shame on you

It feels like I remember every embarrassing thing I have ever done. All the times felt like I was the center of attention, thinking about all my flaws and shortcomings, while other people probably didn’t even notice me. I obsess over these moments endlessly, thinking about how I felt when the embarrassing moment occurred, or even worse, how I felt about when I eventually realized how stupid I was earlier.

I still feel ashamed for many things in my past. All the inappropriate things I have said at the wrong time, all the stupid things I did to other people, all the mistakes I’ve ever made … they replay in my head frequently, at the least opportune times. I have made apologies to a couple of people for things I did or said, and they accepted my apology gracefully, but it doesn’t erase in my mind the fact of how I feel about these things.

Shame has always been a defining factor in my life. My adopted mother and her adopted mother shamed me constantly, making me think I didn’t deserve anything, and that anything I did to call attention to myself was wrong. I learned early from my schoolmates that doing anything outside the ordinary was a source of embarrassment and shame. As you can imagine, having bipolar as a teenager (and into adulthood) caused me to do more stupid things than ever before and resulted in continuing humiliation when I looked back at my actions.

My intelligence, and my reputation as the smart kid, caused other kids to tease me and exclude me from their social circles, and I learned to hide my intellect to avoid being the focus of attention. In 4th grade I deliberately failed during the school spelling bee because I didn’t want the spotlight focused on me, the person who was expected to win. Because I had more advanced schoolwork than the kids in my classes, I was often separated from them, suffering the indignity of having my own special corner in the classroom, or even worse, being sent to the “special” class where I could work independently. [Funny thing is, the “special kids” were some of the most genuine and kind-hearted people I knew.]

Sometimes I would forget who I was, and get a little false confidence to try something; these times would usually result in the most awkward moments of my life. The 6th grade talent contest comes to mind, when for some reason I thought I could be the emcee and tell jokes in front of the whole school; I failed miserably, and I felt people making fun of me. [Whether they actually made fun of me, I don’t know, but I was my own worst critic.] After these failures, I would retreat into my shell again.

There have been very few times when I was in the spotlight and I actually felt good about it: making a great play in baseball, or nailing my solo during the band performance, or winning the marching competition my first day at college band camp. Some of those memories where I actually accomplished something are still good, and I remember those times very well. But the memories of the times where I failed, or did or said something ignorant or embarrassing, are much stronger than the good memories, and I relive the shame of those moments daily.


your wildest dreams

My daughter told me that when she dreams of me, I am always angry, volatile, moody, or closed off emotionally. She said she can’t remember a dream where I was happy or supportive. I didn’t tell her, but it made me very sad.

I have struggled to be a father to my two kids despite having bipolar, and I’m afraid it hasn’t worked out very well. During the first half of their lives I was completely uncontrolled, and I brought chaos and instability to their lives. After my diagnosis I was doing a better job of managing my illness, but I was also very absent emotionally (and physically at times).

I think the biggest change is in my level of anger that I brought with me since childhood. I love my family very much, but I was so angry that it was damaging my relationships, nearly to the breaking point. At the same time I have been mostly depressed due to the bipolar, and the combination of angry bipolar was very chaotic for me and my family. This was the environment my kids grew up in, and they learned their behaviors partly from me.

It has taken me 40 years to release the pent-up feelings that were so toxic earlier in life. I think I am in a much more accepting place with respect to my past experiences. I have finally learned to allow what happened to remain in the past. Unfortunately there was damage done that I can never undo. The best I can do is move forward and try to be a better person for my adult children.


(This is a cheery poem from 2015. It might be a little too depressing for my public poetry blog.)

Snowflakes falling,
each one a thing of beauty,
but together they smother the earth.

Clumps of soil,
each one giving nutrition and life,
but together they bury the dead.

Droplets of water,
each one flowing and trickling,
but together they drown the weary.

Sheets of paper,
each one a part of my work,
but together they break my back.

Seconds in the day,
each one a brief moment,
but together they measure the length of sorrow.

Thoughts of ending it all,
each one a fleeting fantasy,
but together they extinguish the will to live.

… and the snowflakes keep falling.

emotional eating

I seem to be stuck in an endless cycle of eating, satisfaction, and depression. I think I am addicted to the feeling of being full and satisfied. I can’t get satisfaction any other way, so I eat the sadness away. I feel full and content for a while, but then the feeling goes away, so I have to eat more to bring the feeling back again. In the meantime I feel embarrassed and disgusted about being fat, which leads to depression. A few hours later I need to eat again, and the cycle continues. I wish my depression made me lose my appetite. Instead it makes me crave comfort, and comfort food, and so I eat.

I learned this behavior when I was young. My adopted mom was also an emotional eater. Furthermore, we used food as an escape from the toxic and abusive environment we lived in. When she and I would go out to eat, we could avoid talking about our problems, and for a short time escape reality by enjoying the food and the feeling of being full. After the meal was done, we would go back to reality, and the momentary happiness dissolved.

I don’t know how to disassociate food from happiness. I enjoy good food, but I will also eat mediocre food to get the emotional high. In the meantime I don’t really do anything to take care of my body, like exercising or making better food choices. Vegetables don’t make me feel full and content.

Because of the embarrassment and anxiety of being seen eating, I would rather eat alone. I prefer take-out food to eating in, and I love drive-up windows. I try not to go to the same place more than once a week so they don’t remember me, because that would also be embarrassing.

By the way, it’s time for a snack.


I’m holding my head in my hands while trying to work. I can pretend I have a headache. I can fake that.

I’m close to weeping at my desk. I can pretend my allergies are bothering me. I can fake that.

I go home and want to crawl in bed and just be alone. I can pretend I have a migraine. I can fake that.

I am tempted to put my real feelings on Fakebook, but instead I make a witty observation or post a funny picture. I can pretend to be my old self. I can fake that.

I don’t want to live being hopelessly depressed all the time. I wish I would suddenly just cease to live.

I don’t know how to fake that.


I am sinking. I feel vulnerable and fragile. It scares me that anyone could walk up to me and say something that would damage me to the core, and I seemingly have no defense at the moment. I’m afraid that I will let that vulnerability show.

I tend to isolate myself when I feel this way, like a wounded animal that hides while they regain their strength. I feel wounded, but I don’t feel like hiding will help me. It’s not like I can hide anyway, because I have to put on my mask and go to work every day.

I’m trapped between the need for income and insurance on one side, and my own unmet needs on the other. It has always been this way; reading back through 12 years of blogging reminds me that I have always had this conflict between what I need for myself and what I need to be for everyone else.

I don’t know how to solve this dilemma. I read advice that tells me I need to take little breaks and do things just for me. The reality is I want escape, and no amount of temporary respite will give me what I need. I don’t want a break. I just want to leave it all behind.

These are the type of thoughts that lead one to believe it is okay to put an end to it all. It makes the most sense logically, if you really consider it. The problem is that I don’t want to die just yet.

stable but unwell

My bipolar seems to be in a stable phase lately, however that stability is still not feeling well.

I have had depression phases, but until lately I think they were related to outside events rather than developing on their own. I have had no hypomania phases for at least a year, maybe more. The medication, especially the Abilify, takes the edge off so that I rarely get those highs anymore. I miss the highs a little bit, then I remember that I usually have an agitated mixed state rather than a happy hypomanic state.

This time I seem to be in a real depression. I worry constantly, my OCD is there all the time, I exhibit social anxiety symptoms every day, I try to avoid contact with people, and I have the added stress of maintaining the constant mask that keeps people from seeing how I really feel. Physically I don’t feel well, I am tired all the time despite getting good sleep, and my weight has ballooned. I have no motivation or energy to do anything, and getting the house ready to sell seems like an overwhelming task at this time. When I am overwhelmed, I give up, and that makes me depressed, and the vicious cycle continues.

I don’t know if any changes to my meds are warranted, but I will ask him if I can do anything else. The p-doc says I am maxed out on the Lamictal, and the Abilify is doing nothing for my depression or anxiety. The social anxiety is probably a behavioral issue rather than medical, and changing the meds won’t affect that. There is no magic formula to make me change the kind of person I am, and I don’t believe any amount of therapy can give me confidence or self-esteem, or take away the insecurities I have had since childhood.

I guess the theory behind the medicine is that if they can fix your brain chemistry so that you’re not depressed all the time, you will be able to make changes and make progress necessary to improve your life. Nicole and I were discussing that with respect to her illness, and I was telling her that it seems like she is just stagnating, standing in place, choosing not do to do things to make progress toward independence and rejoining the world of the living. I think I am stagnating as well, but I have the added stress of being forced to play the role of worker and provider and all-around good guy for everyone who needs me.

Fuck bipolar.