So many years of making seriously irrational and unwise life decisions while in either a depressed or hypomanic state have resulted in a lot of negative repercussions in my life and detrimental effects on the people I have known and those I love. The self-protective and relatively rational part of my mind wants to alleviate the sometimes paralyzing guilt and shame by stating that, “The decisions were irrational because they were a symptom of an illness that I was not being treated for hence, I was “NCR”, (Not Criminally Responsible) for screwing up other peoples’ lives or for making an utter fool of myself.” Of course I must take responsibility for my own actions to a point, a balance between complete absolution and self-blame. This semi-logical format of my mind is in a constant conflict with a different version of thought processes, which I struggle to control every moment of every day, even now that I am being treated properly for the correct diagnosis of Bipolar II.
Have you ever experienced a tenacious and irritating pop-up on your computer screen that you can not get rid of no-matter what you try? I seem have this kind of software problem in my brain, in which I can not turn off the random, negative memory “pop-ups” that assail my thoughts without warning. I have a lot of trouble closing them after they invade my CPU and become imbedded in all other applications. My negative thought processor wants to dwell, obsess and allow guilt and regrets to take over my consciousness through a destructive virus and send me into that dark place, shutting down the hard drive and all programs, making the operating system unavailable and corrupting all the files, making all positive data inaccessible. Sometimes, I am lucky enough to be able to initiate a system restore and reboot before it all goes down irretrievably. The virus, worm or whatever will always be there though, lurking in the cyber corners and in the cracks in the firewalls that I try to maintain.
As I am not a very tech-savvy individual, as you can probably tell from this clumsy computer metaphor. I can tell what is going wrong but not necessarily how to fix it very well yet, but I am learning. These “pop-ups” are a potentially devastating activities that can throw my mind into a downward spiraling loop, but it can also result in a positive outcome. In the years before I started receiving the right medication and treatment, the guilt, regret and shame from those “pop-up” memories often completely shut me down.
Now, the “pop-ups” bring attention to these emotionally charged memories and allow me to really examine my past behaviours and experiences analytically, and then put them in to perspective. I am getting more proficient at taking into account my age, circumstances, the time in history, my ignorance, other people’s influences and my mental health status at the time of the incidents. I can edit the data. I can delete the information that is incorrect and unsubstantiated and insert the correct information that I have learned (kind of like Wikipedia). I can filter out the self-blame, accept the past as it really was, save it as a new file and forgive myself.
For me, this has been as hard a new skill to learn as how to navigate a spreadsheet program. (No, wait. Not that hard!)
About L. Song
L. Song is a middle aged professional who has been struggling with Bipolar Disorder II since her teens. After finally being properly diagnosed and prescribed the correct medication at forty-four, she has dedicated herself to helping others who suffer from the stigma of mental illness through her work. To try to make a difference, L. Song supports organizations such as Mood Disorders Society of Canada, CAMH, as well as HMC. As an avid “horse person,” she also follows and contributes to a Facebook page, Riders Against Mental Illness Stigma. She plans to someday work with people and horses in a therapeutic capacity and publish a book about her experiences living and recovering from the disorder. You can follow her story on HMC's Supportive Minds blog.