It’s not my fault. It is my responsibility. I didn’t do anything that caused me to be sick. And yes, I’m sick. I have a disease of the brain that affects me physically, mentally and emotionally. It also affects those around me. It’s not their fault either, but there can be a certain level of responsibility too depending on the relationship I have with them. I am responsible however for the consequences of my actions. I may not be able to always control my actions, but I do have to clean up the messes I’ve created. I am responsible for my treatment plan, working with mental health professionals to come up with a reasonable course of action that will help me manage my illness. I have to make sure that I follow the plan, and not stop the therapy and medications when I start feeling better. I don’t feel guilty for the way others may be treated or for what they have to put up with me, but I do recognize that it is difficult for them and appreciate those who stick by me in spite of myself.
Being bipolar has created many problems for me over the years. Looking back I can see that directly or indirectly it’s cost me every single job I’ve ever held. Depressions have made it impossible to perform my duties. It’s caused me to miss work for days at a time. Apathy that can come with depression made me just not care if I had a job or not. Mania too has had a big impact on my employment. I will lash out at coworkers and supervisors over some imagined slight or for no reason at all. Rage doesn’t belong in the workplace and although I’ve never gotten directly fired for losing it, it has influenced the attitude of my superiors when it’s been time to make decisions during reorganizations or layoffs. I can become grandiose and think I know what’s better for the company, customers, or other employees than my bosses do. I may voice my opinion, complain about the ‘idiots in charge’, or become extremely pissed off that my abilities aren’t recognized. I usually leave the jobs on my own accord to go somewhere where I can be appreciated. Losing a job or leaving on my own can create a huge financial impact. Sometimes I’ve been able to go directly from one job into another, but many times it’s resulted in unemployment where I can never make even close to what I was making while working. Or depending on how long it is between jobs, make nothing at all. I end up depending on others to help cover my living expenses until I can get back on my feet and take care of myself again. I’m a rapid cycler so I’ve never been able to hold a job more than a few years and my frequent job changes make it more and more difficult to find new ones.
I’ve been extremely fortunate that my manias haven’t created more legal problems than they have. The worst so far is just speeding tickets from driving like a maniac and problems arising from frequent divorces. It could have been a lot different, and it may become so in the future. Like many who suffer from this disease I have a tendency to self medicate with alcohol, primarily with depression. Many times I’ve put myself and others at risk getting behind the wheel when I’ve had too much to drink. It’s only through the grace of God that I’ve never had an accident, hurt anyone else, or been arrested for driving under the influence. Especially hurting others; that would be the worst of all. Fortunately I’ve recognized that alcohol is a horrible way to deal with my illness and have this (and will keep this) under control. My fear of the consequences of this behavior is strong enough to prevent me from repeating this mistake. My depressions are bad, but I don’t lose control to the point that I am not aware of the dangers. Aggressive driving however is something different. It’s a miracle that I’ve never caused an accident because of how I drive during manic episodes. To prevent this I have to make sure I have my illness properly treated so that I’m not in a position to continue this kind of behavior. And during my most manic times I can really do crazy and over the top things. But, to date it’s never been such that I’ve actually broken any laws. This illness has caused me to do many things that could have terrible consequences, and if they ever do, I will be the one responsible, and have to live with the results.
My ability to have relationships has been severely impacted and have caused others great pain by my illness. I’ve created a lot of misery for others as a result of my behaviors. I feel like I’ve left a trail of bodies behind me from every relationship I’ve ever had. My depressions are difficult to live with. It’s no fun being with someone who is so down, so withdrawn or who just wants to die. People that have cared for me can feel my pain, and feel helpless to do anything to help. Mania is even worse. I’ve never directly directed my episodes at anyone, but they have had to deal with my rages directed at others, and the consequences of my actions can have a huge impact. I lose myself in my craziness and completely disregard others feelings or the problems I can create for them. But there is a choice, too. Those who have cared for me can educate themselves about my illness and be an active part of my treatment. They can help me remember to take my medications and notify my doctors and therapist when my behaviors start to get out of control. They can be patient and understanding. It’s a lot to ask, and many times it’s just too much for them to put up with. In fact, personally I’ve never had anyone who could deal with the severity of my condition. But I know others who have been fortunate enough to find a mate that accepts their significant other as they are. It’s rare, and I’m happy for anyone who is lucky enough to have such relationships. And, I’ll admit I’m a little jealous too. I keep hoping that someday I’ll be lucky enough to find this kind of relationship.
No, it’s not my fault. I never chose to have this disease, and I’ve done nothing to bring it on. It is hereditary, but not something anyone else has created either. I refuse to feel guilty for the chaos and issues that I may create. That doesn’t mean I don’t feel remorse though. I hate the fact that I’ve had so many problems over the years. I really hate the pain and suffering I’ve caused others. It would be absolutely devastating to me if I had actually hurt innocents through my actions. I may not feel guilty, but I do feel bad. I may not have always been able to control what has happened, but I’ve always had the responsibility for the results. Messes I’ve created have to be cleaned up, debts have to be paid, and I have to deal with the losses of loved ones. I also have a responsibility for my own treatment. I have to take ownership of learning as much as I can about my illness. I have to be honest and open with my caregivers so that they can develop the appropriate therapy and medications and benefit as much as I can from my therapy. I must make sure I continue taking my medications regardless of how good I think I feel. I have to acknowledge how difficult I can be with others, and appreciate everything that they do for me. I must accept the fact that my behaviors can be harmful and do whatever I have to do to make it right. I will not accept that it is my fault. But I will acknowledge my role in the problems I create for myself and others.
Because when all is said and done, it’s my responsibility after all.