The cards I had been dealt have been reshuffled, reorganized, and played differently in the last five years. The beauty of surrendering to what is, the hand you have before you, is freedom, and for me freedom meant getting brutally honest with myself, my doctor, and my God. When I walked into the hospital all those years ago telling the Nurse if they didn’t admit me I wouldn’t make it through the night I meant it. Now, only five years later, that person and that experience seems impossible and just plain stupid. Yet it happened. I really was so close to ending my life that in a state of panic and fear I somehow propelled myself to the Cedars Sinai ER in the pouring rain begging for help, for a life raft, for someone to take control and stop me from ending my life. And luckily, they did.
I spent from 22 to 32 on a tilt-a-whirl somewhere between mania, depression, and oblivion. The idea of something really being wrong with me was obvious, but the acceptance that I truly was “crazy” was absolutely unacceptable. A failure at life, and an admission that it was me all along, and I was the beginning, end and middle of all of my own struggles, but it is the truth. I was inevitably forced to decide who I wanted to be, who I believed I could be, and find the best way to turn it around and get there. A Gift from God Ex-boyfriend, a fellow dual diagnosis hiding in the shadows, put his foot down after seeing my manic depression rear its ugly head a time or two, and he drove that broken me to a clinic to meet with a psychiatrist once and for all. That Psychiatrist changed my life, saved my life.
Dr. Amiri and I worked hard, dug way deeper than I thought I could. The muck and shame and fear and regret came to the surface, along with the freedom, truth, gratitude, insight, and a deep faith in God. The renewal and recovery that I had somehow never gotten through my prior recovery attempts or in the AA rooms I loved so much always left me with me and my genetics, physiology, brain, and mental illness without a drink or drug to numb it all out. I am not sure if it was me, those I chose to align myself with, or my misunderstanding the Big Book, the amazing tome that contains the miracle that is the 12 Steps that has saved literally millions of lives, but I picked up the idea that “true” sobriety meant you cannot ingest anything, period, no drugs of any kind-this may be true for some members but not all, not me. For me that was false, dangerous, and allowed me an excuse to go many years unmedicated or noncompliant while my alcoholism took center stage, but should have just been a co-star. I took my embracing fully that I needed them, period. That not everyone lived a bipolar life was a revelation, and not only was it real, but it was working for and against my alcoholism, and one calls for abstinence, yes, but the other calls for hardcore brain changing medication. They are not related, yet are completely codependent. And that is okay, for me it is the difference between life and death, and at this point I choose life over feeling like my Sober 12 Step warrior friends were “getting it” and I was sober but not well-the miracle of AA was yet another thing I desperately wanted but could simply not attain as those around me excelled and blossomed. I was so relieved and changed by realizing I was different, the same, but different, and my recovery would be different, the same but different.
All of that said, when you feel you have swept all of the recesses of your mind of the gook clouding your judgment, lift the gray curtain hiding the real you from sight, and list and look at any resentments you may hold that are holding you back, you are left with the truth and consequences of when your illness ran amok and you left destruction and sorrow in your wake. When you are back to balance, stable sane and living a full productive life, as I am, you still have the memories, the consequences of the past, knowing it really was you, and you no longer have the denial or excuses or alcohol you used to justify your bad behavior or change the past by lying about the truth to yourself. You are healthy, with my illness, healthy means brutally honest, which I specialized in avoiding before I began proper treatment, therapy and medication management, now I live 180 percent the opposite. If I lie I am one minute away from relapse, if I lie to myself I’m probably there.
