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My therapists are not talking to each other, this is the shortcoming of my stay-at-home treatment plan. I am the go-between. I know it’s not ideal, but I also can see progress being made so am willing to accept that shortcoming. They may talk to each other periodically though.
I agree that I have a lot of anger, and I don’t seem to be able to let go of it. I want to forgive people, especially myself, and move on with my life, but I am stuck. As you know, anger that gets held onto runs in my family. I am sure some of that anger is directed towards my son. I don’t want it to be there, I totally see that it is not his fault. I hate that I resent him, but I know that I do. I have done some good work around this in therapy. I badly want to repair the relationship with my son.
The manic phase was good in that I wasn’t in pain, but bad in that it represents instability. Deep down I find manic phases fun and exciting, and they’re way better than depression. But they come with poor decision making, which often has negative consequences for my life. They almost inevitably lead to a crash afterwards. What I want is to be stable.
The issue with my husband on the emotional support thing is that he is deeply disconnected from his own emotions. He maintains that he doesn’t actually have emotional needs. He doesn’t understand what they are, how they work, or how to address them in him or anyone else. This leads him to behave really coldly towards me without realizing it. For example, when I get really depressed, I go to bed during the day and watch TV. When I told him that it would make me feel loved if he came to see if I was ok, he said, “But I know you’re not ok. Why would I ask?”. He genuinely doesn’t get that people talking to one another has a purpose besides transmission of information. It has occurred to me (and him) that he might be on the autism spectrum.
I told my husband last night that if we don’t start making real progress in the next 6 months – a year, we need to split up for everyone’s well-being. I wasn’t going to come out and say it so straightforwardly, but when I was more subtle about it, he was distracted and not fully listening to me. I realized in family therapy yesterday that he doesn’t even get how bad things are. When asked what his low point of the last two weeks was, a two weeks in which we have almost not talked at all, he said it was getting stuck in traffic on the way to the appointment. That really shocked me. I know he’s not depressed the way that I am, but for the worst thing about his last two weeks to be traffic when our relationship is in crisis and I am falling apart – it just astonished me.
The more I think about leaving, the better I feel. We have been waiting for ten years to go back to a happy place we were in for only 3 years. Those are terrible odds, and I fear that the model we’re showing our son of a relationship is toxic. I don’t want him to struggle with relationships the way that I do.
We’ll see what happens. Maybe our conversation from last night will be a catalyst for real growth. That would be nice. But I don’t think that’s how it’s going to go down. I think we’re too incompatible – I’m way too emotional for him, he must constantly feel like a failure because he can’t support me, and I constantly feel alone and abandoned. I think we could actually do divorce and co-parenting well together, and I think our son would benefit so much from having happier parents. I think we could even be friends.
I don’t know. I know for now that the best thing I can do is work on myself and encourage him to do the same. It’s not time to pack my bags yet, but I do hear a clock ticking in a way I haven’t before. I don’t want to assume that ending my marriage will solve all my problems, and I know it will create many new ones. I worry about the impact it will have on my already struggling son. But I feel that it will be very hard to learn to accept myself from within a relationship in which I feel constantly rejected and isolated.
Thanks for your thoughts.
I am working on quite a lot in therapy right now. Instead of the residential program, I am working with 5 different therapists lately. I have a trauma therapist, an art therapist, and a psychologist. I also am still working with our family therapist and the couple’s therapist. In addition to that, I am trying some body work, so far I have seen an osteopath and an acupuncturist. I would like to add an occupational therapist because I have been doing so poorly at fulfilling my day-to-day responsibilities.
The trauma therapy and the art therapy go very well together. For a few weeks in a row, I have done EMDR with my trauma therapist, then done a painting about that, and discussed it with the art therapist. It feels like a very efficient way to get at the heart of my issues. I did some very powerful work around my mother last week, and it really helped.
