Shame and Mental Illness

I haven’t written much recently, for months now. There has been a lot going on in my life, my relationship ended and my job has become highly stressful. I have moved out and had to adjust to a change of environment home and also at work with a new team. This has caused me to fall out of a stable place where I felt in control of the bipolar to being very unstable. Predominantly I have experienced depression with slight hypomanic spikes lasting a day at a time. (I later realise this is the onset of a mixed episode.)

The depression this time was strange, I didn’t recognise it as depression until it started to lift and I could use my mind and body again with ease. Coming out of the depression felt great, but at the same time I started to experience embarrassment and shame.

During the depression I had become insecure and had been texting people constantly, feeling like they were ignoring me when they couldn’t reply immediately. I felt like I was being avoided and this made me quite needy. Coming out of the depression I wish this just never happened, I am so embarrassed. I want to contact these people and apologise, but I feel sick of talking about how I feel in case they are sick of hearing it

I text my boss thanking her for her support and apologising and she said she hadn’t noticed but was glad I was doing better. Perhaps I was not as bad as I thought, but I feel like I just want to hide from the last two weeks memories.

I don’t want to talk about what happened with anyone, I feel like I am a burden to them in depression and especially when I couldn’t even articulate my needs this time because I didn’t recognise it. Had I recognised it perhaps I could have approached it differently and perhaps I wouldn’t feel this way. Or maybe this is just part of the depression still, how am I supposed to know what’s going on when the bipolar is not under control?

I have cried so much this week, luckily nobody has seen me but people do know and again I feel ashamed of this reaction. I know I shouldn’t but I feel melodramatic and that is not me. It reminds me of the shame I feel for my borderline tendencies when I cannot control an emotion and it explodes out of me.

It feels a bit like a hangover, the depression is over but something lingers there in the back of my mind. Probably waiting to strike again.

During the depression I maintained going to work and gym which has helped me come out of it quicker, plus I don’t have to feel like I have let myself down like I would had I stopped one of these things. I wanted to though, every day was so difficult and I couldn’t understand why.

Shame and Guilt are Symptoms of Depression

I wrote that first section a while ago, and have since fallen into a mixed episode which includes symptoms of depression. Almost as soon as I identify the signs of depression, I feel overwhelmed with guilt and shame. I want to reach out and ask for support, but this feels like a weakness brought on by my own shortcomings, I can’t do it.

My partner, who I have reconciled with, text me to see how I was. Not wanting to lie, and not being able to admit that I am struggling, I ignore the text. I feel awful, he doesn’t deserve to be ignored he deserved to know the truth. I pick up my phone but the words just won’t come to me, I feel so embarrassed that I feel how I do, like he would be ashamed of me if he knew. That’s unfair, I think to myself. Stuck in this vicious loop.

Guilt and shame form some of the symptoms of depression, leading us into this state where we are unable to ask for help, unable to communicate our needs. It is unfortunate, symptoms of the illness itself prevent us from reaching out when we need to. Fear of stigma doesn’t help, we already feel as if we are to blame.

There is no logical reason to be ashamed, guilty or embarrassed. Nobody would be ashamed of coming down with flu or breaking a leg, but for some reason we feel different with a broken brain. The illness doesn’t listen to logic and convinces us otherwise.

Through treatment and coping strategies the symptoms will lesser, for my advice see my post on managing depression. Similarly, learning how to properly communicate your needs is vital to getting the right support.

Photo by Katherine Evans from FreeImages

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