Lynn left a comment on Why Depressed Men Leave that ended with a question I’ve been thinking about all week. She summarized the wrenching story about her bipolar husband and his blaming her for everything that was wrong with him. Then she asked me how I gained the insight that my blaming and raging behavior was my problem and only mine.
I offered a partial answer to that in a much earlier post. But there I only indicated that I had realized the problems would stay with me no matter where I was or who I lived with. In a related post, I simply said that I had been through enough therapy to have a glimmer of insight that kept me from following after a fantasy life rather than facing the reality of who I was.
But how did I reach that realization? I find it so hard to answer that question. All I can do here is offer a few notes that start with what I remember feeling. The emotions have always been the main drivers for me rather than thoughts and logic, but they are also harder to explain because they arrive without words.
- The rages that surged up in me were the worst. It was then I felt most out of control, but simply sensing that I could not live this way was an early step in the right direction. At some level I knew that no one else could “make” me feel anything like this.
- I experienced rage as an inner violence that found release by exploding at those around me. It seized on anything it could find, but punishing someone else did nothing to stop that burning within. The more it flared out, the more it returned, intensified, consuming the depths of me.
- Shame followed these outbursts, a shame born of awareness that I was acting in a way that violated my own nature. This was a conviction, not a thought. I knew I was killing myself.
- One day, it struck me that there was an even deeper feeling underlying the rage. It was a terrible fear that I could hardly talk about. Just acknowledging the fear, though, was a huge relief, and when I could confess what I really felt to my wife, after a fit of rage and blame, it helped us both. In that clearing away of what felt untrue of me, we could see each other again as we were.
- Another breakthrough came as I obsessed more and more deeply about longing for a different life. It was so plain that the fantasies I was generating in my mind didn’t make any sense but were wild leaps into anything different from my present life. I realized there was nothing clear that I was longing for except escape from. Escape meant there was something I couldn’t face. My mind and feelings continued to obsess on escape, but I could at least draw back now and then and realize: there was nowhere to go, no new life to find. There was no way to run from myself.
- I could also see how much of my energy as well as time was disappearing in these obsessions. I walked through my days seemingly present but not really there. I was wasting myself in an almost trance-like state focused on anything but my own fears and inner hurt.
- Again and again, just as with rage, I knew that something was hurting, something was terribly wrong. I could feel it far below the level of words and explanations. It was me, it wasn’t anyone else.
- There were also times when I could feel nothing but love for my family and became deeply aware of the obvious truth, that I was usually so blind to, that they loved and cared for me. I felt deeply that whatever the path of fulfillment my life might follow, they were part of it. Even at the worst of times, there was some inner conviction that might be as small as a whisper, but that was always telling me this. I love my family, they love me, we’re in this together, no matter what. Sharing life with them simply felt right.
- One day in talking to a friend about spiritual experience, something else moved inside. What if, I suddenly thought, all the rage, the fear, the blaming, the fantasy longings – what if that was all a strange kind of mistake? I realized in a way that went right through me that the deepest drives, which were hidden so well, were not only a longing for love and closeness to my wife and family but also a need for spiritual connection. I wasn’t at all sure what that meant, but I felt it was somehow true, that there was a kind of completion I needed on a spiritual level.
All this may sound as if recovery would follow quickly, but it didn’t. These insights were only brief, soon displaced by the familiar destructive surge. After several years the rages died down, but depression followed. I was isolated in a different way. It took many years and endless repetitions of these cycles before I could begin to sustain recovery.
These are some of the early memories of insight that come to me now. I know there were many others that go much farther back. It will take time to recapture more.
I’d like to ask you about changes you’ve gone through and how you became aware that things were beginning to turn around. It is not so much the big moments of breakthrough as the first glimmers that I’m trying to get at – the brief openings of insight that provided even a dim awareness of hope for recovery.