We are working on the self-love and self-acceptance, but it is slow going. It is also made harder by how bad my marriage is. My husband has been providing a lot of practical support, and I know that’s how how he expresses love. But I need a hug, I need someone to ask how I am, I need someone who can listen and focus while I talk. It is very hard for me to believe that I deserve to be loved and valued when my husband barely talks to me. I know I need to meet these needs myself before anyone else can, but it’s so hard to do it from inside a bad relationship.
I am working hard at healing, but it is slow and frustrating. I’ll feel like I’m doing better, only to crash again and find myself in despair. The manic phase was really disappointing, because I hadn’t had one in a long time, and I thought maybe I was done with that. It also gives me a false sense of well-being, so it feels like all the progress I thought I made was illusory.
Bipolar is a very hard illness to live with. My moods and my judgment get hijacked. My irrational decisions seem rational. The fact that I develop romantic obsessions makes it even worse – the part of me that gets the most intense around manic phases is such an intimate part of me, and honestly makes me wonder whether I’ve ever really loved anyone, or if it was all just manic obsession.
This last manic phase was quite intense, but I can’t deny that I got through it ok. The guy I obsessed about is a good friend who cares about me, and it was safe to trust him with my feelings. I needed something – to feel heard and valued, and he provided it. I didn’t run off to be with him or do anything really destructive.
I can see that things are getting a little better, but it is so slow and so painful. I have some support, but nothing feels like enough.
Thanks for listening.
I have had an eventful few weeks.
I decided not to go into residential treatment. My sister is funding a variety of therapists I am seeing at home. It turns out it was a good thing I made that decision, because the place I was looking at can help with trauma and depression, but only if my bipolar was stable. Last week, I realized I was having a manic phase. I think it was building for a few weeks, but I can’t be sure.
When I get manic, I usually develop a romantic obsession, and this time was no different. I started talking several times a day to an ex boyfriend of mine for whom I have always had feelings. We talked a lot, and expressed a lot of affection for one another. We never acknowledged anything was going on, just talked a lot. He lives in another country very far away, so it felt harmless – there was no risk of anything inappropriate happening. What I didn’t see at the time is that the correspondence itself was inappropriate. Now he has stopped answering my messages. At the same time as I see it’s probably best we not be in constant contact, I miss him. I miss feeling seen and valued and like someone actually has a bit of faith in me. I certainly don’t get that from my husband.
This is so, so frustrating. I have carried out this cycle so many times, and I never know I’m doing it at the time. It always feels different, healthy, important. Then when it’s over, I always feel stupid, like once again I’ve been shown what happiness with another person might look like, only to have it snatched away.
I have also come to a realization about my marriage. I can’t stay in it long term. I am going to give it at most a year, and if I don’t see improvement, I will leave. We are entangled in a relationship that is not healthy for us or for our son. I know the correspondence with my ex was wrong, but it also reminded me what it feels like when someone actually likes you and wants to talk to you. If I am going to be in a relationship, I need to feel that way sometimes, and I can see that that is not an unreasonable desire. My husband is a good person, and it’s not his fault he is so bad with emotions. But I am a very emotional person, and I cannot be with someone who can’t handle that.
I am feeling so low. Not suicidal at the moment, but very hopeless and alone. It feels like I am doomed to repeat these cycles forever.
Thanks for checking in,
I talked to the person who did my intake interview yesterday. They’re not saying no, but they need to see my medical records to make sure I’m not at risk of mania. The request has been sent to the records department at the hospital where my doctor works, but I have no idea how long it’s going to take for them to get them over. The person I talked to said that if she doesn’t have the records early next week, she’ll start making phone calls, which I take to be a good sign. There is another program I’m looking into, which would be good, but not as good as my first choice. The second program is in a covid hot spot and has much stricter protocols which sound like they would get in the way (plexiglass partitions in the dining room, closed gym, individual therapy done virtually). They also allow smoking, and I am hoping for a non-smoking facility to help me quit. If I have to I’ll go there, but I’m really hoping for my first choice.
I felt really pessimistic yesterday, and it got me down. But I’m feeling a bit better today. I’m going to have a picnic with one of my best friends this afternoon, and I’m sure that will help.
