Bad Associations

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine when a very innocuous comment led me back to a portion of my past that I am not very proud of.  Additionally, it really makes me aware of how my actions and associations have a direct effect on the people around me.

I know that current theory is that the majority of people with bipolar are diagnosed in their 20’s.  Although that is when I was dignosed, my mother and I are of the belief that my mood issues started right after puberty (yes, I am aware that mood swings are a symptom of puberty).  But my mood swings (looking back) seem pretty extreme.  I went from being super excited about trying something, to not wanting/feeling up to making the effort to continue doing it.  I isolated, staying in my room for weeks except for meals and school.  I went from loving school to only putting in enough effort to get through it.  I had straight A’s, but they took no effort at all.  I failed to turn in anything truly important, such as financial aid information, college essays, applications for scholastic competitions, etc. or turned it in just before the deadline.  My relationships with others followed a similar pattern.  I would be enthralled with spending time with someone, then start getting irritated with them, then I would do something out of control and drive them away.  Many of the people I was around were no healthier than I was.

The particular discussion with my friend touched briefly on a game, Magic the Gathering.  I honestly know very little about the game, but I do know that I hate it.  That all goes back to the summer after senior year (I think).  I and my boyfriend at the time were invited to an SCA event with a bunch of our friends.  For those that don’t know, SCA stands for the Society for Creative Anachronism.  In this case it was similar to a traveling Rennaisance fair.  When we got there Friday, we set up where we were all going to be staying and then the guys took off and the girls went to go look at the vendors.  I was so excited about getting involved and wanted to waste immense amounts of money on the paraphrenalia that went with this activity.  When we went back to the campsite, I saw a wave from my then boyfriend as he walked off to go play Magic.  I didn’t see him again the entire weekend.  By Saturday night, I was miserable, angry, and out of control.  I tried to find the jerk that I had come with, but when I couldn’t, I started flirting with another guy in our party.  He and I talked most of Saturday night.  By the time we drove home, I was completely crazy about him.  There was a huge amount of drama since he was 17 to my 18, and I hadn’t told the boyfriend I arrived with that I was breaking up with him until we were leaving the campgrounds.  To be fair to myself, I didn’t see him until then.

So here I was, completely enamored of a new guy just days after the first.  And he and I only got to see each other a couple-three times before he had to go to some sort of camp since his parents didn’t like the idea of their boy with someone like me.  (Smart parents.)  He left promising to see me when he came back in about 6? weeks.  I don’t remember how long he was going to be gone except I know it was over a month.  Within about 2 weeks, I was making out with another of the guys that had gone on the trip and then started dating someone that he introduced me to.  Of course when the young man came back from his trip and found out that I wasn’t waiting anxiously for him to get home, but had gone on to date someone else, he and all of his friends (those that had still been talking to me) completely cut me off.  By this time, though, I was friends with a whole new set of people.  This set was much smaller, so there weren’t many chances to move on to another guy, although I did tease the friends of the guy I was dating.  That actually lasted a few weeks until my family moved away from Utah.

Remembering all of this was very hard for me.  My behavior during this time period of my life was both self-destructive and cruel.  Looking back, I also realize that my life met this sort of pattern for all of high school and much of college.  I was so desparate for any type of affection, I would take it any way I could get it.  When I got it, I proceded to completely ruin it.  I felt I was broken and worthless.  I was helpless to change this in my mind as well.  Through all of these ups and downs and issues with sex and affection, I caused a huge amount of pain to myself and to others.

I am not beating myself up about it since there is nothing I could do now to change the situation.  But looking back with clearer eyes allows me to see what I was thinking and feeling through all of this.  It helps me to understand how my risky behaviors manifested then versus now.  Being terrified of repeating that exact behavior doesn’t meant that I will not hurt myself or the people around me when I am out of control.  It does allow me to see the feelings and actions that caused me the most pain and making me strike out at all of those around me.

I can see now that my dangerous behaviors did not and do not manifest solely during a hypomanic phase.  During a depressive phase, though, I am much more likely to do things that cause me severe emotional pain and even damage.  Looking back, my most self-destructive behavior was sex.  During a depressive phase I would have sex with men who did not respect me or even like me in some cases, even though I didn’t want to.  Since I was worthless, what did I care?  During a hypomanic phase, when my sex drive increased, I would have sex indiscriminately or cheat on whoever I was dating at the time.  So sex has been a weapon I used on others and myself.  And I was wondering why I have been celibate for most of the last 5.5 years.  Ding-ding-ding!  We have a winner, ladies and gentlemen!

