April 12, 2014 by Kara Nichols
If I told you that I tried out for a talent search at my local mall a few years ago, would you believe me? No, you wouldn’t. Not if you know me at all.
But I totally did.
I was manic and while walking through the mall I saw this stage set up and thought that it was part of an elaborate plan to make me famous. I got in line, went up on the stage that was set up between Hallmark and the food court, and said lines promoting a clothing store. There were probably 50 people watching, mainly parents of the other participants who were for the most part under the age of 10. My palms were a little sweaty but I enjoyed being on stage, which is amazing because you couldn’t pay me to do something like that when I’m in my right mind. I didn’t land a commercial but I did learn something.
Doing that lame talent search taught me that there can be humor in the middle of craziness and also that there is an extrovert buried somewhere inside of me. 😉
I am proud of getting up on that stage and totally working it. It cracks me up to think that I was so fearless and did something so out of character. It wasn’t exactly my big break at the River Ridge Mall in Lynchburg, Virginia, but I walked away feeling proud and inspired. I left my comfort zone in the dust.
When I was first diagnosed with bipolar I saw it as a death sentence. An incurable, life long brain disease is kind of a bummer. But I’m now 13 years into this I see my experience as an opportunity to help others. When you break it down an estimated 26.2 percent of Americans ages 18 and older — about one in four adults — suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. When applied to the 2004 U.S. Census residential population estimate for ages 18 and older, this figure translates to 57.7 million people. And if you aren’t personally affected by the likes of issues like depression or anxiety, you surely know someone who does suffer. That’s a lot of people who are desperate for hope.
While things like medication management, peer support, and preventive care are great tools to help someone who is suffering, I believe that the spiritual component is the key to freedom from despair after a diagnosis. When I didn’t have a relationship with God I thought that if he did exist, he was a big bully in the sky who punished me with bipolar for no good reason. Once I made peace with God I was able to see my life in a new light. I saw my disease with new purpose and hope. And this isn’t limited to mental illness. Those who suffer from cancer or diabetes or any other disease can also make peace with God and become advocates for hope.
I no longer think that my being bipolar was just bad luck or genes. I believe I am called to help to dispel of the stigma that comes with wearing the crazy crown, and also encourage those who must face their diagnosis every day.
I don’t think I will be trying out for talent competitions any time soon, but you never can tell with me, and that’s what makes life an adventure.