Here’s the issue I am dealing with and trying to work out in my mind. I am left with a tremendous amount of guilt, shame and regret, and all because I now know I was actually that “crazy bitch” for a reason, a reason that was not my fault but was my problem, what do I do with the damage done during from my first episode of mania through my last. I wish I could call or visit every person I left worse off then I found them, every man I lied to and made sure never felt secure in my love, every employer who loved me for my mind and trusted me with their business only to find me one day a no-show or had betrayed their trust in a way that threatened their empire, nd especially every friend I lied to or stabbed in the back because what was happening was not to my liking and I did not care how my actions affected the other guy, honestly in my worst mania or lowest low of depression I didn’t even think of anyone else let alone consequences of my actions, not even for a second. So now I stand here, a sinner unable to recreate the past as my sane stable grateful self, and knowing sorry won’t cut it, and for most of the damage I had done it is only me who thinks about it and in most cases remembers it. Yet I do, and I walk with a desperate need to right the wrongs and send out emails or make calls to say, “ Hey, remember what I did to you, well apparently I had this terrible illness called bipolar aka manic depression, and instead of dealing with it I numbed myself into oblivion with drugs and alcohol to make it go away, and in that process I betrayed you or lied to you or left you or worse.” Nine out of ten of the people would probably hang up, and the other would say what are you are talking about? If I could explain my evolution from sanity to insanity and back maybe it would help those who suffer and their families and friends accept, deal, cope and recover, and that is the best I can do with the now to help make amends for the past, but it seems incredibly inadequate as I walk with the guilt forward, unable to shake it no matter what I do.
The other day a truly ignorant friend who is very sick and in the throes of the ugliest of alcoholism’s mass self-destruction, asked me if I thought Jodi Arias, the psychopath who killed a man who used her for sex but rejected her as a partner, was bipolar—of course she had to give the dig, “like you.” Let me be clear about what bipolar, formerly known as the much less scary name of manic/depression, is and is not. I never was homicidal or had extreme uncontrollable anger or violence in my life. I never had delusions, hallucinations, voices in my head, or walked around LA babbling to myself unshowered and stinking of trash and urine. I was never hyper sexual or promiscuous, if anything I was hyper monogamous and codependent on men. I never did not work or make a living, if anything I was hyper ambitious and supremely productive during mania, grandiose albeit and unable to accept that I was not the one in a million, but beyond driven to say the least. That laser focus to financial and business success worked for a while, until it inevitably came to the tipping point and the lowest low one can imagine took the reigns. The bipolar low is not “depression” as those who have been diagnosed as depressed can understand, it is a black bleak ugly place where you fully commit to the belief that life is not worth living and death is the only option. If I did not think my parents would never recover, my black would have won and I assure you I would not be writing this. But somewhere between the poles, and for ten years I had zero moments of balanced stability, I was always either in mania or debilitating depression or on the route to one of them. It is awful to look back, and I am so thankful to be five years with no episodes, completely balanced and feeling reborn, renewed and full of love and life, but the ten years plus I walked the line haunts me still daily, and I don’t know what to do with that. If you do, please comment-I know I should let it go, but I can’t.
(PS: Not that any of them will read this, but here is my list for God since I have no power or ability to go elsewhere. I would drop on my knees and beg for forgiveness if I could, if I thought it would matter to anyone but me, because those I hurt deserve an apology but not for my own benefit. I can only ask God to put it out there, and say sincerely that I am sorry, and I hope any wound I caused grew strengthening scar tissue that made your journey in the aftermath better in some way. My most regretful and heartfelt apologies go out to Eva, Chelsea, Ted, Harley, Rachel, Jenifer, Nikki,Brian, Jess, Iris, Bitty, Tracy, Wendy, Jon, Harry, Jeffrey, Patrick, Richard, Jason, Shirit, Jen, Rich, Goldie, SETH, Richie, Heather, Josh, Larry, Yuri, Darren, Alison, Noam, Lisa, Jennifer, Christine, Mark, Eliza, Deborah, Matthew, Jeremy, Brenden, Michael, Natalie, Laura, Eric, and my amazing loving forgiving parents…I can never go back and change the past, but please believe me when I say I desperately wish I could…)
For those who wonder, the Amazing Dr.Kay Jamison, pioneer in bipolar/manic depression research and medicine, as well as one who suffer from the illness puts the pole to pole reality of mania and its counterpart depression from her book, An Unquiet Mind :
““There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness. When you’re high it’s tremendous. The ideas and feelings are fast and frequent like shooting stars, and you follow them until you find better and brighter ones. Shyness goes, the right words and gestures are suddenly there, the power to captivate others a felt certainty. There are interests found in uninteresting people. Sensuality is pervasive and the desire to seduce and be seduced irresistible. Feelings of ease, intensity, power, well-being, financial omnipotence, and euphoria pervade one’s marrow. But, somewhere, this changes. The fast ideas are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity. Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friends’ faces are replaced by fear and concern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against– you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves its own reality.”