I lost my son, Benjamin, in a hot car tragedy in July 2014, when my husband inadvertently forgot to take him to daycare. It was not until I weathered this tragedy that I began to contemplate what it meant to love myself through my own imperfection.
I had suffered from bipolar disorder for over a decade, and I had lived most of that time in silence, refusing to admit I had a serious mental illness, let alone love myself for it. What ensued were years of suffering at the hands of an illness that would not let go of its grip on my mind and body.
After our tragedy, I came face-to-face with such universal concepts as love and forgiveness. How could I love my husband in the face of the unimaginable — let alone forgive him? I could not even love and forgive myself. I had spent the better part of my young adulthood in and out of mental hospitals, cycling through one manic episode or mixed state after another, while my medical team struggled to land on the correct treatment protocol.
I was newly married, and my husband had no idea when he said, “I do” that he would be responsible for keeping me alive. He could not have foreseen that I would throw plates across the room in mixed states or kick and scream at him while he kept me from jumping out of a moving car on the way to a mental hospital. I had known early on that I would need the world from him — for him to love all of me — but I learned later that I needed to love all of me, too.
Finding Beauty in My Broken Places
In the ancient Japanese art form of kintsugi, the artist uses gold or silver lacquer to repair broken pottery, with the result being viewed as a work of art. The pottery becomes beautiful through the history of its broken places.
In the fall of 2014, I broke often and severely. With the trigger of my son’s loss, and without appropriate medication, I cycled in and out of mania and depression regularly. The mania brought on useless bouts of partying and drinking, while the depression ushered in days of tears and grief. I was spiraling into a state of nothingness, yearning to find myself, yearning to be free.
I spent the next seven years numbing the pain. Yet, it was not the pain of grief anymore, it was the pain of not being able to be who I was. I yearned to be real, to be me and accept myself for all my beautiful imperfections, but it was an impossible task. I entered a phase of addiction, transitioning from benzodiazepines to strong tranquilizers and eventually to alcohol, as I sought to drift away each night into a stupor so as not to think, feel or love — myself or anyone else.
I eventually hit rock bottom last winter, tired of cycling, tired of hiding. I so desperately wanted to be real, and for the first time I was ready to accept myself with all my imperfections. I walked away from my job as an attorney and decided to publish my memoir and “come out” as a mental health advocate who suffers from bipolar disorder to raise awareness about mental health in America. My mission is to ensure others do not have to live in silence and alone like I did.
Over the past year, as I have fallen back into a “new” form of love with my husband and learned to forgive him day in and day out, I have learned in turn how to love and forgive myself. He had loved all of me during my darkest days, and our soul connection meant that I would return this to him after Ben’s death. There are still hard days, but with the correct medication and purpose in life, I am thriving. I keep a daily reminder with me: There is beauty in my broken places.
You Are More Than Enough, Just as You Are
As I have learned to love myself and my husband in healthy ways throughout my recovery, I have hoped to share my story with others in hope of reminding them that they are more than enough — they are worthy and they deserve a full life, regardless of illness or tragedy.
My advice to others it to keep the following in mind:
- You are not alone. One in five U.S. adults has a mental illness, with 17% of U.S. youth living with a mental health condition. It may seem lonely, but we are all around you.
- Even though you may fear the stigma from seeking treatment, medication and/or therapy is essential to living a healthy and successful life. You may not know it, but nearly 16% of U.S. adults take prescription medications for mental health and almost 10% are in counseling.
- Surround yourself with a strong support system, which is integral to recovery. A strong ally will seek to understand your illness, ask you ways to help, be there for you and accept you for who you are.
- Always remember, you are beautiful just the way you are.
Lindsey Rogers-Seitz is an author, speaker, mental health advocate and consultant. She is a former practicing mergers and acquisitions attorney and has suffered from manic depression for two decades. She stepped away from “Big Law” in winter of 2023 to pursue her dream of becoming an author and mental health advocate. She published her debut memoir, “The Gift of Ben: Loving Through Imperfection,” on May 2, 2023, in which she comes out with manic depression and seeks to reduce stigma and raise awareness in society by telling her story. She is CEO of Lindsey Rogers-Seitz Consulting, LLC, which works with businesses to build infrastructure to better support those with psychiatric disabilities.