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  • Writer's pictureNazifa Islam

On Turning 30

Updated: Jul 12, 2020

I turned thirty a couple days ago, which set me thinking about the last decade. Simply put: My twenties were hard. I spent the first half of them knowing something was very wrong and with no idea how to fix it. In 2015 (which is also the year my dad died of lung cancer) I learned officially that the “something” was bipolar disorder and that there was no real fix.

There was therapy. There was trialing medication after medication (more than 25+ different meds in various combinations over the course of a decade) trying to find the right fit. There was the sinking ever-present feeling of failure and panic when medication after medication didn't work. There were incredibly kind humans who were so generous with their time, willing to listen and offer support I had a hard time believing I deserved. There was guilt—terrible horrible strangling guilt—over asking for help. There were people who made it clear that they thought I should feel guilty about asking for help. I remember the kindness and the cruelty in equal measure.

Of course, good things also happened in my twenties. I adopted two cats who make me very happy to spend most of my time at home. I became a better writer and a better painter. I published. I found a job with coworkers I love and that is incredibly supportive of the realities of my mental health situation. I learned what real friendship should look like and how it should feel.

But bipolar disorder does tinge everything. I remain so curious about what my life would look like (and who I would be) if I didn’t have this diagnosis. I’m pretty sure I’d have more friends, more energy, more plans for the future, less bitterness, less fear, fewer medical expenses, less of a morbid sense of humor.

In just the last couple years, I finally found a medication that does work. That being said, I’m still fine tuning my med regimen looking for the best possible fit. A good medication fit does not fix bipolar disorder—it makes tackling the day-to-day realities of bipolar disorder actually feasible and not so crushingly difficult. I’m lucky to have professional mental health support that I feel 100% sure I can count on.

My sincere hope is that my thirties will not be so hard. The timing might seem funny given that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, but I am striving for some optimism right now. This last decade wasn’t what I wanted it to be. It was difficult enough that I am out of practice when it comes to looking toward the future and imagining that my life can be fulfilling and worthwhile. But maybe my thirties will surprise me. I’m really hoping they surprise me.

I guess the goal is to embody this quote from my favorite book, Anne of Green Gables:

“Anne, with her elbows on the window sill, her soft cheek laid against her clasped hands, and her eyes filled with visions, looked out unheedingly across city roof and spire to that glorious dome of sunset sky and wove her dreams of a possible future from the golden tissue of youth’s own optimism. All the Beyond was hers with its possibilities lurking rosily in the oncoming years—each year a rose of promise to be woven into an immortal chaplet.”

Why not weave some lofty dreams? There’s no harm in trying and hoping, right?

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