I’m just so damn tired of this. I want to feel better. I feel like this is a life and death situation after my experience with suicidal thoughts last week. I’m not having those thoughts now, but the idea that they could come back, especially if I don’t get into the program I want to go to, is terrifying. I also know that my lifestyle, with lots of smoking and little exercise or nutritious food, will kill me one day if I don’t make changes. I just have to get better.
The other reason I have to get better is my son. He is really struggling right now. He hates his life and wishes he were never born. He sometimes asks me to kill him. We have him in therapy, and I love his therapist. But I know that as long as I’m this depressed, I can’t really do much to help him feel better. I don’t want him to feel the way that I did as a kid, as if his distress doesn’t matter to anyone. I am there for him as much as I can be right now, but I need to get better, and especially to deal with the trauma around his birth so that I can truly support him and help him have a happier life.
Thank you for reading this.
Hi Teak and Anita,
I am feeling a little better. I have been reaching out for help a lot, and you are right. There are people who love and care about me and want to help me get better. I have spent a lot of time talking to friends the last few days, and it has helped immensly. I kind of forgot that I had such good friends because I have been isolating myself so much. But they are out there, and they have been nothing but supportive.
I am on a number of psychiatric medications, have been for many years now. I have tried many different medications, and maybe I would be in a much worse position now if I hadn’t. But the medication is clearly not enough to make me feel less depressed. I am lucky to have excellent psychiatric care though.
I had an intake interview yesterday with the residential care program I want to go to. It looks like it would be hard, but very helpful. And it is in an absolutely beautiful setting by the ocean with hiking trails and yoga and art therapy. It sounds just perfect for what I need right now. A break from my responsibilities and lots of qualified care. I am not sure if they are going to take me though. They are concerned about my bipolar disorder because they couldn’t handle a manic phase were I to have one. I haven’t had one in years though, so I’m hoping it will work out. If not, there’s another program in a different city that might also be good. My sister is committed to helping me financially to find some kind of solution. I have a small glimmer of hope again.
I am still feeling very down and not able to do very much, but my suicidal ideas have gone away for the moment. I was talking to someone last night who pointed out all the things I did to protect myself even when I was at my lowest. I called a suicide hotline, talked to my doctor, came up with a plan with my sister, reached out to friends and other sources of support (like the both of you). I even stopped drinking completely because it didn’t feel safe to increase my impulsivity. So I can see that even when I thought I wanted to die, I took actions to help myself, and that’s a very reassuring sign.
Thank you again,
I am not doing well. I spent a few days feeling acutely suicidal. I think that has passed, at least I don’t feel that way right now, but I am so down.
My sister has been a great support, and she has even offered to put me in a residential treatment program. The program looks amazing and I think it would help me. I’m scared though. It’s a 5 hour plane ride from where I live to the centre, and I won’t have much access to my technology while I’m there. I’m scared that intensive therapy is going to be incredibly painful, and worried that it won”t even help.
I don’t see that I have any other option though. I had to take a leave of absence from work because I couldn’t do my job anymore. I am almost unable to parent my son at all. I am so, so depressed. I feel guilty and ashamed and miserable all the time. All I can do is lie in bed and watch TV. We got out for a walk in a nice park yesterday, though.
My husband is being really helpful. He’s not good with emotional support, but he tries. And practical support he is great at. He dug up my garden yesterday so I can plant stuff, and he’s been taking care of our son. And he has joined forces with my sister because he knows she can give me the emotional support I need. I have realized that I’ve been so focused on what he can’t give me that I’ve been ignoring all he does for me. It is nice to feel loved by him, even if he expresses love in a way that is harder for me to recognize.
Just writing this out I can see that not everything is bad right now. I am reaching out for help a lot. I’ve called mental health hotlines, my psychiatrist, my sister, my husband, friends from work, and now you. I can see that I am trying to help myself, and although there’s a lot I can’t do for myself right now, I have people beside me who can carry some of that load.
I just wish I didn’t feel so dark all of the time.
Thank you for reading this.
Hi Teak and Anita,
Thanks for getting back to me.
