I am sure that manic depressive illness is no picnic from the other side of the room either. The yelling, the temper tantrums, the complete withdrawal when one of us either cannot take the mood swings, or the ill person is in a depressive phase of the illness. It is very complicated no matter which phase of the illness the sick person is in (I hate to use that word, but it all that will fit here), the afflicted person feels guilt and shame and hurt and sadness that they cannot be more normal, unfortunately, this depression and accompanying feelings of guilt and shame and even paranoia, in some cases (mine), can, will and does express itself as extreme anger about the illness, about things that were done to them, issues the other party had nothing to do with. Many issues are very deep seated ones that have been present since childhood. Issues surrounding parents or the lack thereof, issues about siblings, issues about not feeling normal like everyone else seems to be, and a lot of times, issues surrounding school and being bullied because something about you is “off”according to the kids at school. So, a budding bipolar is frequently bullied, called names, even beaten up by other kids.
Usually, the newly “sick” person will become severely depressed, and will withdraw from family and friends, sometimes to the point that they will only speak when they have to. I know. I did not speak for my entire freshman year in high school. I can only imagine how helpless my parents must have felt. They finally took me to a psychiatrist when I was about 15 or 16, but I could not stand the guy and just flat out would tell him what he wanted to hear, and then would leave having totally wasted my parents money. I do have to give them credit. They did try several times to help me, but I was not ready to admit that I needed help.
I think to a certain extent, my parents did give up on me. I remember the most traumatic night of my entire life, coming home, and having them waiting up for me so they could yell at me for not being where I said I would be, coming home late, in fact, they were so wrapped up in their own irritation with my behavior, my lying, and my lateness that they failed to observe the condition I was in. I told them to F*&^ off, and I went to the bathroom and bathed for what seemed like hours. My parents never questioned me about why…..they just couldn’t figure out why their previously relatively obedient daughter had suddenly turned about 180 degrees around, and was now staying out to all hours of the night, making new (and criminal) friends, doing drugs (not hard ones, those came later, read the post on self-medication), and generally just being completely unruly. Looking back, I feel really bad that I put them through that. There was a lot of yelling between my father and myself. Usually initiated by me, but I just could not understand how they could not have asked me what was wrong that night. I still am somewhat befuddled by that. But, that is water under a very wide bridge. Because of their reaction or maybe my age at the time (barely 16), I could not process their reaction, and I certainly could not process what had happened. So, I became an incredibly difficult person to live with. I would go off the deep end for no reason that they or I understood. I knew I was angry, but I guess, in retrospect, I was angrier than I thought at the time. I would leave, slamming the door behind me for no reason other than to slam the door. My emotions knew no rhyme or reason. I would imagine my parents were probably a little afraid of me. I know my sister was. The thing was I did not mean to do these things. I acted with no thought as to how the person on the receiving end would feel because at the time I just did not care. At all.
Now, when I have an episode of irrational behavior, I find that once I have calmed down, I am deeply ashamed and sorry and feeling incredibly guilty. But, all that does not matter to the person who bore the brunt of the storm. I can feel as sorry as I want, but the damage has been done, and I cannot fix that. The only thing I can do is try not to do it again. The only thing that rebuilds the trust that is destroyed with each outburst is time (sometimes a lot of time).
I can remember a time about 4.5 years ago when I was so needy and clingy and alone and lonely and pretty suicidal that I was calling my mother way too much for comfort and sympathy. I was deep in the throes of a “woe is me” type pity party for one. I would call her several times a day, until one day, much to my surprise and chagrin, she refused to take my call. I couldn’t believe it! My own mother was refusing my call! At the time, she was my support system. My whole support system. She finally took one call, and explained to me that I was not to call her, I was not to come to the house (not even to do laundry), I was to return my copy of her house key which to this day, I have not gotten back, and that she simply had to distance herself from me. I had become more than she could take with all my suicide threats, crying inconsolably, being depressed about everything in my life (and not just that “low mood” type of depression either, this was the serious kind, where you very well may try to kill yourself to get it to stop). She told me she was seeing a counselor again because she could no longer handle her anger and sadness surrounding me. She told me that I had become toxic to her well-being. So, now, I am banned from contact, and I have been told that my own mother finds me toxic to her well-being, and that she was shutting me out to protect herself from me. I had no idea that I had become that bad.
In retrospect, however, I see why she had to get away from me. No mother or other loved one wants to hear on a daily basis that their child or wife or significant other wants to die, they are so alone and depressed. I was a toxic person. I was angry, depressed, constantly suicidal (hence the frequent flyer miles at the hospital), and I needed too much of her time and took all her energy without giving back. Every phone call was about some crisis real or imagined; never a call just to chat. All my calls were deeply depressing and angry. Anger at the world, anger that I had this illness, just a lot of anger and poison coming from me at that time. Therapy didn’t seem to be helping although I think that was when I was seeing Dr. Logan, not my usual therapist (she had dropped me because of a nearly fatal suicide attempt), and I was not comfortable with her, and couldn’t really let her know what was really happening with me. The meds didn’t seem to be working although they had done just fine in the past. So, I was pissed off about all of that, and I made the choice to take it out on my mother as if everything was her fault. So, yes, I see why for almost a year she did not want me in her life. She had to cut me loose because she herself was getting “sick” because I let everything out on her which was very unfair of me. Many times the things I was angry with her about had nothing to do with her. Which seems to be a recurring pattern.
