From Merriam Webster:

Main Entry: 1shame
Pronunciation: \ˈshām\
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English scamu; akin to Old High German scama shame
Date: before 12th century
1 a : a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety b : the susceptibility to such emotion
2 : a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute : ignominy
3 a : something that brings censure or reproach; also : something to be regretted : pity b : a cause of feeling shame

I’ve always been very open about my bipolar disorder, and never thought it was something of which I was ashamed. That may be so, but apparently I still struggle with feeling shame about some aspects of my life.

This week I was very surprised by a discussion I had with my med psych. As I’ve said before, I seem to be med resistant; and, yet again, I had another med change to deal with the depression side of my bipolar. The first thing I said was “I’m sorry that I’m so difficult to treat. I feel that perhaps I’m not trying hard enough.” To which he responded, “That’s a form of shame. It’s not your fault, your disorder can be difficult to treat.”

The concept of “it’s not your fault” is something that I have trouble accepting after being told throughout my marriage that everything is my fault. As a matter of fact, it goes back farther than that. I can remember apologizing for everything during my lifetime. I remember my father saying “If somebody tripped in China, you’d apologize for that.”

In psych-speak, I need to learn to self-talk my way out of this. Whenever I feel shame I’m supposed to tell myself that it’s not my fault. I never realized how much shame is a part of my life, and I still have a way to go before I can truly accept that my resistance to treatment is not something over which I have control. This is an insidious disorder that is difficult to treat. It’s not a one-size-fits all kind of illness because we’re dealing with both depression and mania. It seems that once the mania is under control, the depression may worsen; and if the depression is under control the mania may worsen.

Bipolar disorder is a vicious cycle, one that can be worsened by shame.

4 thoughts on “Shame

  1. I can understand.Society has built shame into psychiatric health problems (as into disability in general as well) and this problem will not go away in our lifetimes. I know myself, I say out loud I'm not ashamed for people to know, but deep inside I am…


  2. I agree, fear and anger are easier to deal with because they seem to have something tangible on which they're based.

    Thanks for your encouraging words.


  3. That's a tough word. In the definition there are a few other tough words I'm struggling with, like guilt and humiliation. Which go along with the feelings of being belittled, ignored, disgraced, and mortified. It all makes fear and anger look like the easy part of our mental illnesses, huh?

    I agree with your tdoc, it's not your fault. Not the disorder or any difficulty in treating it. You are doing your bit, you are there and working it out. They have to come up with their part, too. Good luck finding a new med or treatment to help you feel better!
    Adventures in Anxiety Land


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