I know I can’t expect progress to be linear, but it’s just so frustrating when I get bogged down like this. It’s like I’m moving through mud.
But I did some good things for myself today. I went for a walk and got some work out of the way that had been dragging me down. I am trying to have faith that things will get better over time, but it’s just been such a long time that I’ve been feeling down. It’s hard to believe I could ever be happy.
Anyway, thanks again.
I am really struggling today. My son had a hard day yesterday. He kept saying that life sucks and that he wishes he’d never been born. I feel so responsible for the dark thoughts he has. I know I do not provide a loving, nurturing environment for him. I just don’t know how. We are working with a family therapist, and she has some ideas for how we can improve our connection, so I am hoping that will help.
I am also very worried about my cognition. I think I have seen some improvement, but I don’t trust myself enough to believe that it’s real.
I feel like a terrible person, a terrible mother, a terrible wife, a terrible sister. I feel like if I were gone, no one would miss me and my son and husband would be better off without me. I know these are dark depressed thoughts, and I am trying to notice them and allow them to pass through my head without grabbing hold of them and ruminating on them all day. But I feel so sad, and the thoughts are so compelling. I’m not having suicidal thoughts, but I am having thoughts about wishing I would just die. I feel like I’ve ruined myself, like I’m broken and can’t be fixed. It feels like it’s my fault that I suffer, that if I had been stronger and shown some resilience I would have been able to overcome my traumas and my challenges.
Most of all, I feel completely impotent. I can see a long list of changes that I could make to be happier and healthier. I could spend more time with my son, I could stop using substances, I could exercise, eat better, meditate… But everything is so overwhelming. I can’t even keep my house from looking like a chaotic, cluttered mess.
I know I have taken steps, and that I have to have patience and compassion for myself. But those things feel so out of reach right now.
Thank you for reading this.
Thank you for asking about me.
I am doing pretty well. I just taught a class, and I noticed that during both the prep and the teaching, my thoughts were more clear and my ability to speak was greater. I am still not where I used to be, and I have trouble focusing on what students are saying, but I am definitely seeing improvement in my cognitive abilities compared to a month ago.
One main thing has changed in that time period: I have hope now. My therapy is going well, I am journalling every day, I am speaking often to both my sister and my dad. Today when I was writing, I had a breakthrough. Just like I can visualize giving my inner child what she needs, I can also visualize my inner birthing mother and try to give her what she needs. I am hoping that working with my therapist I can do this and heal from some of the trauma surrounding my experience giving birth to my son.
I have had some setbacks too. I went two days without smoking cigarettes and then picked them back up again yesterday. I really want to stop, but I am struggling with it so much. I have started to tell myself over and over that I deserve a healthy body and to not feel like I am poisoning myself all day, but it hasn’t been enough. I am trying to have faith that as I start to feel better in other areas, dealing with all my various addictions will be a bit easier. I have more or less cut my alcohol consumption in half, though, so that’s progress. Eventually I’d like to reduce it by much more than that, but one step at a time.
I feel that I am making progress in a way I never have before. As I said to you earlier, I think that the depression attacking my cognition was really the only way to get my attention and force me to make real changes.
I am still waiting for MRI results. If there’s nothing catastrophic in them, I will hear from my doctor about the results on May 6 (if there is, I will hear earlier). It feels like a long ways away, but I am managing the uncertainty. The depression explanation is so much more likely than anything else. Unlikely things happen all the time, and I have had unlikely medical problems before. But the philosopher in me looks for the simplest explanation that explains the most about a phenomenon, and that’s that depression caused cognitive decline.
So things are going more or less well in a very weird and uncertain time.
Thanks again for checking in.
Dear Anita and Teak,
Anita, I think that you have hit on something really important here. My craving for love and affection will hopefully change over time, and as I grow, assuming my husband grows as well, I may find being with him more satisfying. I know he is trying, and maybe we can grow together. I am going to reflect on that and talk about it with our therapist.
