I received a painful text message last week. The sender meant no harm and likely did not realize the excruciating hurt it brought. The text was not sad; the sender not malicious. But its message was like having a mirror on my phone, reflecting an extremely uncomfortable image. The mere sight of it was agonizing.
As I read the text, a flood of emotion washed over me. I felt loved because its message was honest and raw. I felt troubled, believing the weight of the sender's problems fell on my shoulders. I felt ashamed. I felt sad. Then, I didn't know how I felt.
The text reminded me of a situation that occurred years ago. Back then, I was running half marathons, treating myself to expensive purses, and subscribing to grand delusions. It seemed I reached a pinnacle in my life, and I wanted more. So I made a decision in my manic state, changing the course of my - and the sender's - life forever.
I was relieved when I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. When others would say "everything happens for a reason," my "reason," I believed, was a mental illness.
So I convinced myself the circumstances [surrounding this text] was a result of my then-undiagnosed disease.
But the truth is, having bipolar disorder may be a reason but it's not an excuse. My illness does not give me a free pass to do as I please.
Yes, this particular experience occurred before I was under a doctor's care. I went unmedicated. And so, my behavior led to destructive choices.
But bipolar or not, I have character defects, and I must take responsibility for my actions and acknowledge how I contributed to an unpleasant time in our lives. I must own up to my behavior and offer no excuses.
This text made me realize I did a horrible thing. But that does not mean I am a horrible person. Nor does it mean horrible things weren't done to me.
But with regular doctor visits, medication, and lots of self-care, I am able to look back and learn from that experience. I can acknowledge my behavior and make a sincere effort to do things differently in the future. There is still much healing to be done. But just for today, all I can do is simply take ownership for my actions and live a life of which I can be proud.
To read more about my journey in recovery, click here.