Facing the Uncertain Future
Something happened yesterday while I was doing some research for this blog. I ran across a picture of myself online that was posted by someone that I was very close to, someone I loved very much. We had a falling out many years ago and for a variety of reasons we didn’t continue our relationship. Most of that came from my distorted thinking since I was out of it at the time, didn’t know I was bipolar, wasn’t medicated and had no realistic idea about how I was reacting.
All last night I was very, very troubled. The caption of this picture said, ‘This was my best friend who I miss very much’. As if I were dead. In fact, I suppose we thought we were dead to each other, but I never truly felt that way. I was hurt very much, and very badly, whether through my own fault or not.
Yet this accidental find was a disaster to my heart. I’m someone different now. I understand what went wrong, and now I know what I need to do.
I need to apologize. I need to tell the people in my past that no matter what happened or didn’t happen, I still love them, I have always loved them, I never stopped loving them and I will always love them more than they can imagine. It was myself that I could not love.
I have often said that I cannot turn my love off and on like a light switch; when I come to love someone, it is forever. But the past is something I cannot undo. I want all the people I have loved to know that I suffered pain and loss that made me unable to function; this is no excuse, it’s a fact. And it is also very true that my loss of function and the suffering it created caused so many nasty, horrible consequences for me and for them. I say to them that I realize and very much regret that I cannot change my past mistakes and errors and if it were possible, I would, but I have no time machine.
I have suffered for years in emotional poverty, and it was self-imposed. How awful and insidious to treat myself that way; my actions (and inaction) created within me loneliness on a remarkably vast scale and very likely caused me permanent harm. It may take forever before those scars heal over completely, and perhaps longer, if ever.
But did I do something so heinous, so insensitive to others that the end result was my losing them? Yes, indeed I did. I closed myself off from everyone else. I reacted without thinking because my thinking was distorted. I perceived everything as a slight, as a punishment; I could only look at my circumstances and react with self-loathing and disgust. I descended into a pit of despair, and it was I that walked to the pit and willingly threw myself in.
And that’s where forgiveness comes into the picture.
Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Now, after roughly four months of corrected medication and years of talk therapy, I can face the past in a much more direct and realistic manner. I can hope to forgive myself, forget the perceived sins of others and move forward toward a future where the things I’ve done in the past are placed properly in the past where they belong.
I am truly sorry that I behaved badly, but being sorry isn’t enough. What does help is to never, ever knowingly subject friends and family to unrealistic expectations or the behavior that comes from distorted thinking and reactionary response. It means being completely truthful to myself as best I can. It means being honest with others when there is a problem and my bipolarity is a cause of disruption, confusion, dismay or pain to them. It means that what I can do is to promise to do my best to move forward in my life in a way that hopefully will prevent suffering from disabling me or sabotaging my efforts. I can attempt to make amends, as feeble as they may be, but after all this time I question whether or not those whom I have rejected even know or care.
I believed my own destructive thinking. I believed the lies, the fear, my brain giving me the wrong signals, my helplessness, my anger; for this, I am most sorry. Incredulously, I believed that my friends and family were throwing me in front of the bus and leaving me in droves because there was something terribly wrong with them, their upbringing, the society from which they came.
Wrong, dead wrong. I threw myself in front of that bus. No one else pushed me.
Should I spend time on regret? Isn’t regret by definition rumination on your past bad behavior that you can do nothing about now? Perpetual rumination on the negative elements of my past is my enemy and does nothing to move me forward. The pain such rumination has caused spurs me on to better mental health. And it is a powerful element that prods me. I never want regret in my life again; I never wanted it from the beginning. It’s a terrible opponent to positivity.
I can apologize all I like and not make any difference, not have any real effect; I simply cannot change the past. I cannot move a single element of my past behavior and obviously regretting it isn’t helpful at all. So what can I do? I’m not an alcoholic but in recovery, regardless of what brought you there, many similarities exist between bipolar or dependency issues. The tenets voiced in AA, the 8th and 9th tenets, are to make a list of those you have wronged and then take actions to make them right and while I do agree with the sentiment I question the effectiveness of the action. Doing what you can do to amend the past is fine and right but your outcome is not guaranteed nor will it necessarily be a positive one; these are logical outcomes were I to act on those tenets. I can make the attempt to make amends but how much pain will that cause for both me and for those I have wronged by my distorted behavior? Is it worth it to me, to them?
Well, I will never know that unless I begin, and perhaps now I can.
By working toward my goal of mental health and moving toward the future with a better attitude, I am doing for myself what is right and true. Asking others for forgiveness is only one step. I need my guardian angels to help me; those guardian angels that keep me in therapy, that keep me on a nonstop medication schedule. Those angels and my commitments will allow me to move forward in the world in a meaningful, forthright manner. They will allow me to work toward being genuine, toward being optimistic, toward achieving goals. Toward understanding. Toward healing.
For everyone that has ever suffered from bipolar disorder, for everyone that has a mental illness that ravages their loved ones and themselves, remember: Be Not Afraid, for if you have been loved before or have loved, you’ll be loved and will love again, never fear.
If we move forward in love and understanding then we are blessed and able to create a life filled with meaning and richness. But there are other guardian angels we must heed; they are the very people we have wronged in the past. Learn from them.
This is the the angel Gabriel, Angel of Resurrection. Biblically speaking, this angel informs the women at Jesus’ tomb that he has risen to heaven. I’m no follower of any specific religion – but what is it that I can learn from him? I can learn that, indeed, I am Resurrected thanks to the guidance of my mental health team and all the work I have accomplished.
While it is completely, absolutely true that there is no going back, it is also true that I can find a sense of peace and move forward with the best intent — if I am vigilant and do not repeat the negative and unrealistic elements of my past.
If those I have harmed will forgive me, I can learn to forgive myself. In this lies my hope for peace.