This article is from Candlex Column: My Story with Depression. This column is dedicated to raising awareness about depression and bipolar disorder through sharing personal stories, experiences, perspectives and reflections.
All articles are written by CandleX community members. Today we will read Marco Brundelre’s story, with an introduction by Xiaojie Qin.
Every time I see Marco, he has a big smile on his face. It’s warm and welcoming. You wouldn’t guess that he is fighting his own battle against depression and bipolar. It’s hard to live with bi-polar disorder, the random ups and downs can throw you off your feet. Still, he has that smile on his face, even when he tells you that he’s not feeling well. He chooses to do the best he can, to help himself, and now by sharing this story, to help others.
We all deal with life’s difficulties in our own way. I use yoga. Marco relies on his love of the universe.
Love in the Time of the Universe-Marco’s Story with Depression
“Science is not only compatible with spirituality; it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.”
Bipolar! That was the diagnosis. I was a manic depressive; Type 1 to be exact. I had a sneaking suspicion throughout my life that perhaps I didn’t handle life situations in the same way that the “average” person would. But hey, at least I wasn’t crazy. A bit melodramatic sure, but thank God, “I’m not bipolar.” Oh wait…damn it….
In August of 2013, I was hospitalized after having a severe breakdown in Beijing. My older brother was living along with me at the time, and he thought that after six years living overseas, perhaps it was time for me to return to the US and take a break from the stresses of living in China, not to mention concerns regarding proper treatment.
Six months later, after countless hours of psychiatric care, talk therapy, the most debilitating period of depression I have ever experienced and most of my savings spent on treatment, I was finally able to return to Beijing. I had been living with my sister and new brother-in-law (I insist on calling him a brother, rather than just my sister’s husband) in Los Angeles, and their endless patience, along with the support of my parents and older brother, helped me to survive a time when I was nearly non-functional, barely able to get myself out of bed in the morning, much less work or otherwise be in any way productive. Upon my return however, I quickly found myself not only trying to pick up the pieces, but struggling to ground myself in an environment that had somewhat left me behind in the time that I was away. I had to start anew, in someplace old.
Slowly but surely, I was able to build a life again. Fortunately, I had built myself a strong social network in my time here, and had even created what I thought of as my “core” group of friends, my family away from home. They watched, and ultimately participated, in my journey from surviving, to struggling, to succeeding, to perhaps even flourishing in China. I cannot stress how essential my strong family and reliable friends have been to navigating the occasionally dark, and even extremely dark, waters of my own existence. For a solid year and a half, life was generally tolerable, and at times wonderful.
And then…disaster. What had been given was ultimately taken away. My new joy for life had relied on something unreliable, and I found myself consumed by the great existential abyss once again. I was alone, surrounded by those who cared. It was an old, familiar experience. But this time was different. This time at least those around me knew what was going on, having previously been exposed by the aforementioned breakdown. There was nowhere to hide, and no point in hiding. I knew there were those who I could not only trust, but trust to not pass judgment.
There was something else that was different as well. In the past, I had previously sought solace in the arms of religion, and philosophy, and both had been stalwarts for me. But, for whatever reason, science had come into my life, and helped me to stay afloat in those dreaded waters. By chance, I had previously introduced to a website called waitbutwhy.com, and so began my journey into the fascinating world of the Cosmos. I devoured most of the articles on the website, exploring everything from Artificial Intelligence, to SpaceX and Tesla, to colonizing Mars (!!!) to sociology, to history, and ultimately, to the Universe.
It started with stars; the immensity of stars. So distant, and yet so profoundly intimate, our stellar ancestors. “The Cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” Those simple words by Carl Sagan had become my new personal philosophy. Profoundly spiritual, it was the vehicle upon which I could understand my own place in the Universe, as well as explain it to others. For me, science did not replace the mystics of the Catholic Church, nor Plato, nor Augustine, nor Thomas Merton, but instead somehow reinforced what they had all been communicating. We are all unimaginably small, and every one of us should remain in awe at the overwhelming immensity of the Universe. Science, to put it simply, had become mind-blowing, and every day became an exciting new opportunity to stretch t