Before Christmas, I was so worried.
What if I don't feel well on Christmas morning and I can't get excited about the present my husband gives me? Will he feel disappointed?
What if I feel awful the whole time I am visiting my family and I can't push through the pain? Will I just be miserable and bring misery to everyone else?
What if I am in mania and it reaches a peak of intensity while I'm with other people? How will I manage to hide it from everyone?
What if I am in a low depression and can't help but cry? How will everyone react to me crying for no reason?
What if I don't sleep for several days? What will I do for hours in the middle of the night at someone else's house?
All of these thoughts and about 10,000 more were on my mind before Christmas. I couldn't stop thinking about them and worrying. I prayed and pleaded with God several times to help me feel good for Christmas, but if not, then to help me find the strength and peace to endure my trials with the JOY that only the Savior can bring, the JOY that comes from knowing that all of this has a glorious purpose.
My little family celebrated our "Christmas morning" on the 23rd before we left to visit my family. I woke up that morning with my mania continuing on from several days before, but it wasn't very intense, so I was able to feel real excitement and joy as I opened the new guitar!! my husband gave me. I was so glad to feel genuine happiness in that moment, not just for me, but for my husband. I wanted him to feel my appreciation and my love, which I'm sure is hard for him to feel when I am faking happiness. I'm sure he can see right through the mask I try to hide behind, so I was beyond thankful to be able to feel real happiness, for him.
If that would have been the only way my prayers were answered, I would have felt God's love and mindfulness, but even more miracles were yet to come.
After a little while, we left to drive to my family's house. On our drive, I switched from mania to depression. I could tell that I was going to switch soon, because the mania was slowing down and my energy fleeing. My husband and I talked about what a blessing it was for me to switch into depression, because it's much easier to push through the pain of depression than the pain of mania. I felt peace that everything was going to be ok. I no longer felt worried at all, just completely filled with peace.
We got to my family's house and I was having such a good time visiting with everyone that I didn't have a chance to feel the sadness of depression anymore. Two times when I sat down and was still for a little while, I felt the sadness rise, almost to the point of crying, but I never actually cried. I was able to crochet several little projects, play silly games with my siblings, talk with my adult siblings, laugh, and really enjoy my time visiting with everyone. My mind was clear, my smile genuine, and my energy high. I wanted to do things, which is a rare and precious gift. I didn't feel weighed down by the heavy burdens of mental illness at all. I felt happiness and JOY at the same time, the whole time!
On Sunday, I was able to go to a combined ward Christmas program at my parents' church building and see so many old friends! I felt so much support, love, and strength as I received warm hugs and encouraging words from people I hadn't seen in years, and yet their love remained unchanged. The combination of feeling love from friends, wearing makeup for the first time since all this bipolar started (haha), and hearing beautiful Christmas music made my heart overflow with JOY.
We drove home to Iowa after church, and I felt genuinely happy the whole 4 1/2 hours in the car. I was so relieved that everything went well with our travels and felt so thankful to have received a wonderful Christmas miracle.
I guess I didn't recognize the extent of my miracle until my little family sat down to watch a Christmas movie together in the evening after returning home, and the dark, heavy bag of depression returned on my heart. I couldn't help but cry, even though there was nothing to cry about. I cried through the whole movie as the sadness became more and more overwhelming. But I felt so thankful in my heart at the same time that God had given me a Christmas miracle and that He gave me the strong return of depression to help me recognize what a valuable gift I had been given.