, I’m not the guy who struggled with undiagnosed bipolar disorder.  I’m passed that, he says. He emphasizes that the new me doesn’t know what my potentials are. I don’t know, yet, what my abilities are.

What does the best Bradley I can be look like? I don’t know all those answers yet. It will probably take some time. Until then I’ll have to live by one simple rule: Be the best Bradley I can be right now. If I keep that rule, I’ll be okay.

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