I’m not bragging, but I’ve always considered myself an intelligent man. I’ve been able to accomplish many things beyond my experience and education based purely on hard work and smarts. I think I’m a reasonable person too. For the most part I’m very tolerant and understanding of others. I’ve spent so many years gaining insight into my own life I’ve learned how to apply that insight to others. With my jobs I’ve held positions of responsibility and influence. I’ve been able to contribute to the success of the companies where I’ve been employed. And these experiences have given me the ability to be responsible outside of the workplace too. I know what it takes and I have the skills to be just as successful in my private life as well.
So why do I continue to make dumb decisions?
Okay, I know. I’m bipolar. And there are no good decisions when in the middle of an episode; especially a manic one. And boy have I made some bad ones! What I’m talking about is when I’m not having an episode. Lately I haven’t been having any extreme episodes, but my decision making still isn’t on par with what it should be. I’m making decisions (Or not making them, which is just a bad) that I know I shouldn’t. I know better, but it just happens in the moment.
It may be simple things. My car registration expired in November. And yet I didn’t renew it until just this week. I can make the excuse that I only thought about it when I was in the car (And couldn’t do anything about it), but it’s something I should have taken care of. It was the lack of a decision that it didn’t happen. Fortunately, I haven’t gotten a ticket for it, and it’s finally been taken care of. I hate checking my mail box. It’s rare that I get anything other than junk mail and flyers, but when there is anything else, it’s usually bad news. So I don’t check it, and ignore what does come in unless it’s an absolute must to take care of. My water bill is one of the few that I don’t get electronically, and I’ve chronically been late because it gets left in the box. I’ve been late on my rent too. When it’s time to pay it, instead of sitting down and getting it done, I keep telling myself that I don’t feel like it at the moment, and that I’ll get to it later. That’s a dumb decision, and I’m lucky my Landlord doesn’t complain.
Some of the things I do are more serious. Even when I was making decent money, I never put away any into savings. I haven’t contributed anything towards my retirement either. I have no reserves at all, and I’m one paycheck away from financial disaster. It’s not a conscious decision, but I just don’t decide (and stick with it) to be responsible and plan ahead. I’m in my 50’s now, and where I am right now I’ll never be able to retire. I’ll be working until I die.
It’s obvious that I’ve made some really bad choices when it comes to relationships. My four ex wives will attest to that. Getting into the marriages seemed like such a good idea at the time, but if I’m completely honest with myself, there was a little voice in the back of my head saying “You’re making a mistake”. But I decided not to listen, and got married anyway in spite of my misgivings. Surprisingly enough, they all failed. Bad relationship choices haven’t always resulted in marriage either. I’ve gone out with women that I knew I didn’t really like, or ignored red flags that I knew were there. And of course none of them worked out either, and there has been a lot of pain inflicted, both on myself and others.
I think I’m doing better now. The mood swings seem to have stabilized, and I do not have to deal with the fallout of the really dangerous decisions that I make when out of control. I’ve been working very hard to stay conscious of my responsibilities and make deliberate, thought out choices. I’ve been very careful when it comes to relationships, and have forced myself to not follow my instincts and do things that in my experiences have been harmful or resulted poorly. I’m spending a lot of effort to make healthy decisions; surround myself with healthy people; and keep myself out of situations where I’d be tempted to do anything I’d regret.
But here’s the problem.
My whole life has been a long string of mistakes and poor decisions. My head may know better, but my actions disregard my common sense and intelligence. I don’t really know how to differentiate between the two. I think I’m doing the right thing at the time. Or I don’t think about it at all. My life just happens, and all the lessons I’ve learned, all the insight I’ve gained, all the tools I’ve developed don’t seem to get applied. So, now that I feel like I’m doing better, am I really making better choices and decisions? Will I continue to improve over time? Or am I just convincing myself that I’ve taken responsibility and doing the things I ought to be doing. I guess only time will tell. I guess that over time I’ll just have to learn to trust myself; because at the moment, I don’t.
And it scares the hell out of me.