Mea Maxima Culpa


“Guilt is cancer. Guilt will confine you, torture you, destroy you as an artist. It’s a black wall. It’s a thief.” – Dave Grohl

Let me give you a brief insight into my character. Everything is my fault. If it’s not, I will still find a way to make it mine. This is my default mode. Everything has been my fault for the last three years. Every stupid mistake, every terrible outcome, every bad idea, and every lousy situation that has occurred has been my fault.

Ok, maybe not everything, but I have come to believe it. I have so thoroughly beaten myself up for all the terrible things I actually did that I automatically assume guilt for everything. If my son does or says something wrong or out of line, then, in my mind at least, I am to blame. I am a terrible role model and an unfit parent. Anything that goes slightly wrong at home is because of me.

Part of being bipolar is dealing with constant self-doubt and self-hatred, especially while being depressed. When anything goes wrong I can and will find some way to blame myself. Another reason this happens is because bipolar causes not only mood swings, but an intensification of emotions. Where most people may feel a slight twinge of guilt that quickly abates, my world crashes. Guilt and anxiety are multiplied and unstoppable.

Naturally there are things I am guilty of and I accept responsibility for: my financial mess, my family situation, and living situation are all a direct result of my faulty judgment. Even though I say I’ve accepted responsibility, it doesn’t make me feel any less guilty or make me hate myself any less when I’m dealing with the repercussions of my actions, or when they trigger depression.

This guilt and self-loathing are particularly harsh because it they drive my suicidal thoughts. The thought process is this: every shitty thing is all of my own doing and I can’t do anything to stop it because I’ll simply fuck that up too, so the only sensible solution is to kill myself. Not so much to end my pain, but to stop me from hurting everyone around me. I have no doubt that world would be a much better place without me.  In my mind there is no doubt that this situation can only end with me dead.  These thoughts are not an everyday occurrence, but in the midst of depression they surface fairly often.  Usually they are fleeting, but occasionally the idea sticks and I will ruminate on it for an extended period of time. It was this kind of rumination and suicidal ideation that led me to my three week outpatient stint at Four Winds in Katonah, NY.

Like I said, I’ve spent so much time hating and blaming myself that assigning myself the guilt is an automatic reaction. In my house it’s even become a running joke. If something falls or breaks, or whatever accident occurs, there is a race to see if someone can blame me before I yell out that it’s my fault. This actually helps. I can laugh at it and own it in my particular way. Humor is how I cope. I will make a joke of anything, no matter how inappropriate or morbid. Sometimes I won’t verbalize it because I know how awful it will sound, but it still amuses me, and that’s enough to get me by.

I’ve tried to ease up on myself, but it’s a difficult process to undo such an ingrained reaction rooted in real disasters. Especially your grandmother’s gout. Yep, that’s my fault too. I’m sorry and I feel awful about it.


One thought on “Mea Maxima Culpa

  1. I know the feeling. Everything’s been my fault since 1958, when my mother got pregnant with me, and if you don’t believe it just ask her. Well, you can’t anymore since she’s been gone a long time, but you know what I mean. I grew up with that mindset, and at age 55 I don’t think I’ll ever lose it entirely. So believe me, you have my sympathies!

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