The following is a book report of sorts that I had done a few years ago. We were supposed to compare our life to the “Odyssey”, a Greek epic poem about Odysseus. This is both a reflection on my life and an exploration into the “Odyssey”.
My parents told me that when I was little, I was extremely independent and strong-willed. They told me that I had a creative, determined, and straightforward way of thinking. They said that if I there was anything I wanted to do, the only person who could stop me from doing it was myself.
As a kid, I knew who I was and whom I wanted to become, but as I grew up my inward stability started to sway back-and-forth. The older I became, the more I realized that my emotions were getting harder and harder to control. My unstable emotions started to become progressively worse in 8th grade, and by then I knew that there had to be something wrong with me. After a lot of research on mental disorders, I came to the conclusion that I was bipolar. My self-prescribed diagnosis was confirmed by my psychologist and psychiatrist in March 2012, who said that I had Bipolar II, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and intense anxiety.
The struggle to control my emotions and achieve balance in my life is the main journey that I go through every day. My constant mood swings affect nearly everything I do on a daily basis. It’s hard for me to maintain solid grades because my motivation to do things always changes. I can’t have a healthy dating life and my relationships with friends and family are constantly strained because of my lack of emotionally stability. Being bipolar affects me physically as well, because my sleep and eating patterns change according to whether I’m in my depressive phase or manic phase.
The problem with being bipolar is that you don’t quite know how you’re going to feel the next day, and almost every emotion is heightened and intensified. Instead of feeling “normal”, I either feel depressed and stressed and anxious, or charismatic and energetic and bubbly. When I’m in my depressive phase, the old Jazmyne that was determined and hard-working completely goes away, and she’s replaced by someone who’s lazy and unmotivated and surrenders to sadness. When I’m in my manic phase, the old Jazmyne is electrified, and it’s like I need to do a billion things at once in order to feel alive and tell people about everything beautiful and wonderful in life. And I can’t just ignore my intensified emotions, either- it’s always there in the back of my mind, ready to resurface and cause problems in my life. Similar to Odysseus’ struggle with overcoming adversaries to go home, it’s like every place I turn the thing I’m trying to overcome brings more problems.
Like Odysseus’ distractions, there are distractions I have to deal with that constantly prevent me from reaching my destination, which is achieving balance in my life. I think that one of the biggest distractions is my never-ending concern for other people because whenever something happens to someone I care about I become agitated and worried for them. There are so many things that my family members and friends deal with, and I always let their problems add to the stress of my own problems. Multiple family members and friends of mine have mental disorders, as well, and I always trouble myself more than I should about their happiness and well-being. Some of my family members also have physical complications, and so I get worked up about their health and how they are doing all the time. Many of my friends are self-conscious and complain to me a lot about their unhappiness about how they are, which make me feel the need to console and fret over them. Another distraction I have that ties in to my concern for other people is my concern for my family’s finances. I worry as much, if not more, about the financial stability of my family. I make a lot of sacrifices so that I don’t feel like a financial burden to my parents, and I worry a lot about bills and how I can help save my family money.
Odysseus is faced with many temptations throughout his journey, and every now and then it seems easier for him to surrender to the temptations that taunt him. For me, it’s also tempting to give up to my emotions, or to give in to negative ways to cope with how I feel. A lot of times I do submit to whatever phase I am in and I let my unstable emotions take over my life. When I’m in my depressive phase, it’s easy to just not do work and stay unmotivated. I rationalize that being in my manic phase is helpful to me because I get things done and I’m more social in that phase. Many times I’ve been tempted to turn to poisonous groups of friends to relieve or magnify whatever phase I’m in. In both of my phases, I can be extremely impulsive, which is a huge temptation I have to try and counter with rationalization (which doesn’t always work).
The main antagonist I have in my journey to maintain steadiness over my emotions is myself. I am a very stubborn, independent, and defensive person. At first, it took me a while to convince myself that I needed help to deal with my emotions because I am very reluctant to ask people for help. I always do this thing where I bury my feelings deep inside of me and never show it to people because I don’t want them to lose sleep over me. Most of the time I try to deal with my problems on my own and try not to involve anyone else in the problematic side of my life. My stubbornness and pride gets in the way of fixing my problems, much like how Odysseus had ran into problems because of his stubbornness and pride.
Even though there are a lot of things holding me back from achieving my goal of creating balance in my life, I possess a lot of things that help and support me while on this journey. Like Odysseus, I have people who support me and somewhat admirable traits that aid me while I am in a tough position.
