Friday, August 1, 2008

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves have so much power over us. They shape our self-concept, mold our identity, because in the ways that count, we are what we believe we are.

So it's important for me to decide which story I want to believe about my "bipolar" adventure. That "manic" episode I had that was so out of control, that drove me to a psychiatrist and into chemical restraints...which story do I tell myself about that? Which one is my truth?

Do I tell myself that it was bipolar disorder? That the mood swings I experienced from ages 19 to 40 were due to that? But there is no family history of bipolar....depression, yes, but not bipolar. And I'm not even having mood swings any more...haven't had any for four years now...even my psychiatrist is calling me an anomaly. So I don't think that's the right story.

Do I tell myself it was just me letting off steam after having been trapped at home with infants for 7 years, and finally tasting freedom? A partying mid-life crisis sort of thing? But that smacks of complete irresponsibility, something I've never been known for. Knowing myself for what I have been for most of my life, I cannot quite buy into this story, either.

Do I tell myself that I had bipolar symptoms due to my ingesting large quantities of aspartame? That seems to make the most sense of any of the stories. But somehow there seems to be something wrong with this one, too...like maybe it's a cop-out, an easy way to absolve myself of responsibility for some of my behavior...

It all seems so clear in retrospect, doesn't it? I should have done this, I should not have done that...

I need to tell myself a new story that will not make me feel like crawling under a rock or beating my head on the ground for being so stupid...problem is that I'm still not sure what the real story is...and upon reflection, I'm not so sure it's about figuring out the story at all...because the past is immutable...what happened--happened. I can't change it now. What I can change is how I look at it. My perspective.

So maybe it's about acceptance rather than story...I need to:
* stop beating myself up...the past cannot be changed, much as I might like to change it.
* accept that I probably had a toxic reaction to chemicals I was putting in my body because I didn't know any better.
* accept that modern medicine--especially psychiatry--does not understand nearly as much about the human psyche as it thinks it does.
* accept that I did the best I could with the information I had.

Whew...that's a lot of acceptance there. But I think that's what I'm needing. Acceptance.

Why is acceptance so hard?

Writing Prompt: It seems that it is much easier to accept things about other people than it is to accept things about ourselves. What things in your life are you still trying to accept? What do you think makes acceptance so difficult sometimes? What can you do to make acceptance easier?

18 comments:

Gianna said...

well...you know, I'm working on all the same crap.

Accepting the past. Loving myself in spite of it...loving myself BECAUSE of it!!

And for me I have to accept my present too as it is still a struggle...

Accepting reality is a lifelong journey. Life is hard. It will never stop being so.

but as some wise people say, life is hard, but suffering is optional.

Jazz said...

Gianna--
Actually, I don't know anyone who's not trying to accept something...I think it's part of the human condition!

And you are so right ...life is hard...suffering is optional...

This is where I need to be focusing my energies at the moment, I think.

Gianna said...

oh...I think lots of people refuse to accept all sorts of things----adding to their misery...

not saying I don't fit into that camp at times either!

naturalgal said...

Jazz,
I think you and I have a lot in common.
I struggle with the reasons and excuses for all my behavior too...sometimes I wonder if it wasn't just the power of suggestion....someone tells you that you are bipolar when you are a little "high" ...most likely an antidepressant-induced mania...and you believe it...you also begin to believe that you will do silly, crazy things...and so you do. The scripts says you will and you have no other script to follow.

This might seem really, really, off base here...but bear with me and see if it makes sense....
I have heard of nice, proper girls having a little fun with their friends...drinking a little and then one of those "Girls Gone Wild" -types shows up with a camera and says...."Show us your ****....and the girls lift up their shirts!!!!
Later these same girls say, "I just don't know what got into me...It was like I was following a script."

Sometimes I think that is what happened to me...I followed the script of what a bipolar person in the middle of a mania is supposed to act like.

I wish I could rewrite the past.

I have seen the power of suggestion work with me. I have had employers who believed in me and told me what a good employee I was going to be...and viola....I rose to the occassion...I was following the script.

Jazz said...

Gianna...
I agree...true acceptance can be really hard. It's humbling and...not fun to admit that you might have done some things you shouldn't...

Guess I'll always be a work in progress.

Still, I think really that's the most any of can aspire to, eh?

Jazz said...

