Over the last 15 years I have done a lot of work in an effort to recover from my mental illnesses and my physical limitations in order to move on with my life and be the person that I am capable of being. I feel that I have made amazing strides to that end and I continue to work to make things better.
I have learned to trust and rely on my wife for feedback and inspiration. She has done an amazing job of learning about me and letting me know when things are at the very beginning points of getting weird, in order to keep them from getting bad. If anything, I need to listen to her more.
I have an amazing toolbox of skills that help me cope with and control what is going on and maintain a relatively healthy me. I sometimes get complacent and forget my training and education but i think, by and large, I am doing a very good job of managing my illnesses.
There is one area that do need to do considerable work in and that is processing my guilt. It has come to light recently how much guilt still drives the bus. Before I was diagnosed and for quite some time after, I could say with total honesty that i was not nice person in many regards. I had monumental anger issues. I had massive problems managing moods and feelings. I was a bully and cruel to those that I cared for the most. Most of the people that know me today did not know this Jason and would not have liked him at all.
Was this my fault? Not entirely. I have several mental illness diagnosis that challenge a person’s ability to be a good person. For some time the attitude that I took was that none of it was my fault and there was no blame to be placed on me. Having a mental illness, or several, was a free pass to act without responsibility.
I sometimes think that this is a phase that many people with a mental illness go through. This is none of my fault. I am innocent of any wrongdoing. It is understandable. It is somewhat justified. I happen to believe it is also wrong. I also think that sometimes we get stuck in this mentality and it keeps us from growing. Unfortunately, as I often do, I went completely the other way.
I reached a point where I could take ownership for my actions and attempt to make amends and right the ship. Yes, I have a mental illness. Yes, that illness makes it hard to control moods and emotions. Yes, my illnesses make it hard to make good choices. I still got to make choices. I just continued to make bad choices. They were choices and I was gaining the skills, through therapy, to make them. I just wasn’t following through outside the appointment.
So I went 180 degrees from no guilt to owning everything and blaming myself for the time when i was powerless. And amassing huge amounts of guilt for the times when I should have been in control and wasn’t. I would look back and see the impact my actions and my illness had on my family and friends and the guilt would overwhelm me.
So over the course of fifteen years I spent a small fortune on therapy and meds in an effort to get better, to recover. A cure is not possible, but improvement in life skills and managing the illness is possible. I think I have done a very good job of recovery. Am I perfect? No. do i slip still? Yes. I try to own it make corrections and grow from it. I listen to my wife, who has become an expert at “me” and I do what i can to continue growing and making a better life.
It has, over the last few months, become evident that I haven’t really processed the guilt. I replay old tapes, I go back and look at the things I have done and the way things were. No matter how I paint it, the old paint bleeds through and I am brought to the floor with guilt. There is always a reminder. The way the light shines in a room, a song, a movie or show, an image or poem, the look in someone’s eye, or just a stray thought and I remember everything that hasn’t been wiped by trauma or meds. There is seldom a day when I don’t look back with vast amounts of regret and guilt.
I feel the eggshells on the floor and I hear nervous laughter, even when they aren’t there and aren’t happening. I imagine a world where everyone is waiting for me to screw up again when I live in a world full of cheerleaders that keep hoping for a turn of the page or a turn of a corner. I want to be the person that I am and the person I am capable of being but I can’t help but to think about the person that I was and that maybe I still am that guy and, oh wait, are the wheels getting loose?
In the constant work of recovering from mental illness, I am my own worst obstacle. Clearly i have more work to do and have to take the time and effort to do the work. I have made and will continue to make changes to my current world in order to have the energy, focus and time to do the work that needs to be done to process this chapter of my shadow work.
Recovery is possible. Getting better can happen. It has happened, it is happening now. It just needs to continue to happen and the only person that can make that happen is me.