Every year in January I have a ritual, I re-watch the TV series Xena: Warrior Princess, all six seasons of it. Xena was a TV show that aired between 1995 – 2001 about a warrior woman of ancient Greece who used to be a warlord but turned to the side of good though was constantly fighting her demons. I would have been 10 years old when it first came out and even then it resonated with me. As the years went by I saw more and more of myself in the character of Xena, constantly trying do the right thing but often being sabotaged by my own mind and past.
Living with bipolar can sometimes feel like you are forever fighting a war that will never stop. As much as I tried to be a good person and do the right things, I will always be haunted by the times my mania or my depression took over and my decisions were poor. Before I was diagnosed (at age 27) I often found myself trying to be a ‘good person’. At school there were many times I swore I would behave and pay attention, then failed to do so. As an adult there were so many times where in the wrap of mania I drank until the sun rose and hurt people’s feelings by accident, I even ended up in some sticky situations.
Just like Xena, I wanted so badly to be this good person who had their life sorted and had a plan for the future. I wanted to help people and I wanted atone for the bad things I had done before, the people I had hurt. I went out of my way to try and do this, Xena helped people by fighting their battles, so I did the same and with some degree of success. I worked in close protection and security for a long time, I protected people, but it didn’t stop the darkness inside me.
At every turn Xena was tempted to go back to her old life of being a warlord. It was easy, it was all she had known. I was tempted so many times to go back my ways of drinking, partying, hating and having no regard for myself. In the series, the God of War Ares comes to Xena at various points and tries to steer her back to her wicked ways of the past. He is like the whisper that I call ‘the shadow’. That tells me all the things I don’t want to hear, or sometimes that I do. He tries to tell me there is no hope and that I should just submit to what I am. Like Xena, I learnt to ignore him and fight on.
In the first season Xena’s darkness makes her believe that to die would be the better option, it would be the only way for redemption. It makes her think the world would be a better place without out her. This is just like my depression. She gives up more than once over the season and almost allows herself to be killed. The only reason she is alive is because her best friend, Gabrielle, never gives up on her. I could say the same for mine.
Xena was my role model as a child and even now, when I get into a situation and I feel a little out of control or I feel a little lost with my life, I ask myself one thing. What would Xena do? The answer is always to do the right thing, fight on and listen to positivity of those close to you who can sometimes see clearer than you can at the time.