Now, I am married. That’s a pretty big achievement for me. It is a big achievement for all mentally ill people because it means that you have become functional enough to have a relationship with someone who is not blood family. They have to love you even they do not like you. But, a complete stranger that you have to get to know, and they have to get to know you, that is f*&^% scary because what are they going to do or say when you drop the Bipolar bomb on them? They could run screaming, and then you get hurt (which we tend to guard ourselves very closely against), they could accept it as part of who you are, or they could accept it and want to find out more about it. Those are pretty much the three reactions I have experienced. My current husband (well, my only husband) had lived with two other manic depressive women before me, but they all manifested differently than I do. I tend towards paranoia, and that is not good for a relationship. I have a tendency to let little thoughts bother me to the point that they become full issues with lives of their own. And some of those little critters have teeth, and they do bite. I have told my husband that he doesn’t love me anymore (which is clearly untrue as we are still married), I have tried to throw my husband out of the house, and do not come back, I have accused him of cheating on me….. I have yelled and screamed at him about nothing in general, and I have taken out my anger and hurt about situations that were not anywhere close to his fault. He has told me that self-fulfilling prophecies are real, and if I keep it up, then one day, he may just go out and have an affair since I accuse him of it so much, or that if I keep telling him to leave, someday he may just pack his stuff up, and do that. That scares me. I love him, and cannot lose him despite all his quirks. Hell, I have a bunch of quirks too, and I am “difficult” to be around sometimes. I know where a lot of the abandonment issues come from, and they have absolutely nothing to with him. These are my own issues, and I need to realize that i need to work on these problems, and that no one can change them for me. They are uniquely my own. I fear being abandoned. I do not fear being alone. I was by myself for about 10 years, and they had their good and points, their own highs and lows. I have such a fear of abandonment that I do assume wrong things, imagine wrong scenarios, have paranoid thoughts, and yes, I do believe that if I do not stop with the accusing and telling him to get out, or get divorced (that is one of my big ones…. its difficult, so lets get divorced, it is too hard to fix, whatever), one of these days it will happen. He will have had enough of my tantrums that are directed at him but have nothing to do with him. He was not the progenitor of these problems and issues that I have. I am slowly learning that sometimes it is best to just keep things to myself, and not vent all my anger onto an undeserving person that actually loves ME even though I am ill,and can become quite ill very quickly.
I would imagine that the view from the outside creates resentment, anger, hurt when your loved one is threatening suicide, yelling at you for no reason that you can see because you are not the person that the Bipolar is really yelling at; they are yelling at the person(s) that have hurt them deeply, you just end up being the punching bag, and that is absolutely wrong for the ill person to do. Talking about it in therapy is the appropriate outlet because the therapist can provide guidance about what to do when you do feel an “attack” episode coming on. I am apologize to all the people that I have hurt and damaged due to my inability to control my mind – mouth connection. Mostly I want to say to my mother and my husband: Thank you for not cutting out on me, thank you for not giving up on me, thank you for loving me enough to stick around. Just thank you for putting up with me through the really bad times, and not leaving me alone, or throwing in the towel and just leaving.
I think the year or so that my mother would not speak to me, or even see me made me a stronger person. I tried like hell for about 6 months to change her mind, but that was futile. Now, I just have to make sure that I do not do that to my husband, he is a good man who does indeed love me even though I have been a real bitch to him at times. I am sorry. I am learning how not to always say what I feel, or act out on an innocent person. Most people have nothing to do with my problems, but I do not take out my ire on the people who deserve it because I am financially dependent on one of these people, and I cannot lose that help. So, I use other people for punching bags. And, for that, I am in the wrong. I can be very intense when I am angry, and I tend to make things sound worse than they are, and for that I am in the wrong. Nobody deserves to be used as someone else’s punching bag, especially when they are not party to the problem in the first place.
So, I apologize to all the people who have been there for me no matter what, and especially to my husband whose only fault is that he loves me. I will make a concerted effort to leave my problems with my therapist, and not allow them to ruin this relationship as I have others.
Manic -depression does not affect just the person that suffers from the illness, but all those people around them. It is an equal opportunity illness. One person has it, and fights daily to keep it managed (notice I never use the word “controlled”), and manic-depression affects all the people who love them sometimes in very negative ways. For that, I cannot apologize enough, even though I know only time will heal what I have done to people.