The comfort of guilt

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Bipolar is haunted with a number of emotions. Anyone who walks around carrying the diagnosis will tell you so. Any mental illness carries its own number of lingering emotions. It is after all a mood disorder of depression, anger, frustration, excitement, happiness, joy, pride…I could go on.

 

Even the most caring people in a person with bipolar’s life can stigmatize against them without realizing it by most often associating them with the “stereotypical” bipolar emotions. Of all the emotions related to this disorder the one most overlooked is the feeling of guilt.
Growing up, and even in our adult years, we’ve all had things we swore we’ve never do. We’ve had dreams and goals we wished to accomplish. An idea of the person we wanted to be. But what happens when that changes? What happens when those dreams don’t come true? What happens when you realize you’re not the person you’d hoped to be? Today I am no where close to where I had hoped to be years ago.
I’d be lying if I told you I’ve never done any of the following:
1. Lied
2. Stolen
3. Cheated
4. Done drugs
5. Abused alcohol
6. Been arrested multiple times
7. Took advantage of a friendship
8. Tried to commit suicide
9. Tried to cover up something up
10. Acted single during marriage
The truth is that some of those are true. Another truth is that I could add more real truths to the list. The truth is these are only examples of external visible behavior of thoughts and feelings experienced during episodes of mania and depression manifested in action.
People with bipolar already suffer internally during any episode, but it is these forms of external behavior that often causes the person so many problems with their work life, personal life, and social life.
Lack of insight from outsiders is dictated by the rule that all behavior is measured the same. To “normal” people, they see the extreme highs and lows of someone with bipolar and attempt to deal with them as if looking in a mirror rather than looking through a window seeing themselves as the measuring stick.
I’ve got a shirt that says, “Normal’s Overrated.” I’m not so sure. With no legitimate definition of “normal,” then can we truly define, “abnormal?” With that said, can it truly be said that it is overrated? There are those that feel normal and there those that feel abnormal.
For those that feel abnormal I wonder how many crave to feel normal. Or how many have lived destructive lives as a result of a mental illness only to do anything to know what it feels like to feel normal.
Those that feel normal tend to look at the world with “normal” eyes, while judging and opinionating with “normal” eyes.
For those who have experienced “recovery,” for lack of better term, from bipolar, and for their families, fear of relapse is can be a major concern if they are not naive. The person, once recovered, can become anxious at the thought of becoming out of control again or falling into the depths of a suicidal depression. Like a walking a time bomb.
I wish I could tell you, I mean REALLY tell you, about bipolar. It’s not as simple as “low’s” and “high’s.” Colors are brighter; reds are redder…blue is deeper…black is darker. Music sounds better and sweeter. Everyone loves you and the girls loves you. There are no consequences. Everything can be fixed or covered up. But everything is frustrating because at the same time no one or nothing is able to understand or keep up with you.
Even worse, unfortunately even the “highs” are too much of a good thing often leading to tragedy in the end. It’s not always a feeling of euphoria. Many times they come in the form of extreme anger and/or confused thinking and delusions to the point of psychosis.
The depression of bipolar is not even free of bad behavior with its number one destructive deeds of self-medicating with alcohol, drugs, or seeking inappropriate relationships and/or sex or saddest of them all, suicide.
My life has been covered by an ocean of failures, mistakes and wrong doings. All of which occurred during one form of my episodes. The magnitude of my regrets often leaves me paralyzed, and there is no way I can go back and make things right. Damage has been done. I’ve created wreckage over the past 20 years. Ran myself into plenty of brink walls.
Needless to say I have wallowed in self-guilt; the forgotten and excluded emotion of bipolar. It emerges not during any episode but when you have come back to your real self. It is part of your genuine self. The real you. It is evidence that the demons have left and you are left to clean up the messes they had made whether you were aware of them or not.
Guilt; ironically it is a bittersweet form of relief proving sanity is just around the corner. Unfortunately, most never believe you feel the sting of guilt, but instead you enjoyed your “extracurricular” activities. It’s much more easier for me to forgive others than it is for me to forgive myself. Especially how much I beat myself up.
But at the same time I know something about grace. It’s a pretty good deal. Looking back, I realize that God knew the choices I’d make, drink too much, attempt suicide, curse Him, hold on to bitterness and anger, and finally, to cry out to Him again and again in despair even though many times I didn’t think He was listening.
God’s imagination and creativity aren’t hindered by my weakness or my past and especially my guilt. He continues to teach me that He loves the broken-hearted, messed-up, “crazy” folks like me. He continues to teach me that His Strength is made perfect in my weakness, and that I am made strong through my surrender to Him and not my guilt.
I have this genuine comfortness about who I am and who I want to be when I am stable. Who I am is not how I act during an episode. God knows the real me and He is the One that is important.
Grace from others doesn’t always clean a man up, sometimes it’s loving a man while he’s still dirty. And that happens by choice, not accident. The beautiful  thing behind failure and guilt, is that it’s the first step in finding a second chance. God’s grace.
Looking back, in a weird sort of way, I am thankful I experience my darkened days. Though I could live without them. And even though I am not necessarily proud of those dark days, the sunny ones now mean so much more to me. I am thankful for living. I am thankful for breathing. And I am thankful that by the Grace of God, I have been given many second chances.
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