Something wonderful happened this afternoon. I am in a Facebook support group for people who have been through a traumatic birth, and today someone posted asking if anyone had given birth in my area. I replied that I had, and we ended up chatting for a while. It was so wonderful to connect with someone from that group one on one, since it has been a great source of support for me. We decided to try to get to know each other better and help each other out. Interestingly, she also suffers with addiction problems but is in recovery. There is something so helpful about sharing with someone who has been through a traumatic birth. It is such a specific experience with such profound emotional consequences. I am really grateful to have had the opportunity to talk to this person, and I look forward to getting to know her better and hopefully be a source of support to one another.
I love the idea of doing some artwork around my inner child. I used to pain a lot and I stopped when my son was born. I have been thinking about restarting. My initial idea was to paint myself as a monster. But I like this idea much better. Thank you.
I hope you are both doing well, and again thank you for this discussion.
I want to share again.
I had therapy today. During my session, we did a visualization in which I held little girl me in my arms, told her what she needed to hear, and flew around our history and future together. When I was done, I wrote her a short letter telling her that it wasn’t her fault, and that her daddy did love her. It was very powerful.
I am feeling optimistic today. I have so many steps to take, but the journey has started. Big and little me will travel together to the mountain, and we will get over it to a happier life. I feel like I can sustain belief in this image if I keep taking steps.
I want to keep reaching out to the people around me, and I want to be able to sit with the discomfort of having my marriage be a question mark. My instinct is just to leave, but I know that the way to manage future regret is to see how a happier me feels in the relationship. If future me doesn’t think she can stay and be happy, she will leave. But present me just can’t know.
I am feeling almost grateful for the cognitive problems I am having, even if they are not reversible. The only thing I valued about myself was my intellect. The only way to get through to me and push me to make changes was to threaten it. Of course it might be that something more serious is going on than I understand. Maybe it is even something that will kill me. But even if that’s the case, maybe especially if that’s the case, my new goal of a contented life is worth pursuing.
Thank you both again for your support. It is very meaningful to me.
I am doing a bit better. I had a second MRI today, and talked to my doctor. It’s too soon to have any results, but we are pretty confident that my cognitive problems are due to my long-term depression. He said that if that’s what’s happened, my brain can heal. It might take a long time, but I might get better if I can get my depression under control.
I have been trying to reach out to people more, friends, my father, and especially my sister. I have let people in on what’s going on with me. I am actually feeling right now like the depression attacking my brain was the best way to get my attention and say: “YOU ARE NOT OK”. It feels like a giant wake-up call, one that I am hoping is the first in a series of steps that leads to a happier and more peaceful me. I don’t want to get ahead of myself, and I still have all my bad habits, though I am working on reducing my substance use. I know it will be hard, but all I can do is push forward.
My son seems depressed to me. He keeps saying that life sucks and that more bad things happen than good things. I am worried about him. But he is talking to me about it, and last night he said I helped him, which made us both feel good. We are in family therapy to help heal the fractured connection we formed after my traumatic birth, and I am hopeful that if I get better, it will have a positive impact on him too.
So I came here for hope, and I found it. My struggles aren’t over, but they don’t feel insurmountable anymore. My sister suffered a terrible trauma 5 years ago, and things looked very dark. But she took a long series of very small steps, and now she is flourishing. I am hoping that with support I can get there too.
I find also that I am thinking more and more about ending my marriage. Now is not the time to make big decisions, and I am committed to trying to make things better with my husband. I would like for my son to grow up living with both his parents. But the reality is dawning on me that it is possible that no amount of therapy and talking will make my husband capable of giving me the love and support that I crave. I don’t blame him for how he is, it has to do with his own old wounds from childhood, and I empathize with him. But at some point I will have to decide whether I can accept a relationship in which I feel unsupported. I believe that before I can make that decision, though, I have to learn to support myself and surround myself with other people who love me. I admire my husband a lot, and I think we make a good team. I would ideally like to stay together. I just won’t know if that’s possible for a while.
Thank you for checking in on me, Anita. It is greatly appreciated
I hope you are doing well.
