I find an incomparable amount of inspiration and strength from other people's stories about living with bipolar. Regardless of cultural, financial, or social differences there is universal connection between all of us. Our very different minds share something at a structural level that others simply can't understand. Everything inside of me, everything that I've struggled with my whole life, can be explained from their point of view as if we have lived parallel lives. When I originally came to that realization I started this blog. All 30 years on this earth I felt I had no one to relate to and didn't know one person who could relate to me. I was finding that for the first time in my life I wasn't completely alone. Strangers from all over the world shared the darkest, oddest, and most terrifying parts of my mind. I wanted to put my story out there to continue the chain of connection and understanding. Each story serves to strengthen our minds and eliminate feelings of isolation. We do this in order to fight for a better quality of life.
Another link in the chain that is our survival is "Bipolar Victory" by Ray and Linda Sturt. Before I knew anything about them or their story I got to meet them at one of their book signings. You would never assume a day in your life either one of these people had suffered a moment in the hell that is the parasite's grip. They were happy. Genuinely happy people, smiles so warm and big you knew they came from an unshakable inner foundation. How could I have just met two joyous and lively individuals as friendly and wonderful as these two and they just put out a book about their family's struggle with bipolar.....? Ah, the title is "Bipolar Victory." For myself and countless others we still fight daily, sometimes each minute, to even convince ourselves there might be a light at the end of the tunnel. They must have a piece of the puzzle that many of us don't know about.
Ray tells his story starting with his humble childhood, the full spectrum from him growing up, facing life's difficulties, to his eventual bipolar consumption. It's interesting to get a good understanding of his personality and then see the negative effect the disorder has on it. An outside view like that is priceless since we cannot look at ourselves that same way. Even though his early and adult life are a whole world away from mine he's incredibly easy to relate to- I felt like I knew who Ray Sturt was. Before the bipolar monster manifested he shows a lot of the good qualities that are rooted in personality. A lot of sufferers wonder if their behavior is the disorder or them, a life long struggle of not knowing if they are of good character or not. Ray is pleasant, flawed, lovable and human.
The Sturt's are also very honest. They didn't hide their flaws, disorder related or not. Ray's bipolar didn't surface until he was in his 40's so he had an entire lifetime to establish himself, his family, his place within his church, his place within the community, and as the hard working machinist he became. You get to enjoy the evolution of a man, who overcame living in a less than perfect home, create value in himself when others didn't always see it. After learning about the gentle but strong willed person who shaped his adult and family life to include so much happiness despite his hardships, you get to see how and when the disorder strikes. It's almost like a plot twist in a movie. It's a book about bipolar- you know it's coming but each story is different and the Sturt's is very unique.
I cried. I read a few chapter through tears. I was crying for Ray, his family, and out of sympathy. I was crying because of how it had changed this person you had come to know and empathize with, and I was crying because I knew all too well everything he talks about experiencing. You go from reading about Ray to feeling like you're reading your own life's story. It's reinforcement that this is a very real medical issue. It can take over and change anyone- regardless of strength, personality, personal integrity, effort, circumstances, environment, you name it. It's something deep withing the brain and Ray was hit hard.
One of my favorite parts of this book is that you get both Ray and Linda's perspectives. His wife also writes explaining her point of view and her thoughts. I was glued to these chapters. I've been frustrated as a bipolar person feeling disconnected with people because my view of the world doesn't seem to line up with theirs. I don't want to be the same but I want to understand. I can only imagine how terrifying and confusing it must be on the other end- especially close loved ones. Linda's words were a wonderful insight into the other side of this whole confusing debacle of a disorder. You get to read about her joyous moments and her most painful. I think about her love and dedication to Ray often. It gives me hope that having bipolar doesn't mean being excluded from the concept of romantic love or having failed relationship after failed relationship, something I know a lot of us struggle with.
The Sturt family does achieve victory over bipolar. They find their own personal way out of the misery that is over a decade of struggling. I loved reading their story and highly recommend it for anyone who has bipolar and for loved ones of someone who suffers from it. I think about Ray and his family often. They have further instilled hope in my life, that happiness can be achieved, and even that one day it will be easier to cope with a bipolar life.