Please welcome Ben Kennedy of Pie Bowler Benny

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I became friends with Ben Kennedy over social media this past fall when he emailed me about my blog, BipolarMomLife. His email described the extreme ups and downs he had been experiencing over the years and how he made the brave call one day to save his own life. Ben admitted how alone he felt sometimes, but that reading my blog helped him to realize that he doesn't have to struggle alone. 
 
Since our initial emails back and forth, Ben has started a new blog where he's writing about his life as an EMT who lives with a mental illness. Ben blew me away when I reached out to him about being in one of our Kickstarter videos and gave him only a few hours to submit a clip. He didn't waste any time and sent us an awesome example of how he's choosing to be brave to end stigma. We're proud to feature a piece Ben originally posted on his blog, Pie Bowler Benny. You can also follow Ben on Twitter

  Why is acceptance sometimes so hard to accept?

This swamp is so beautiful.

cypress

There’s a slight chill in the air, but it’s the kind of chill that when the sun hits you it feels like a perfectly warm blanket.

Light breezes blow around the Spanish moss that hangs from the Bald Cypress trees.

The noises from the wildlife sound more like something you would hear on a “sounds to sleep by” recording.

The boat scene with all the swans from the motion picture “The Notebook” filmed here, as well as scenes from “The Patriot”, and nearly the entirety of the 1982 science fiction classic, “Swamp Thing” filmed here also.

So why am I sitting here not enjoying myself?

Was it because there wasn’t enough seats on the boat tour for everyone in our field trip group, and that left me, and only me, out?

While the boat tour would be cool, that’s not why I am not enjoying myself at this moment.

I sit here not enjoying myself because my wife and son are on the boat tour and I am left to feel helpless because I can’t protect them from anything bad happening.

This is a big issue that I thought I had worked through a lot of, but today it reared its ugly head again.

Every time I’ve had to work an overnight shift as an EMT, I have had to wrestle down the fears of intruders, accidents, or possible house fires that may endanger my family while I am away more times than I can possibly count.

I have gotten better with it, but I’m convinced that it will always be there.

Why? I mean, I know that control is an illusion. My son’s febrile seizure at one and a half years old, as well as many moments in his short life so far have taught me that.

But how soon we forget, huh?

For me, the worst control issues I’ve ever had were the moments before I had a wife and son. It seems that it was almost my entire life before starting my family.

Everything about my life since birth was out of my control.

Whether I was floating against my will on whatever dangerous breeze my parents were flying on, or when I was doing things I couldn’t understand or control from my teenaged years on, it was a scary and many times unsettling ride.

And when I got older, and life began to settle down for me, my brain would not be there to join it.

Am I a product of my upbringing? Surely. Am I a victim of heredity? Certainly that plays into it too.

Am I a person with mental illness? Absolutely.

I have Bipolar disorder.

And while I now know that I have always been Bipolar long before my diagnosis last year, it’s the knowing that I always will be that is the hardest thing to accept.

You can go to every appointment, take your medications religiously and moments like these will still happen.

I imagine that everyone else in the world would get swept up in the beauty of this place and be left awestruck for a moment or two.

I, however, have to fight myself to appreciate things.

It has always felt like I’m reverse wired. Ever since I can remember, I would laugh and joke around at inappropriate times, like at a funeral wake for instance. Other times, I would fight back tears at celebrations, parties, fireworks displays, and other events where the world around me was cheering, clapping, and hollering with joy. And I could never just be a little worried or fearful, because that would always easily turn into irritability or intense anger.

It seemed like my emotions would never match the occasion, and even today with my treatment and medication working, and feeling better every single day, I still have my episodes.

I wonder all the time if I will ever have a time in my life that I will be at true peace with myself for more than a fleeting moment.

There is no telling. That is a difficult thing because I know the more unstable moments can always happen at any time which, of course, translates to me as something else I cannot control.

Then, I remembered that even though it’s tough for me to think things through sometimes, and as hard to talk things out, I have an amazing gift: I am a great writer.

That’s why today, when my family were rowing away by the hands of a tour guide I didn’t know, into an area I have never been, instead of panicking, I found a bench, took a photo, and set out to write.

And what did I write about?

The beauty of my surroundings. The slight chill. The warmth of the sun. The sounds that surrounded me. The history that directly appeals to a lifelong movie fan like myself.

It appears that deep down inside, I was enjoying myself. I just needed to find the proper channel to discover it.

When my family arrived back, completely safe, I held their hands for a few minutes, and smiled as they told me what they saw on the tour.

I realized right then that I was truly happy for them, and that I actually enjoyed my experience as well.

So maybe I can’t always feel comfortable or accepting of my condition, but maybe I can learn to accept that in this life my personal experience will always be a little different.

But at the end of the ride, the experience was still mine, and it seems that nothing, not even a brain that works a little differently, can take it away from me.

I’ll just have to work a little harder for it.

Teddy Roosevelt was once quoted as saying, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”

I can accept that.