If you’ve ever woken up after a night off too much partying, you may’ve been horrified to learn of the things you did the night before. You may feel shame and embarrassment and total confusion about the things you said, exclaiming, “I don’t even know where [godawful terrible behavior] even came from!! I don’t feel that way at all! OH MY GOD.”
I’ve had this feeling for at least a moment every day for the last two years. Except my “Night of Hard Partying” is, instead, “One Third of My Life when Meds Made Me Insane”.
I know, I know. I keep talking about how much I’ve changed and how much better things are, but the truth is that, while I feel healthier than ever, I keep being haunted by the knowledge that I was actively someone very different for a very long time. Someone I’ve been desperately trying to get away from, for-just-fucking-ever now.
For example, while I was on the meds, I had emotional obsessions with events and people from my past that my mind fixated on every day. I quite literally prayed and performed ancient rituals to banish these infatuations from my daily life for years. But, because I’d been taught in therapy that ignoring my feelings was harmful to my psyche, I went out of my way to keep trying to get “answers” as to why my brain couldn’t let these things go. After my detox, the obsessions finally dissipated and my mind moved on the way a healthy one does, but I was mortified to realize how needlessly all my constant probing and bothering others in my quest for “answers” had been.
Aside from the terrifying things I was convinced of during my psychotic breaks (like that time I called my best friend and calmly, rationally explained to her why I was pretty sure I was a neo-deity for an hour with “Beautiful Mind”-style connections and numerological/astrological “evidence” – as hinted at in the original Psycho Hangover post.), there are the years of medically-induced manic episodes, during which time I wafted in that odd realm between psychosis and sanity for about a week every month. I acted in confusing, impulsive ways I didn’t understand and could never explain, which now are things I’m embarrassed people recall or define me by. I remember about four years ago, in the thick of it, my husband was so frustrated when I told him “Who I’m acting like is not who I am!” and he couldn’t understand why I couldn’t just stop acting like that; I was heartbroken because I couldn’t either. Just like the obsessions, my compulsive behavior and angry outbursts stopped once I quit the psychiatric meds.
And then there are the things I can’t remember. Like with an alcoholic or drug addict, the people around me are still angry at how I was when I was sick, except, unlike active addicts, I was working my ass off the whole Goddamned time to get better… I’m already embarrassed at who the meds turned me into for a huge chunk of my life, but the worst is when I’m being told about the awful things I did/said/believed that I don’t even remember when I was otherwise sober and then being asked to answer for them.
I can’t. I keep saying that I’m so sorry over and over, every time it comes up, out of unrelenting guilt and shame. But if we’re being honest, I never feel comfortable apologizing for it; I don’t feel responsible for it because I wasn’t responsible. Or competent. I wasn’t even myself.
I’ve gotten to the point where I’ll tell many of those still demanding repeat apologies that I’m done; I can’t be held hostage for my past and at some point, it’s up to them to choose to move on or terminate our relationship. That’s been effective, but the resentment still creeps out in occasional jokes.
I’ve thought about printing out business-sized cards with the following to hand out to anyone who brings up My Shitty Past Behavior so we can move on already:
I don’t know who that was who was around for so long. I didn’t like Her. That’s why I worked my ass off to exorcise Her. I’m very sorry She scared you or offended you, but at least She didn’t try to fucking murder you like She did with me a bunch. I tried to fight Her off for a long time before She finally went away. I’m sorry you didn’t see that, but it’s okay; you’re getting an unobstructed view of Me now. Thanks for sticking around to see it.
And look, I know I wasn’t All Psycho All Day E’rryday. I know there were things I did in there that were good and kind and selfless. I know there were moments in there where the Real Me crept out. But all those snapshots are haunted by the Crazy that constantly lurked in the periphery. That’s what’s ruining walks down Memory Lane for me recently. I never go to Facebook’s “On This Day”/Memories feature; it’s too much for my anxiety. I’m not far away enough from it to be able to enjoy it without remembering all the garbage I was going through at the time. All I wanted for years was to stop feeling like that; the last thing I want to do right now when things are so dramatically different and better is to revisit it, even in hopes to search for positive moments in the rubble.
My positive moments are now. I just want to dive in already.