NOTE: This is a pre-written piece in which I was able to include today’s prompt.
My parents were married and had me by the time they were 23. I thought this was a life script I had to follow. So when I was 24, I felt behind schedule, and married the bass player in my band who I’d been dating for a few months and with whom I moved in almost immediately (pre-diagnosis). My parents didn’t like him and didn’t approve of the marriage, so we were married in City Hall with 2 friends as witnesses.
The marriage lasted about 3 years. Although he was supportive when I was diagnosed, our relationship was volatile, mainly because he couldn’t/wouldn’t get a job. He half-heartedly looked, but never got interviews.
He went back to school for one course (he had about a year left to finish his degree), but skipped class a lot, which was another point of contention: I, not his parents, was paying his tuition. I was supporting the both of us working as an admin assistant, and I didn’t make much.
I thought we were supposed to have children, because that was part of the life script. Thankfully, we didn’t. I could barely afford to support us financially, let alone an addition to the family, so we held off.
It was my dream to return full-time to college and then attend veterinary school, which meant quitting my job, being broke, and without insurance — my tuition didn’t include student health insurance. You had to pay for it, and it was too expensive even with student loans. I graduated 3 years later, not when most people do at age 22 or 23 (like in the life script), but just before I turned 30.
About a year before I returned to school, I had started therapy and began learning how to live a mentally healthier life. My ex remained stagnant — had quit school and may or may not have had a job — I don’t even remember. We fought all the time, and finally agreed on a divorce after my first quarter started.
I went straight from undergrad to grad school (not vet school) in 1999, where I met my current husband. I wasn’t looking for a relationship, especially because he was only 24 and I was 30, but when you least expect it, expect it! We were married 3-1/2 years later (a whole other story — not the marriage, but the circumstances around the marriage; and no, I wasn’t pregnant).
Again, I thought that kids were part of the life script. After graduation, we struggled financially and decided to wait. When I turned 35, I thought it was then or never. We considered adoption, and I asked my mom about it, hoping to have a heart-to-heart talk. Her answer: “If you want to adopt, then adopt.” Then she literally walked away.
After the Breakdown, I couldn’t work and was put on disability 3 years later. I thought having a child would be okay because I’d be home to take care of it. I knew it would be challenging because of my bouts with depression and hypomania, but plenty of people with a mental illness have children and take great care of them, so I knew it was possible. I was also concerned about passing on the disease, so adoption seemed like a good option, though that was no guarantee that the baby wouldn’t grow up to have bipolar or another illness.
We continually put off the adoption research, and eventually realized that we didn’t want a child after all. Also, I didn’t know that I would need to funnel my energy into trying to take care of myself; where would I find the strength and endurance to raise a child? (Hats off to my sister-in-law! <3 )
I figured out that there’s no such thing as a life script. You don’t have to be married nor have a house and a brand new car by a certain age, nor have children. At first I thought of myself as “childless by circumstance” because I grapple with bipolar; then I realized that when we didn’t seriously explore adoption, we made the choice not to have a child. I now think of myself as “childfree,” and know that not wanting children is okay, too.
Do you believe there’s such a thing as a life script?