A Letter to My Therapy Group

Dear Group,

This illness has been my single most defining force, whether I wanted it to be or not. It has destroyed the last decade of my life, aged me beyond my years, worn me out and separated me from people I loved and from people who might’ve loved me back. It has always chosen the hard path, the path of most resistance, the quick escapes and easy ways out. It has shrunken my brain, widened my body, sagged my cheeks and dulled my eyes. It has stolen me from myself, stolen my time here on earth. It has been cruel. It has been unforgiving.

I sit here today, one hot mess.

I have been on medication now for two years, a.k.a. “managing my illness.” Progress has been slow. Before I finally admitted my illness and accepted help for it, I spent 10 years sequestered in my apartment. I’d go weeks without leaving or talking to anyone other than my husband. He was my only friend and my only family. Everyone else had abandoned me, some of them for a good reason. I simply did not feel like I deserved to be alive. I felt like I had failed as a human, and it was important to keep myself away from people so that I wouldn’t hurt them, and so they wouldn’t hurt me.  Isolation was my self-medication. It was my truth, my life, and my slow, tortured attempt at suicide.

Things have changed in the last two years. I am not constantly in the grip of my illness and medication has created a window of opportunity to think before I react, a skill impossible for people with bipolar to master without help and practice.  I have done a lot of healing and learning.  I am starting to want things for myself, and sometimes I even feel *gasp* hope.

I am better now, but here is the thing I need to share with you:  I am full of fear, and in spite of help and medication, I am continuing to punish myself through isolation. I recognize that I am at the stage in my recovery where I need to forgive myself, and rejoining the world is part of that process. But, group, my heart still believes that I don’t deserve life, friends, family, or a chance at some kind of self-fulfillment. I am paralyzed by the notion that I am unlikable, that I won’t be accepted, and that I have nothing to offer the world or myself.

It’s been so long since I’ve had relationships with other people. I am afraid that I will manipulate and hurt and sabotage them like I did so long ago. I am afraid to connect to people, feel close to them, go through the good and bad of what relationships have to offer.  I am afraid to find out that, even with the illness managed, I am simply not a worthwhile person.  That I am too needy to be a good friend. So far, I have not found a way to forgive myself, and I’m afraid I will never be able to figure out how to do so. It’s an infuriating and willful place to be.

That’s where I am, group. I’m lonely, I’m scared, I don’t really know who I am without the grip of mental illness defining my personality.

Thanks for listening,

Amy                                                                                                                      June 12, 2012 

(found while cleaning my desk)

*Photo Credit: Porsche Linn

32 thoughts on “A Letter to My Therapy Group

  1. I COULD HAVE WRITTEN THIS. SORRY MY KEYBOARD IS STUCK ON CAPS LOCK TODAY BECAUSE OF THE SHIT SHOW THAT IS GOING ON IN OUR COUNTRY AND ONLY A FEW MILES FROM MY HOME. Okay, that’s better. Girl, seriously, this was real. This was truth. I love real. I love truth. Therefor, I love you. I’ll be your friend. I can’t bake worth a shit so I won’t be sending you homemade cookies, but sometimes (SOMETIMES) I have the energy to drag my ass to the 7-11 for some Oreos and then to the post office where I could mail them to you with a pair of warm socks and a picture of a kitty (or a doggie or an emu or whatever makes you feel whatever you need to feel.) DUDE. DUDE. Get in my friend basket right now. I realize it does look eerily similar to the proverbial handbasket and we are barrelling in a southerly direction, but at least we’ll have each other. AMIRIGHT! SHIT THERE GO THE CAPS LOCKS AGAIN.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. AMY! I’ll be your friend because if I’ve learned anything about life, is that we all have something. I have a low grade chronic depression that mostly just makes me a negative bitch but medication has changed my life. If you wrote this in 2012, I hope you feel even better right now because you deserve a life. You are so talented, so brave, so honest and open. And bipolar doesn’t scare me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello, fellow negative bitch. Sometimes that low grade stuff takes the biggest toll, yeah? I am also a person that has truly benefited from medication…some people actually need it. I don’t know why people call them ‘happy pills’; they don’t even remotely work like that (see negative bitch, above). I’m glad it has helped you, too.

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  3. Wow, what a brave and personal letter. This line, ‘I don’t really know who I am without the grip of mental illness defining my personality’ really got me. I hope you have since found some clarity and peace with who you are. Bipolar is a demon that sadly so many people still fail to understand. Good writing like this reminds people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I am glad to report that I have managed to cobble an identity together. I agree. Bipolar is used as a derisive term for moody people on one hand, and then romanticized as a ‘gift’ on the other.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Amy, I fell for you when I read your Mornings and Mom essay. I am proud to call you friend. I have been standing shoulder to shoulder with my husband whose walk parallels yours in so many ways. When you add up the people with you in this life, please count me in!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is so powerful and when I came here from Yeahwrite’s Moonshine grid, I wasn’t expecting to read something that was so moving and captivating. I know what its like to not feel worthy of human contact and isolate yourself. Thank you for sharing this, it made me feel as if I am not alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for reading it! Of course, I don’t like that you have experienced similar feelings/actions, but it is good to know that other people might know what I am talking about. I hope you are well.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for asking. The truth: I have come a long way and made huge strides forward……except in the area of isolating and connecting with people. The anxiety/panic/ phobia is so strong that cognitive coping mechanisms only work infrequently. I have recently decided to treat the extreme anxiety with medication (at least temporarily) and it has already made a HUGE difference. Basically, my body is no longer assaulting me with danger signals. And since I’m not under constant barrage of the physical symptoms of anxiety/panic, I am experiencing a greater sense of well being. Finally figuring out how to manage the social phobia is like finding the last puzzle piece. I have hope that my quality of life is going to improve this year. Thanks again for asking.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome! Everyone has a story and yes, I was being nosy, but you have a good story. The success you’ve had is good and the fact you keep working at it is even better. None of us are ever as perfect as we like, but we can all get better, even if just baby steps. I wish you well in your continuing efforts to improve your life.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi, just want to introduce myself. I am Kay’s husband Jeff. I suffer from many similar issues. This past year has been particularly hard. I have been reading stories such as yours and trying to get my feelings on paper. Thank you for sharing your story. I know many would disagree with this; but I would like to give you a hug and just cry.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jeff, I hope you are doing well, and taking it easy and being gentle with yourself. It has been a tough year, but you have made it here, to today, so good job. I hope that you will indeed get your feelings down on paper (and you can share them with me, if you ever feel inclined to do so), but also remember that it’s all about baby steps. I believe in you, I believe in us. I believe in a good hug, and a good cry. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I applaud your bravery and strength – you have plenty of both. And I hope that you’ve realized by now that you are worth of everything life has to offer and more. It can’t beat the Oreos but I’m sending lots of postitive thoughts and love.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I just found this post and Im automatically following you. Its good to see such bravery to share your story. I have depression (not sure what kind im pretty sure its manic) and ive been on meds for almost 3 years now and before the meds I was a paranoid depressed and scared mess. It hard to let down a mask that you glue to face for society and it makes me feel better to know that another mask has been put away and letting your true self show. 🙂 thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sad to read your blog. I have struggled with a different type of mental illness, depression, I have struggled with bulimia, and of course crippling and paralyzing fear, and anxiety. What I find has helped me and may help you as well, is reading “The Secret”, “The four agreements”, “The universe has your back” by Gabrielle Bernstein, “The body keeps the score” by Bessel Van der Kolk. Not to mention GOD! I am also learning to forgive myself, I hope you find it in your heart to also forgive yourself.

    Liked by 1 person

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