Yes, if we try to change from the position of the judgmental inner voice who says “look at yourself, you’re horrible, be ashamed of yourself, you need to change ASAP!”, it never lasts for a long time, because in order to truly change, we need love and acceptance, rather than judgment and condemnation. The strict disciplinarian voice that pushes us to exercise or quit smoking is a part of the inner critic, and the inner critic is the opposite of loving and compassionate! That’s why after a while, we rebel against this strict disciplinarian (which often sounds like our strict mother, btw), and we go back to soothing and numbing our pain with substances and addictive behaviors. Until the change comes from the place of love for ourselves, it can’t be long-lasting.
This describes my experience exactly. I make changes from a place of shame and self-judgment, and eventually I get sick of it and give up. It’s like I just run out of steam on self-control.
I have a very critical inner voice, have had for as long as I can remember. I beat myself up for beating myself up. My inner voice is always harsh, always judgmental, never compassionate. I am finding little glimmers of compassion lately, but it is very recent. I would really love to find a way to be nicer to myself. It just hurts so much to be always finding fault with myself.
I have a new, trauma-focused therapist, and although I have only had three sessions, I can feel that she is a good match, and I believe that she will be able to help me with developing self-love and self-acceptance. I badly need the help. I have had lots of therapy before, but this therapist seems to have a very different approach, which is more focused on healing than insight. Of course I need insight into my past and my thought patterns, what I really want is to feel better in myself, better enough to not turn to so many substances.
Thank you again. This is so helpful.
Dear Teak and Anita,
Thank you so much for your input. Sorry, Teak, that I thought your post was from Anita.
The more I think about it, the more I believe that my cognitive problems are psychological in nature. I am still waiting for MRI results, and I need a second one on Wednesday. It is not impossible that something is wrong, possibly caused by my substance use or history of being on a lot of psychiatric medications. But as I learn more about the likely cognitive effects of my depression and loneliness, it is really resonating with me.
I see that I need to parent my inner child in order to achieve the relationship with my son that I want. I also need to find self-love and acceptance before I can know whether my relationship with my husband is salvageable. I cannot expect to feel loved in my relationship if I am not giving love to myself. I am feeling very overwhelmed by the magnitude of that task. I have such a hard time visualizing a me that accepts and respects herself and her needs. But I also feel like I am seeing a tiny glimmer of light at the end of a very long tunnel.
Thank you again.
I have a pretty good relationship with my father now. I don’t always trust him, because he’s let me down before. But I decided the other day to reach out to him and tell him what I was going through with my cognitive issues, and tell him about my MRI. He was very supportive. He listened to and acknowledged my fears, but also encouraged me to not let them spiral out of control. He even offered to pay for my therapy when he found out I was struggling to pay for it.
He has definitely done a lot to hurt me in the past. He was in and out of my life, and there was child support battle with my mother in which he refused to pay and was pretty awful to me. But I can see that he’s trying now, and I am also coming to understand what a big role my mom played in our not having a good relationship. I always thought in black and white – I had one good parent who raised me and then died a saint, and one bad parent who abandoned me. I understand now that that’s not at all accurate. He should have fought to stay in my life – I know that if I gave my husband an opportunity to walk away from my son, he would never take it. But he also was no match for my mother’s anger with him, and I don’t blame him for retreating from it.
In therapy, we are talking about the little girl I was and how alone she felt. I want to give her what she needs now, but being good to myself is so foreign to me. I don’t know how to do it. The coping mechanisms I developed are not working for me – the substance use, the sedentary lifestyle, the dissociation. I am checked out of my life.
But I have started to allow myself to see that they may be a second life for me in the future. If I can heal, I could learn to love and accept myself and I could spend so much less time suffering. I want that so badly. But I feel frozen. When I try to make changes, it never sticks. I will quit smoking or start exercising and do well for a few months, but I always fall back down. My default position is sitting still and ruminating and poisoning myself. I just don’t know any other way to be. It is so frustrating.
Do you have any suggestions about how I can attend to my inner child, and finally do things differently?
Thank you again for talking to me, Anita. I really appreciate it. I feel seen and validated.