I’ve been told to “move through it” when it comes to shame attacks before my Bipolar I diagnosis three years ago. How does one get past the shame of infidelity, wasteful spending, volatile mood swings, hyper sexuality action, drug and alcohol abuse, destroying ones family and circle of friends, and suicidal plans? If we are all alike within our disease, what is the common denominator to REALLY move past shame?
I want to begin by saying you’re not alone. Most of us have had a moment or moments we’re not proud of. Not just because we are bipolar but also because we are human. We are going to make mistakes. It is true however that our mistakes tend to be the drastic kind, the ones that seem to be a little harder to bounce back from. Reading your question felt like I was reading my own past laid out in front of me.
By the time I was 22 I was drinking so much every night just to stay numb. By the time I was 23 I was not only drinking but I had moved on to drugs as well. I cheated on my first husband. I carried on a two year relationship with someone who was also married. My husband and I were having problems and were on again off again thru the whole two years. But in the end, I ended the extra marital relationship knowing it was wrong, and recommitted to my husband. We divorced however a couple of years later because of the brutality and abuse in the relationship (He was physically violent). After I left my husband I went thru a period of hyper sexuality. I was participating in very risky behavior and going thru partners very quickly. Since I was a regular at one of the local bars it provided me with the outlet and resources I needed for my adventures. Eventually, however I calmed down and hit a plateau. The drugs stopped and the drinking slowed way down. Around this time I met my second husband. On a manic upswing, I married him 9 days after I met him. It was a real whirl wind romance. But within two weeks I crashed and the violent mood swings and anxiety set in. We were like fire and gasoline. He had a temper (although he was never physically abusive) and my mood swings were fuel for his fire. Our marriage lasted only three years. After many accusations of infidelity, I actually caught him cheating and I was unable to move past the betrayal so I left.
My world fell apart when I left my second husband. I thought for a while that in some way my second husband’s infidelity was karma paying me back for my infidelity to my first husband. It was only right that I suffer for my earlier “crimes”. That was my train of thought. For two years I was in a deep depression. For many reasons I couldn’t move past the things that had occurred in my life. But I had to let go of the guilt and realize God just had a better plan for me and wanted me out of the bad situation I had gotten myself into by marrying my second husband. When one door closes another one opens. I had two daughters. One from each marriage, and they were the best thing this life had given me but what had I done to them. Because of my choices, my actions, we were now alone and on our own. I had a lot to come to terms with and my mind all but shut down under the pressure. I started processing it little by little, dealing with each little part of my past piece by piece. I had to realize that I couldn’t hold onto the shame and blame I was carrying around inside of me. It was eating at me until it was eating me alive I didn’t date for 5 ½ years, afraid of repeating mistakes I had already made. But I have since started dating. It hasn’t always been perfect but it’s not been a flashback either.
I have a really hard time managing money. I always have. It was always a big issue between me and my second husband. I was in charge of finances and when money would “disappear” quickly without a good reason we would argue. Spending is a coping mechanism for me, it makes me feel better. When I am upset, mad or depressed, I want to go shopping and blow off some steam. It wasn’t such a big deal when there was money to spare. Now however, I am a single mother and every penny counts. Although I have over spent on occasion I still try to remember now I am all my girls have and they are depending on me to provide for them. It’s a real eye opener and it tends to clear my head when Im standing at the store wanting to buy this or that. When I do over spend I do feel guilty about it sometimes, “did I really need to buy that?” “Could it have waited for a better time?” I don’t usually spend on myself to often. I tend to spoil my girls. Could they live without the things I buy them, yeah probably. But it’s only money and we can’t take it with us when we’re gone. I’m not encouraging you to go out and go on a wild shopping spree I’m just saying if you have, don’t obsess over the guilt of it until its consumed you. There are many facets of this illness that are beyond our control. The things we did before we knew we were Bipolar is a part of that uncontrollable facet. It is a learning experience. We see what we are capable of becoming without treatment and control. Learn from your experience and become a better person. No one has the right to fault you for something that was beyond your knowledge.
When someone tells you to “move past it” sometimes it’s easier said than done. Your past is not just something you “get over”. You have to learn to forgive yourself. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you’ve made and realize that you’re not the only one. Everyone makes mistakes. There are those of us out there who have made the same or similar mistakes as you. Talking about them sometimes helps too. If you can find a therapist or if you have a therapist then talking and working thru your feelings will help. It’s a process. Forgiveness is key. Once you learn to forgive yourself then you will be able to let go of the shame and guilt.