When I was a kid, my best friend and I used to play this game nearly every day. We pretended we were princesses and we had to “compete” to win our princes in a pageant-like competition. So we would dress up, put on makeup, dance, sing, and sometimes put on a play. And of course, we each won a prince. The prince himself didn’t really matter. The whole thing was just an excuse to pretend that we had “it.” That elusive something that would make someone take one look at us, gasp, and say “Her! That’s the one I’ve been looking for!”
Now that I’m an adult I know that that kind of “something” is rare. Marilyn Monroe had it. Cary Grant had it. Katy Perry has it. Johnny Depp has it. I don’t have it. At least when it comes to that kind of celebrity charisma.
But what I’m still looking for, at the age of forty-something, is the X factor. I’m looking for that certain elusive something that allows someone, despite all the problems or issues in their life, to do better, to be better. I’m looking for whatever it is that makes someone push through what seem to be unsurmountable odds and make the world a place I want to be in.
About five years ago, I discovered the author Therese J. Borchard. At the time I was combing
the internet for answers to a spiritual quest and Ms. Borchard had a blog on the website Beliefnet which dealt with spirituality and mental illness. I fell in love with her writing, but more I fell in love with her story. You see, Ms. Borchard has Bipolar (you can find more on that here) and yet has what most of us would consider a normal life. She’s married, has kids, works, writes, has a master’s degree, has published books, and (what may be the hardest thing) fights her mental illness every day. She has the X factor.
According to one of her blog posts (found here), every day she swims, keeps a gratitude journal, lists her accomplishments, makes herself laugh, meditates, takes all kinds of supplements, watches her diet, sits under a sun lamp, and prays. Every. Day. I can’t even do those things every week. Again, the X factor.
So why does she have the ability to fight so hard? Or maybe how does she have the ability to fight? Is it the support that she has from family and friends? Or is it something in her makeup, her DNA? Is there a gene for the X factor?
And she’s not the only one. There are thousands of people out there who, often on a daily basis, fight battles that would put me under. Cancer, domestic violence, political and religious violence, schizophrenia, PTSD, fibromyalgia, cardiac disease, Crohn’s disease, AIDS, Cystic Fibrosis, MS, Lupus, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), the list goes on and on. And they fight. They have the X factor.
As you know, I have a chronic illness too: Major Depressive Disorder (more on that here). And I fight it… sometimes. Not on a daily basis. I don’t try to fight it with exercise or changes to my diet. There are whole weeks that I spend in bed, not making an effort. Not attempting to have a normal life. Not fighting. Sometimes I’m just too tired, too exhausted by living with the stupid illness to even make an attempt.
But there are other times, times when I could fight it. Times when my energy is up, and I can smile, and I can see the beauty of this world. Those are the times when I could establish the habits and behaviors that fight the disease. Those are the times that those with the X factor push themselves to do what they can, to be what they can. And often they succeed. Ms. Borchard does, and she has a family, friends, and, on top of all she does on a daily basis, has started a community for those with chronic treatment-resistant mood disorders, Project Beyond Blue. How does she do it?
And how can I not? I don’t have a spouse or kids to take care of. I have nothing to distract me, not work, not family, not even a cat, to distract me from fighting my illness. But I don’t. I don’t. I don’t have the X factor.
But maybe, maybe, I can find it.
Find the X factor and fight for my life.
Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to give more? Or are you adding more charitable donations to your plate as part of Lent? If so, please consider donating to Ms. Borchard’s Project Beyond Blue. Details on how to do so can be found here.
On behalf of all those who benefit from her work, Thank You.