Image Jan.1st 2017.
When growing up, I remember hearing many adults saying; time passes so quickly, life is precious, the years just fly by, life is so short. I couldn’t figure out why they would say these things over and over again. Life to me was just beginning, I had no concept or worry about time much less the passing years. I was young and awestruck by all of the possibilities for fun, friends, adventure and success. I believed I was going to live forever!
Now that I am 63, I find that I am saying all of the same statements that I heard so many years ago. Time is precious and life is short. As much as I wish I could slow the rapid progression of passing time, I realize I cannot. I have also reluctantly accepted that I will not live forever.
For the last few years, I have joined other swimming friends to celebrate the New Year by taking a plunge (Polar Bear Dip) in Okanagan Lake. On Jan.1st, 2017, I wore an evening gown as my blog image depicts and had my husband carry me to the water’s edge. The temperature was -2, and the winds were howling. I didn’t know it at the time but I was in a hypomanic state and thought the conditions were fantastic. My feet got tangled up in my gown after we had submerged ourselves and when I managed to finally stand up, I fell in the water face first. I had to have 2 other swimmers grab my arms and drag me to shore. I was hysterical with laughter and I was also hypothermic. It took me several hours to warm up and my husband had a concerned look on his face for the entire time. He said at one point, "you are going to kill yourself doing those crazy things." I just laughed and said I felt so invigorated I couldn’t possibly stop swimming on New Year's Day.
Maybe it was a premonition my husband had, but when I shifted in early January from a hypomanic state to a very aggressive depressive state due to my newly confirmed diagnosis of late-onset bipolar disorder, I had lost my will to live. I felt powerless, hopeless and in great despair. Even though my husband told me every day that I would get well, my mind and body were deteriorating so quickly I felt I would never be well. By early March I was having suicidal thoughts as I didn’t want to be a burden to my family. By the end of March, I made a painful journey to my beloved lake to do a one-way swim with no return to shore. I knew it would be a matter of just minutes before I would succumb to the frigid waters. My heart would slow down, my organs would cease to function and my brain would start to shut down. All of my pain would stop as I looked at the sky, thought about my family and let myself go.
By some divine intervention, two teenage guys were walking the beach and saw me standing in the water up to my knees. They asked me if I was crazy and with tears in my eyes, I replied in a whisper, yes I am. They helped me back to my car and asked me if I was alright to drive home. I told them I was when I really was not. I somehow made it home where I wept and trembled and called my husband. When he came rushing home and I told him with tears streaming down my face what I had done. My husband started to cry and we held each other for a very long time.
I embarked on a long and difficult journey of treatment and recovery in 2018. My husband and children’s love and support were steadfast. Several months later I was stabilized and starting to feel better. I returned to the lake in August to complete a 7k swim. This time the water was warm and healing. My cognitive functions had returned and I was able to resume my business. I slowly rebuilt my social and professional networks and most of all I was able to love myself and my family again.
Tomorrow on Jan.1st I will return to the lake to submerge myself in the icy waters to celebrate that I am alive, I am well and that I finally realize how precious life is. I don’t feel like I need to make a list of New Year’s resolutions, I already know what I want to do in 2019. I want to grow my business, I want to speak and advocate for people who are suffering from mental illness. I want to love and devote myself to my family and most of all I want to be eternally humble and grateful for my abundant life.
I wish all of my Bebee friends a truly healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.