I have a lot of qualities that counter my stubborn, independent, and defensive traits. When it comes to the things that I want to accomplish and the goals I have, I am very determined to get them done. Much like how Odysseus always put everything he had into his goals and was determined to get home, I work very hard whenever I really want something. I also have a lot of integrity when it comes to how I am. I am very honest with myself and with the people around me, so usually I am able to recognize when something is wrong with me, the reason for why I feel that way, and why I need to fix whatever problem I am having. Because I have a good amount of integrity about myself, I also know that whenever I’m in distress I know I should ask for help and do therapeutic, healthy things instead of turning to other means of relieving my stress and agitation.
Another thing that helps me along my journey is the people who support me. My doctors and therapists are supportive of me and try to do the best they can with diagnosing and helping me treat my mental disorders. My friends are also extremely supportive and understanding of my struggles, and try to help me in any way they can. A lot of times I use my friends members as a way to vent about my feelings, and they always offer their sympathy and advice and guidance. My family is also very supportive of me. At first they didn’t really want to believe anything was wrong with me, but after being diagnosed and medicated, they try to help me and know how to handle me in my different phases and how to make sure I stay sane and happy.
Even though the journey I have ahead of me is a difficult one to travel, I know that with the support I have from my friends and family and the drive I have to get better will help me through it. There will always be temptations along the way of this journey and distractions that will hold me back from being happy, but I know that eventually I will become prudent and have balance in my life. Similar to Odysseus’ long and painful journey, it may take many years and a lot of trials and tribulations for me to finally reach my destination, but I know that one day I will eventually be in peace with myself, be able to control my emotions and have a balanced life.
Synopsis of Books 9-10, 11, 21-23
Odysseus and his men land on the island of the Lotus-eaters, where the people who live there give them lotus fruit. The lotus fruit makes all of the men forget that they want to go home and cause them to stay on the island for a long time. Odysseus gets him and his men off the island and sail away. They land on the island of the Cyclopes, the son of the sea-god Poseidon. Odysseus and his men wander into the Cyclopes’ cave, where they eat his food and get eaten by the Cyclopes in return. Odysseus and his men escape the Cyclopes’ island by blinding him and then sneaking away under the bellies of the Cyclopes’ herd of sheep. Blinding the Cyclopes makes Poseidon angry, and guarantees Odysseus and his men an even harder journey back home.
Odysseus and his men sail to the island of the wind-god, Aeolus. He helps Odysseus by giving him a bag of winds. Using the western wind, Odysseus and his men arrive close enough to Ithaca to see it, but are then set back even further because of Odysseus’ jealous, greedy shipmates. Odysseus and his men eventually land on another island, the island of Circe, a witch. She lures in some of Odysseus’ men into her palace and turns them into pigs. Odysseus goes to find and rescue them, and with the help of Hermes, is able to avoid Circe’s magic. Circe makes Odysseus stay with her for a year as her lover, but eventually lets them go with advice on how to get home.
Odysseus travels to the River Styx in the underworld to find the blind prophet, Tiresias. With the help of Circe’s advice, Odysseus attracts the dead and finds Tiresias. Tiresias tells Odysseus about his fate and warns him about what he should do to have a smoother ride home.
Odysseus has returned home alone disguised as a beggar. Odysseus reveals his identity to two of his most trusted followers and asks them to help him in return for treating them and being a part of the royal family. Penelope has announced to all her potential suitors that she will marry the man who wins her contest. The rules of the contest are to string Odysseus’ bow and shoot through a line of twelve axes. All of the suitors try to string the bow but fail at doing so. Odysseus steps up to string the bow, and succeeds in stringing it and shooting it through all the axes.
After he wins the competition, his disguise disappears. With the help of his goddess, Athena, Odysseus and he and his son kill every suitor in the kingdom. He then proceeds to kill all the unfaithful women servants he has and take back his kingdom.
Penelope goes to see Odysseus and when she sees him, she faints. When she comes to, she finds Odysseus in front of her again, but doesn’t believe that he is really who he is. She thinks that the gods are playing another trick on her. She tells Odysseus that she needs help moving the bed back to the bedroom, a lie that only Odysseus could know the truth to. Odysseus gets mad and says that it was impossible to move the bed unless it was cut from the tree he grew around it. With the answer that she wanted, Penelope embraces him. Everyone is eventually appeased and lives happily ever after.