It’s been a long time since I posted. A lot of changes in my life. The biggest of which is I moved to Utah. After so much self-inflicted trauma in Washington I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t much left for me there anymore. So I came to Utah in hopes of starting a new life for myself. And for the most part it’s worked. But I still deal with the shame of all the hurt I caused in Washington.
You see, for a long time now I’ve dealt with bipolar disorder. It’s a strange condition especially when it goes misdiagnosed as depression alone for as long as I was. Depression is a scary beast, don’t get me wrong, but when you compound it with mania, well let’s just say that the shit hit the fan several times and not in a good way.
I’m not sure when exactly it started but I remember one night about four years ago now that I literally could not stop talking. it got so bad that my boyfriend at the time and my brother literally challenged me to go into another room and not say anything at all for 20 minutes and when I couldn’t do it they took me to the hospital where it only got worse until I was injected with some kind of benzo I still don’t know the name of.
It’s terribly scary to be so out of control but literally to be feeling fine as if you were on top of the world. I literally could not understand why everyone was so worried about me. Until the nurses started drawing blood and filling syringes that is. And when I finally did stop talking and took a deep breath it dawned on me that I really wasn’t okay. Even though I had spent the last hour or more convincing everyone that I was fine. Apparently talking nonstop and barely pausing for breath does not constitute “fine” but I wasn’t to know that at the time.
they sent me home that night.
When I say i feel ashamed, it’s only partly of my disorder. It’s more because of the things I did while manic or high on something or both. You see, mania can lead to all kinds of secondary problems. Like overspending (I spent $4000 on my dad’s credit card buying gifts for everyone I’d ever met). Or hypersexuality (I cheated on the love of my life more than once while manic). Or risky behavior (drug experimentation in my case). And there’s only so many times you can apologize for your disorder. Because when it’s not under control, you’re only partly in control of your actions. But you’re fully aware of them. That’s the weird part. I knew what I was doing and I knew that it would create fallout but I assumed that once everyone understood where I was coming from, it would all be alright (it wasn’t).
needless to say, the boyfriend broke up with me. my brother and he kicked me out and I spent 3 weeks living out of a truck with the guy I cheated on my boyfriend with. He had a nominal job during the day while I was left alone to wander the streets and get into trouble with drugs, sex, and all kinds of unhealthy behaviors I shudder to remember. I smoked crack. I smoked meth. I had sex with strangers. I would find someone to hang out with and then spend the day with them doing whatever they deemed appropriate. I took advantage of friends and acquaintances and lost several of them because of my behavior.
I even went to jail after I became convinced that someone else’s house was, in fact, a gift to me from anonymous people who believed I was going to do great things with their largesse. And I had big plans for it in the few hours I spent in that house. But getting arrested changes things. I spent six months in county jail awaiting trial because I was deemed incompetent and sent to the jail’s mental hospital for part of that time. The court even entered an Order that I take medication that I didn’t want in order to become competent.
A word on medication: it’s a great thing most of the time but when you’re forced to take meds by the court, they don’t really give you a say in what you take. So I became numb and though my grip on reality improved, the side effects of the first meds they gave me left me feeling despondent. All I wanted to do was sleep or cry. And I couldn’t cry. Finally, after my blood pressure dipped dangerously, they put me on Abilify which was the best of the options available to me and I was deemed competent enough to enter a plea bargain. I pled guilty to trespass and malicious mischief (both misdemeanors) on a suspended sentence which meant that if I was good for a year I would not have a criminal record after that.
I still take Abilify daily and Cymbalta every-other day (it was daily but the blood pressure dropping issue changed it). And it keeps me stable and somewhat functional. I have a full-time job now for the first time in several years. And I’ve kept it for 10 months. Part of that is the change to Utah where I’m away from legal marijuana and some of the influences that kept me stuck for so long. I am seeing someone though he’s definitely not long-term material for me but it helps to have companionship a few evenings a week.
But I’m still battling shame. Shame researcher Brene Brown describes shame as the emotion we feel when we feel that we are not ___________ enough. she says that the antidote to shame is light and sharing the experiences that make us feel ashamed. She quotes 12 step groups who say “You’re only as sick as your secrets”. So after years of living in the dark, hiding a lot of what I went through, I’m sharing with you, Internet, because there really isn’t anyone to share with in my life anymore. I’ve burned a hell of a lot of bridges. I still have two or three close friends in Washington but I’m afraid to burden them with all of this – especially since they lived through it with me.
And then there’s Beanlet. I’ve seen her once in 4 years. Her dad got custody during my recovery from the first manic episode and imposed all kinds of restrictions on me seeing her. I’m most ashamed of that. That I was incapable of being a good mom. That I’m so far removed from my daughter’s life. She has her own phone now (12 y/o) which makes communication easier but there’s so much I can’t say to her over text. And my signing skills have lapsed so much I’m not sure I could even communicate my feelings effectively to her in person. Plus, there’s the supervisor of all of our visits making sure that I don’t cross any boundaries.
So several breakdowns later, I’m back to relative sanity but left with a mountain of shame and guilt to process more-or-less alone. There’s nothing I wouldn’t give to have those years back with my Beanlet. to go back in time to before the mania took over my life and I couldn’t think straight. But I can’t go back. i can only go forward. And hopefully by sharing this, I’m taking that first step.