I need you to understand that I in no way discount what anyone has gone through. Things may be exactly as you recall them. This post is meant merely to ask the reader to consider things.
One of the great troubles with Bipolar Disorder is that we tend to ruminate what we view as the horrors of our past. We think we remember all the times we have been depressed and felt like we wanted to die. We think we remember the charge the mania gave us and may long for the positive influence we think we remember happening. We may be paralyzed by thoughts of our past in which we hurt others and maybe tried to hurt ourselves. If any of this sounds like you, listen closely to this:
There are three things that are known about memory that I want you to know.
- People can recall events that never happened.
- All memories are inaccurate to some degree.
- Identifying false memories may be next to impossible
(Psychology Today, June 2016, pg. 21)
It may not be necessary to crucify yourself on the altar of regret. It is possible that you do not remember the past as it actually happened. I have found these things to be true in my own life. I think I remember being mean to my kids and speaking unkindly to them as I wallowed in my anger and depression on a daily basis. Anger was my friend and I was angry every day and I felt I took it out on my kids.
But you know what? My kids and my family don’t remember it that way. My kids, who are now 18, 21 and 24, remember me as working hard to be a good mom and always loving them. They don’t remember me being abusive. It’s three against one. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I was a good mom. They all seem to have turned out to be good people. I need to believe them. That guilt crushes me at times. I’m choosing to believe that I wasn’t as bad as I recall. I was a good person.
Bipolar sufferers feel emotions more intensely than other people. We remember incidents where our world has crashed down around us because that’s what we remember feeling at the time and so that’s what we feel now as we think about the past.
We may think we remember the situation even being worse than it was. Another person may remember the same situation as not being quite as dire as we do. In fact, we may be remembering an incident as more intense and devastating than it was. We may even be remembering something that happened in our head, that we think happened, that never did happen. Can you imagine that? Maybe you are a better person than you think you are. These things are true for all people, but I’m talking about us and our magnificent emotions.
What I want you to understand is that you and I, we should cut ourselves some slack. Our memories are never perfect and unless you have proof that what you remember happened or felt actually did occur, relax a little. Maybe we’re not as horrible as we think we are.
I have “memories” of being a horrible mom. I “remember” saying things and not doing things that amount to neglect or even abuse as a parent. I’ve asked my kids and my family about some of the bad things that I “remember” doing and saying. Generally, they all agree I wasn’t the horrible parent I think I was.
The kids are glad they grew up with me and not their father. That means a lot to me. He’s not a bad man, but they say they would have hated me if I’d let their father have them.
Even though I truly was in a deep depression and on a manic high most of their early lives they love me and want me in their lives. I run in a mixed state so you never know how I’ll act. I recall letting especially my youngest get away with more things because I was afraid I was being too sever with her. My older two say I did let her get away with too much. At least I remember that correctly.
On the other hand, maybe you are remembering certain things correctly and you were horrible. In that case I hope we can learn from those situations and find ways to keep them from happening again.
My message: Try to cut yourself some slack. Consider the three things we know about memory and apply them to yourself. You and I are probably not at horrible as we think we are.