From Merriam Webster:
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.