Special People: The Real Blessing in My Life

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Eight months ago, I flew into San Diego, ahead of all my worldly possessions packed into six or seven cartons. My marriage in New Jersey had broken up, my cash reserves were running on empty, my business was in chaos, and I was facing the real prospect of personal bankruptcy. I just wanted to sleep and not wake up.


    So when Kay recently wrote in response to my last two or three blogs, "I can't help but think that you are flaunting your good lifestyle for people like me," it hit a raw nerve.


    I had written about going to Disney World, speaking at a conference, and seeing a museum exhibit. We're not talking about caviar and champagne on Bill Gates' yacht.

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    Kay admitted to being "envious" of me, to which I'm tempted to reply, let's trade cars and see if you feel the same way. But who cares? What I am blessed with are very special people in my life. These include my grown daughter, Emily, who is a delight, my mother who has seen me through the best of times and the worst of times, and my brother and sister-in-law who give meaning to value in family values.


    Some of the special people in my life deserve special mention. First, there is Colleen, founder of Bipolar World, who encouraged me to write about my illness, soon after I was diagnosed in early 1999. Channeling my writing to help others soon brought me out of the dark hole I was in. It was the first critical step in my healing.


    Then there is Susan. I may have crawled out of my dark hole, but I was living in isolation. Susan is a generous spirit and brilliant writer who resurrected me back into the world. Sometime in 2001, she submitted some articles to my website. We struck up a correspondence and finally met in 2003. In 2004 we got married. Unfortunately, the marriage did not work out, but I owe a lot of where I am today to her. Things will never be as they were, but in due course, when the time is right, I am looking forward to mending fences.


    Paul was there for me when my marriage imploded. He had been subscribing to my email Newsletter since about 2000. He is one of those unsung and selfless advocates who give and expect nothing in return. Our respective paths had crossed a number of times, and over time we developed a fast friendship. So when he found out my marriage had broken up and that I was emailing him from a Red Roof Inn, he generously offered me a room at his place. Living with Paul has resulted in a virtual bipolar brain trust. We literally spark off one another. Ideas crystallize, energy is tapped. Productivity soars. Significant healing results.


    I first met Angela at a DBSA conference in 2000. She is a spreader of light in a world filled with ignorance. No one pays her for her efforts. She has a mission to perform and doesn't let little things like million-to-one odds get in her way. She has always been an inspiration to me. When we have occasion to cross paths, I try to grab as much "Angela time" as I can, before other people make demands on her. We have remained in email contact since we first met, and more recently we became phone buddies. No one understands where I'm coming from like Angela. She is there to share my small triumphs, to provide a sympathetic shoulder to cry on, and to give me a swift kick on the pants when I deserve it.


    Then there is "Jane." Jane is the mother of two bipolar children, and is a volunteer in the Child and Adolescent Bipolar Foundation, which educates and assists parents and the public. Jane has been a subscriber to my Newsletter since about 1999, when we first started corresponding. We first met at a DBSA conference in 2002, and we've had occasion to see each other socially a number of times since. Bipolar moms are my favorite people. In a world that seems specially designed to fail their kids, these moms have had no choice but to become heroes. Compassionate, intelligent, empathic, and indomitable, are adjectives that come to mind. Jane is one of those people I'm forever bouncing ideas off. More recently, she has mentored me through my marriage break-up. Thanks to Jane, I have been able to regroup and learn some valuable lessons.

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    And where would I be without Janice Papolos, co-author of "The Bipolar Child"? Janice and her husband Demitri literally put early-onset bipolar on the map, much to the gratitude of tens of thousands of parents and the enmity of a handful of ignoramuses in the antipsychiatry movement. Janice first befriended me back when she was a best-selling author and I was a nobody. She would always greet me like a long-lost friend. When she found out I was just finishing a manuscript to a book, she mentored me and found me a publisher. The way to repay my debt to Janice is to learn from her generosity. One day, I will be in a position to help someone the way Janice helped me. In the meantime, I give in whatever ways I can.


    Those are some of my old special people. But I would be remiss to not mention a new special person, "Magnolia." I met Magnolia in Orlando at the DBSA conference. She heard both of my talks and I signed a copy of my book for her. Magnolia represents one of those fortuitous encounters that makes each day worth getting up for, no matter what your brain may be telling you at the time. After the conference wrapped up, we just happened to strike up a conversation. Then we were sipping root beer floats in Downtown Disney across the street. At once, it was like we had known each other for years. Her life-affirming presence belies her time spent in darkness. She is a strong believer in giving back, and she does it unheralded at the local level.


    I can't even begin to pay tribute to the numerous others who have helped me along the way, people generous with their advice and encouragement and support, who made my day brighter, who were there to validate my life when I was ready to throw in the towel, and who gave me a reason to get up in the morning. My life is incredibly richer on account of them. So is my faith in humanity.


    Between my illness and the vicissitudes of life, I know there is no escape from dark times. But thanks to the special people in my life, I will not face them alone. Many of these people have seen me through my worst moments. Thanks to them, the dark was less dark and shorter. Thanks to them, I have also had my bright shining moments, with more luminescence over longer periods. Thanks to them, I am able to look today and tomorrow in the eye.


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    So to Kay, I know you don't want to be patronized, so I'll serve it straight up. A short while ago I had nothing. All I had were my special people. I'm the luckiest person in the world.

Published On: August 20, 2007