One of the consequences that often happen in people with BPD’s lives is that they screw up and break apart perfectly good relationships with other people. I can certainly attest to that statement. In the waiting room of my psychiatrist’s office last week, I browsed through the winter 2009 issue of bp Magazine and found an useful set of suggestions at the end of their cover story, “The Power of Amends” that addressed that particular issue. I happen to find that  list on their web site:

The following tips for seeking forgiveness and making amends come from Daniel L. Buccino, a licensed clinical social worker and clinical supervisor at the Adult Outpatient Community Psychiatry Program at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University.

  • Bipolar disorder is what you have, not who you are. You still must live with it, stand up to it, accommodate yourself to it, resist it, accept it, manage it. Separating yourself from the problem in this way will allow your true character to help you decide how you want to live with your illness and its consequences. Stability begets stability.
  • Apologize—genuinely, sincerely, deeply, specifically, and directly.
  • Make reparations as best you can.
  • Try to accept responsibility.
  • Redouble your efforts to do the right and virtuous things to show that whatever behaviors you exhibited were the exception, not the rule.
  • Remain humble and well-connected to treatment and find the best treatment providers you can.
  • Everyone makes mistakes, but avoid repeatedly making the same mistakes.
  • Strive to demonstrate good character by being responsible, reliable, trustworthy, competent, and focused.
  • Recognize that rebuilding trust is a process, a staircase to climb at times, not an event.

(Note: I took this list to think about making amends rather than the forgiveness part.) In my own life, there is no question that many, many relationships have dissolved, broken apart or abandoned on the account of my past behavior. While the suggestions above make it sound as though the illness is what caused those torn connections, I must also point out to myself that those mistakes’ entire weight cannot be placed on saying, “I wasn’t myself.” Because the thing is, it would be dishonest of me to leave out my own responsibility for those occurrences.

After having ECT, I sometimes find myself trying assess only what those little sparks have done for me. But in this time of convalescence, I must remind myself that this is also the time to re-evaluate and re-set what I personally can change in order to rebuild this life. In fact, I think that, in order to maximize the effects from this treatment, it’s crucial that I start to examine what I could do to take better care of myself. Of course, this is so much easier said than done, mostly because the symptoms of depression and mania sometimes make it impossible to even attempt to get out of bed and take a shower, much less bother to keep up a friendship.

That ‘little spark’ only starts up the fire for the new life. I need to figure out how to stoke it and keep it lit.

More to come on this thought…


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