Posted by fxckfeelings on May 31, 2010Share This Post
Most good people find themselves doing the same old bad things over and over. For some of us, said bad habits don’t go beyond excessive chocolate or videogame usage, but for others, “bad things” result in horrible consequences. Understanding why people are like that seldom helps, but recognizing when people are like that (whether it’s you or the other guy) can be very helpful if you accept the fact that the problem won’t go away and take responsibility for managing it as it is. You can’t change urges, but you can sure try to change results.
I love my work, my kids, and my wife, but I have bipolar mood swings (and I’ve taken medication for years) that lead me to do things that get me into trouble. Recently, in spite of the medication, I felt a surge of energy and started to stay up late, sneak into my studio and paint. I’ve also started to drink again. I don’t want to change meds or let people know what’s happening because I want to keep my options open. I love the highs and the freedom, and I hate being told what to do, but I’ve got a demanding day job that doesn’t involve painting, and a wife who doesn’t like it, to say the least, when I’m not honest. So my goal is to get myself under control before people catch on to what’s really happening.
There are few fathers and husbands who can’t identify with the goal of wanting to feel special, have time to themselves, and avoid humiliating comments about eating, drinking, toileting or sleeping habits from their next of kin.
The fraction of these fathers who are dealing with mental illness and addiction to alcohol don’t want to be asked if they’ve been taking their medication or started drinking.
So, if your goal is to avoid immediate disrespect and hang on to your secret Van Gogh identity a little longer, then keep doing just what you’re doing.
On the other hand, if you want to avoid the long term chaos of going nuts, listening while your doctors try to find a mental hospital that also does alcohol detoxification and having your wife tell you that you’re not welcome home until you straighten out and maybe not then either…then you’ve got to give up on secrecy and come out of the out-of-control closet.
That’s because it takes a powerful part of your personality to make a good guy risk his health and marriage for the joy of a very, very good but relatively brief mood and paintings that will never reach Sotheby’s. It takes a demon.
Lots of people have demons—they pay my bills—and it’s a waste of time to figure him out instead of looking for ways to manage him better, all of which require you to face and ‘fess up to your (or should I say his) possession.
Sorry, but it’s almost impossible to gain control of a demon without acknowledging that he’s A, there, and B, can’t be extirpated or exorcised (except through lobotomy). That’s because he gains strength from being hidden.
So tell your wife and trusted friends about your problem, share your story with similarly possessed people, discard false shame, and do your best to keep the demon under control.
In recovery, they say you’re only as sick as your secrets; admit your secrets, and you can keep your demon at bay.
Here’s what you need to say to yourself (and others). “I’m living a good life, but it isn’t easy. My priorities are to make a living and raise a family, but there’s a part of me that wants to drink and paint and stay up late and enjoy the bipolar highs, and sometimes that part takes control, particularly when I think I’ve beaten him for good. Making my problem public is the best way to strengthen my self-control. I respect my willingness to humiliate myself for a good cause.”
My girlfriend and I keep breaking up without ever really getting together. She’s obviously interested in me, or she wouldn’t keep calling, and I can sense her sincerity. We have a good time together when we get a chance to go out. Whenever we’re at the stage of taking things to a new level, however, like we’ve been talking every day for a couple weeks, she’ll suddenly drop out of contact for a few days and then act like nothing’s happened and I shouldn’t expect her to be that available. A couple times when she dropped out, it was because she couldn’t decide whether to get back together with an old boyfriend. That’s no longer the issue, so I thought we were clear to go, but we can’t seem to take off. I’d like to know if I’m doing something wrong or if there’s a way she could get help.
Don’t trust your feelings to tell you whether someone is really interested. Feelings are easily fooled and love is blind; watch her feet and see what they have to say.
This girl’s feet are doing the cha-cha-cha, one step forward, one back, quick shuffle, one more back, one forward, another shuffle, and repeat. She likes to dance with you, but that doesn’t mean she’ll ever move forward or make you her number one partner.
If you trust your feelings, then you must ask yourself what you’re doing wrong, which keeps you stuck with her and introduces you to doubt, depression, and me. It costs you time and money to stay at the mindfuck disco.
Ask yourself what you’re dancing for. It’s not because you need to dance (though you do), but because you’re looking for a partner, which requires you to know what you’re looking for and keep your feelings out of it until you’re sure you’ve got a likely candidate.
One of the requirements—I know, it’s amazing that I can read your mind, but remember, I went to Harvard—is that someone has a good track record with relationships. No one who does the cha-cha-cha need apply, ever.
Don’t tell me that’s easier said than done. First, I’ll tell you it’s harder if you don’t do it, so you don’t have a choice. Second, given today’s theme, I’ll tell you you’re possessed by a demon who loves attention and wants to dance and you have a hard time keeping him in check.
Your goal is to make a solid, independent choice, regardless of your short-term needs. Cowboy up, be a grown-up and give yourself the benefit of solid, caring protection and a nice, sturdy, one-on-one waltz.
Here’s a statement, in case your demon (or sometime dance partner) asks why you can’t, at least, enjoy a nice, friendly talk. “I don’t think our chemistry is right for what I’m looking for, though we certainly have a good connection. Spending time with one another right now doesn’t take either one of us in the right direction.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname