guilty as charged

When I was a kid I learned how to internalize guilt because, despite being powerless over the situation, I was made to feel guilty whenever something bad happened. I became conditioned to accept blame for things that were not my fault and that I had no control over. I still carry those tendencies with me, and I have no idea how to let go of that notion that I am not to blame for everything. As a result, I have accumulated a tremendous amount of guilt over time, some of it warranted and some not. It weights on me like extra gravity that no one else can feel, dragging me downward and draining my energy day after day.

One of the biggest sources of guilt right now is that every time I look at Nicole and see all the weight she gained, I blame myself for allowing her to stay on the wrong medication when I should have known it would make her gain weight just like it did to me. Now her beauty is hidden, and despite her positive attitude, I know it affects her life, just like my fat affects my life. I hate myself for not putting a stop to the medicine before this happened.

I feel guilty about the state of our marriage. I know some people our age find it difficult to keep the passion alive, but I feel like I checked out emotionally years ago and I don’t know how to come back. We are good business partners, we seem to be friends, but we’re just not lovers anymore. I entirely blame myself for that, due to a medication-induced lack of libido and a general lack of interest in intimacy. I wish things were better for her, but I don’t know how I could ever fit into that better picture. She is stuck with me, and that makes me sad for her.

Another major source of guilt is the sudden news that Dan has been feeling suicidal over the past few years, and I think the root cause goes way back to the decision to move here from California. Despite it being good for the family, he never did handle it well, but I never knew the extent of his depression. If he would have said something … but what example have I shown? I tried to hide my bipolar symptoms from the kids as much as possible. Dan’s personality never was very demonstrative, and he learned to hide everything he was feeling.

I feel guilty for so many things. There seems to be no way to let go, no way to fix things, no way to be redeemed. The root of my sadness and depression is the guilt that festers inside me.

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morbidly awkward

Following up on something in a previous post: my severe lack of self-esteem makes it difficult to socialize on a normal level.

I don’t feel like I have anything to give another person, whether as a friend or a casual acquaintance. I don’t think other people are interested in being around me, and if I try I feel like they are actually repulsed somehow by my attempt to interact with them. I am not interesting, I lose track of conversations, I have a hard time listening, and when I do say something it usually comes out wrong, and I feel stupid as a result. This effect gets worse in proportion to how much I would like to have a conversation with someone (which is rarely the case, but it happens).

I am terribly awkward at making conversation because I am overwhelmed while the other person is talking; my brain is working on so many different levels that I find it hard to keep up. I am trying to figure out something to say while wondering if I look ignorant, or I’m thinking about the stain on my shirt, or remembering the idiotic thing I said last time I talked to the person. In the meantime I have lost track of what the person was actually saying, then I feel stupid for not paying attention to the other person. This reinforces my fear of social interaction, and the next time is no better.

I dread interacting with people at the store or at restaurants, because people are only being friendly because it is required by their job. I loathe buying something where you have to talk to a salesperson, because I know I will get overwhelmed no matter how much I have prepared beforehand; internet shopping and the drive-thru window were made for me. I hate having to call people and talk to them for any personal or office business, because I am self-conscious about my voice and I always seem to stumble over my words. I could be dying and on the phone with 911, and I would be worried more about my side of the conversation than about the compound fracture in my leg.

The end result of all this is that I try to avoid dealing with people whenever possible. Talking to people exhausts me, not because I don’t like people (and I don’t like most people), but because I don’t really value myself. My negativity gets in the way of being an equal participant in social interactions. This gets worse as I get older and I become less confident in my ability to relate to people.

The only exception to this rule is at work, on the rare occasions where I really know what I am talking about, and I find that I can contribute intelligently to the conversation. This doesn’t happen often, but sometimes it surprises me. Last week I had a snap meeting which I unexpectedly was in charge of, and had no time to prepare for, but everything worked out okay. I answered everyone’s questions reasonably well, and I didn’t feel like a failure afterward.

wallflower

I have the ability to disappear in a group of people who are supposedly my “work-friends”. I have been talking to one or two people about something, then suddenly someone else appears who becomes the center of attention. They appear, and like magic, I disappear. In the past I have tried to stay in the room and appear like I was still relevant, but lately I have just given up and walked away from the conversation with my head down.

I’m not the guy that everyone likes to have around, and I rarely get invited to join the group. Nobody gives me a jovial nickname, and I’ll never be the person everyone wants to say hi to. It’s just kind of an obligation for people to greet me because I am standing there, but I get the sense they don’t care if I am there or not. Don’t worry, the feeling is mutual.

I’m never the glue that holds a circle of people together, I’m always on the fringe. Sometimes I appear to be the common link between two groups of people, like a single electron that forms a bond between two molecules. Then the bond is broken, and the molecule goes spinning off without me. Does that make me a free radical, or just pathetic? It makes me not want to try to be part of the group next time, therefore I isolate myself further.

I want to make more friends, but two things prevent me. One is the social anxiety that makes me fear being around people; being forced to interact with others drains me and sucks all the energy from my soul. The second, closely related factor is a deep lack of self-esteem that makes me feel inferior and inadequate in nearly every situation. I don’t feel like I have anything worthwhile to give another person, so why would they want to be friends with me?

If I just had bipolar disorder, but had an otherwise normal personality, I would be fine. I would trade everything to have a different personality, but as a wise philosopher once said, “I yam what I yam, and that’s all that I yam.”

love in the friend zone

As I entered high school, in the aftermath of years of emotional abuse, I was a psychological train wreck. I put on a front for everybody, because that’s what I learned as a child: It’s nobody’s business, they don’t need to know, you can’t trust anyone other than your dysfunctional family. I became an actor, playing a role just as well as anyone in the drama class in high school. I had “friends”, but they knew nothing about my life other than what I allowed them to see. Everybody thought of me as the smart guy who had everything going my way; I felt like a fraud. I had the stress of being a teenager, the stress of portraying the overachiever I was expected to be, the stress of undiagnosed early-onset bipolar, and the stress of recovering from an abusive childhood. I was at a breaking point, and I wondered what it would be like to die, though I didn’t have any suicidal plans.

Lisa was the first person I knew I could trust with everything. We had become acquainted over a couple of years of friendly competition in middle school, but when we got to high school we became much closer and started hanging out together most of the time. Rumors flew of course, but at the time we didn’t care, we were just having fun being friends. I realized she wasn’t being superficial, and she wasn’t going to pull the football away at the last second. Even in my confused and fragile state, I understood that she was a true friend.

There was one day when something had triggered me, and I was in one of those mixed depressive states I have come to know too well. I was on the verge of tears all day, but also ready to fight with anyone who crossed my path. At some point I hid myself away in an unused corridor and cried so hard it physically hurt, the sadness and anxiety and anger just pouring out of me uncontrollably. Somehow, Lisa found me, and she sat down and cried with me. It made her sad that I was hurting so badly, and her empathy touched me deeply. No one had ever been there for me in that way before, and it was unbelievable that anyone could care for me so much.

My love for her grew from friends to something more. I was so immature emotionally, and maybe I saw her as a caregiver as well as a friend and a potential romantic partner. Eventually I got the nerve to bring up the topic, and finally I asked her what she thought of being more than friends. She gave me the “it might ruin our friendship” speech, and from anyone else it may have sounded fake, but I believed she was being genuine.

I accepted what she said, for the time being, and our friendship was fine, but I was always looking for an opportunity to convince her she was wrong. That opportunity never arrived, for various reasons. We both had relationships come and go, and we remained friends, but she was who I wanted to be with. I would have followed her anywhere if she had given me any kind of indication that she loved me in the same way I loved her. Anywhere.

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Part of me still misses what we had at the time, and I have thought a lot about what a life with Lisa might have been. I used to IM her and write her manic e-mails in the pre-Fakebook days, but she eventually stopped replying (probably because my messages were bizarre and obsessive). I still dream about her, and I’ve written poems and blog posts about her. I’m friends with her on Fakebook, but we never chat or message each other; if she wanted to communicate with me, she would have by now. I could never tell her the million thoughts I have had about her, because it would be too disruptive to both our lives. It would be unfair to her to drag her into my messed-up mind.

I know that between us, I am the only one who is still obsessed with our ancient history. I’m not a perfect person, and I know hanging on to memories like this is unhealthy to me and potentially damaging to my current relationship. I know I should forget those days, but I don’t know how to let some things go. I love some of those memories, but sometimes they fuck with my brain. Maybe other people forget their memories from those days, and they are better off for it. Maybe it helps them move on.

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.

self-centered

My bipolar makes me self-centered, and not in a healthy way. Sometimes I obsess over my depression and anxiety and insecurities, and the inner dialog becomes all about me-me-me. In those times I really don’t care about other people and their problems.

It’s difficult when I spend so much energy managing my own health, and there is so little energy left for anything outside myself. Sometimes I feel like I have to protect my fragile psyche when events become too overwhelming, and my thoughts focus inward. It is good to take care of myself, but I’m not very empathetic unless something affects me personally.

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.

the mother of all visits

The mother of all visits went pretty much as I expected. The first couple of days were fine, the next 2 days she got on my nerves, and on the last day I think we were both glad she got on the plane.

The simple truth is that I just don’t like her. She is a little too pushy, too loud, too racist, too whatever, and it just rubs me the wrong way. She thinks she knows everything and is an expert on everything, and isn’t afraid to let you know. She thinks she has my problems figured out, and she thinks she can figure out Nicole’s problems. Just like 10 years ago, I don’t really know how to tell her that she has no right to do that.

We are such vastly different people. She hides her vulnerabilities behind brash outspokenness, while I try to disappear into the wallpaper. She loves to speak her mind constantly – so many words – where I am more parsimonious with my thoughts. She is very emotional, while I am dead inside. She has no respect for my personal space, while my space bubble is the limit of my vision.

She pushes too much sometimes. She touches me when I don’t want her to. I guess it is a combination of her personality and her desire to be parental. She is constantly finding new and horrifying ways to express her love, which I have not returned. She is trying too hard to be “Mom”, and I don’t really want that. I don’t know how to express that without upsetting her deeply. Like I wrote in the old blog many years ago, I don’t want or need another Mom; I had one, and the experience wasn’t the best, and I don’t need B-mom thinking she is finally ready to assume that role.

This is no way to build a relationship, yet that is exactly what she has wanted for the past 10 years. I don’t know how to like someone when I don’t, so I guess I fake it, just like I fake everything else.

It has been almost two weeks since she left, and we haven’t talked. If I could get a word in, I might tell her how much her meddling irritates me. I could tell her I don’t have room to “love” any more people. I could tell her I don’t really want her to visit again, and definitely not longer next time. Then again, I won’t get a chance to say any of those things because she will be talking the entire time.

vulnerable

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.