Naturalgal--
I wonder a lot about that "power of suggestion" theory, too, because once I'd been diagnosed, and read the mainstream books, that's when I really "became bipolar". And when the antidepressants made me cycle and made me sicker and sicker, I was all ready to believe that this was just my illness doing what it was supposed to do (as my doctor reassured me!). I was all ready to play the bipolar victim, and to buy into the idea that I had no control over what I did...and that I was going to need meds for life and that the best I could hope for was brief periods of stability.

But now I'm listening to different people who believe different things about me and have different expectations for me--like that I am well, that I had a toxic reaction to a chemical I shouldn't have been putting in my body (and then more reactions to the antidepressants that were supposed to fix things). And that makes such a huge difference...in how I see myself and in the expectations I have for myself.

tiltatwindmills said...

I think I've almost written exactly something along these lines. I still have times when I run across a memory that I had completely interpreted through a "bipolar" lens, and I find myself struggling to reframe my actions and perceptions. And yes, Naturalgal, the script is so so powerful, especially when there are no stories success out there. Hang in there Jazz. My wife insists all of this will fade with time. So far she's right. But that doesn't make it any less confusing.

Jazz said...

Tiltatwindmills--
Yeah, I think it's the confusion, the not being able to nail down what really happened and why, that's so hard for me. And the farther you get away from it in time, the harder it is to remember how it really was.

Marissa Miller said...

It's tough for me to accept anything good about myself. Someone recently told me to immediately replace negative memories with positive ones instead of dwelling on the negative memories. It's tough. I don't know why negativity has such a stronghold on me but it does. I think I've accepted that more than anything that's positive about who I am in my life.

I agree with Gianna. I totally add to my misery. Willingly!

catatonickid said...

For me, acceptance takes time, usually a lot of time because when I think about acceptance I don't just want it to be settling for what seems like truth. Or for it to be merely a blank acceptance.

No, I need it to be the all-encompassing kind of acceptance - the type that is like coming home to somewhere safe and certain. That's what makes acceptance worthwhile, I reckon. It's something like searching for serenity. I guess it's a pretty heavy duty process for most of us.

Jazz said...

Marissa--
It's funny how it's a lot easier to accept the negativity into our lives than it is to accept positive things. Maybe it's partly because we're taught that we shouldn't blow our own trumpets, that it's boastful and that we shouldn't be too proud of ourselves...but I think that some degree of pride is good, and I don't think there's anything wrong with knowing what your strengths are and being proud of that.

Jazz said...

Catatonickid--
I'm like you in that respect--I can't have what you call a blank acceptance, just paying it lip service...it has to be deep and complete, and I have to feel at peace with it. I think that's why it's so hard for me--and for a lot of us. I can't just say, "Okay, I accept this." and then forget about it and move on with my life. Hell, I still ruminate over stuff that happened in junior high!

Wellness Writer said...

Jazz,
Great post! I don't know what story to tell myself either. But what I do know is that I've had to figure everything out myself.

I had my first depressive episode at 18 and I'm now 58, and I have never met with one psychiatrist or psychologist who had real insight, and help me figure out what caused the depressions or how to stop them.

And, although I was originally diagnosed as atypical bipolar II, that didn't prevent my psychiatrists from prescribing the same medication they prescribed for everyone else.

All I do know is that I wish I had never listened to any of them. But I guess I had to go through what I did to come out the other side--and be the person I am today. But...at such a cost.

Susan

Jazz said...

Susan--
Yes, I had to figure it all out on my own, too...and I agree--I wish I'd never listened to the doctors. They just didn't have a clue. But as you say, you had to go there to get here...what a rotten way to get here, though!

superlagirl said...

I've been struggling with this a lot lately. So much of my story includes violence (others' against me, and mine against others, I'm sorry to say) that it's so tempting to just cling to the story my doctor offered.

Jazz said...

Superlagirl--
I sense a "but" in there...
Maybe like mine..."but isn't that just an easy way out? Isn't that a good way to excuse myself?"
Taking responsibility for the things we've done that we wish we hadn't is one of the hardest things we have to do, I think. I'm still struggling with it, too.

susan said...

I am new to your blog but I really really like it.


Adding you to my rss feeder.

What a writer you are!

Jazz said...

Hi, Susan! Thanks so much for stopping by...and for the compliment!