So part of my healing will have to include coming to grips with my thoughts on sex and love.  Not exactly the  easiest part of healing.

There was one other thing that I learned looking back at all of this.  The people I choose to have around me can influence my emotional stability in a very large way.  Helpful, supportive people want you to feel better about yourself and your ability to cope with bipolar.  Other people enable your unstable behaviors and feelings.  Although it is difficult, looking at the people around you, think about who assists you in your risky behaviors and who (non-judgmentally) wants to help you curb those dangerous and damaging behaviors.


~ by theartistryofthebipolarbrain on February 11, 2012.

7 Responses to “Bad Associations”

  1. That is how I dealt with my illness. Not as a teen, but after I spent my childhood and my early twenties under my parents then my husbands thumb. You know when I look back, I thought that I was gaining my self esteeme by going out half dressed and having sex with everyone. Every once and a while it would kinda hit me that I was just being a slut. But I still lived that way until the breakdown. Then I realized that was no ego trip at all. It is just part of the bipolar illness. We have to keep that in mind when we look back. If you are like me, I’m just thankful that I got through those situations all in one piece.

    • What I didn’t understand about the entire period was that I was doing far more damage to myself than anyone else would understand. When your self-esteem is in the basement, trying to find approval and respect between the sheets isn’t going to happen. It actually causes more damage as you start to ruminate on why you are not attractive, not good in bed, not worth the other person’s time, etc. I know that in many cases, it seemed as though I had a homing beacon for the most narcissistic person in the area. When you already hate yourself, a person like that just heaps more salt in the wounds.

      I do agree that I am thankful I got through the period as safely as possible. Even the two date-rapes that occured were affected by my own behavior. By no means do I think that made the date-rapes “okay” or anything other than date-rape! But I placed myself in dangerous situations where the chances of something bad occurring were much higher. I will grant you that young women in college place themselves in bad situations all the time. I am not saying all of my actions were only triggered by my bipolar. I am of the opinion that my behaviors were exaggerated because of my bipolar.

      I am glad you made it through your ordeal as well!

  2. Wow. Again… your honesty… phew…. But in a totally good way!

    I’m glad that you’ve got a supportive system in place now. And I’m damn proud to be a part of it. It does sound like your bi-polar mood swings started after puberty.

    I know that not everyone with bi-polar is nearly as self aware as you are, as honest with themselves or others as you are, or as supported as you are. But hopefully your wisdom will reach some of them and they will take an honest look at the people around them. I wish it was as easy and just saying that they should get new people since no one likes being alone but maybe if they join a bi-polar outings group or go to group therapy they could find support there. That all takes resources though and when leaving an unsupportive or destructive relationship means divorcing the person you’ve been with for years it may seem far easier just to stay and hope that they’ll change.

    It’s snowing here today which makes me think of you. I think on the first day that it snows when you’re here I’m putting snow down the back of your shirt. I’ll probably get smacked upside my head for it but at least it’s not down the front. And you’ll still love me anyway. Just thought I’d give you fair warning. And I’ve got hot chocolate to make it all better.

    Love and hugs.

    • I cannot say enough how thankful I am now to have a support system like I do. All of you help me stay aware of my mood swings and help me figure out where I am on the emotional spectrum. Sometimes, y’all see it before I do.

      Getting out of a bad relationship is very hard for everyone. Because our bipolar drives us so far up and then down, I think they are even more dangerous for those of us with this disorder. Violent or narcissistic men feed right into our mood swings and negative thoughts about ourselves and others. When we are down, we think, “I deserve to be treated this way because I am so worthless. I will always be worthless. There is no end to my worthlessness unless I do ____.” When we are up, we think, “It will get better. He/She loves me and I can do better. I am in control and can make him/her happy.” I know that all women and men in abusive relationships have similar thoughts. I feel, though, that it is all a manner of degree. With Bipolar, the strength and severity of these thoughts are stronger and more damaging in my eyes.

      Thank you for thinking of me, hun. Keep some hot chocolate for me for when I finally make it there. 😉

    • I’m voting for down her front. But I’m silly like that!

  3. I’d say I’m sorry for the Magic conversation, dear one, but in truth I’m glad I helped you find more about yourself. And here’s to hoping that you and those who share your condition can continue finding the positive support from loving friends and family.

    Though with the guy who basically ditched you for Magic, I feel that he deserved to be dumped.

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