Archive for the ‘Apologizing for Being Right: A Bipolar Coping Technique’ Category

Apologizing for Being Right: A Bipolar Coping Technique   10 comments

One of my father’s friends insulted me.  She accused me of uncontrollably buying cars and jewelry at the expense of my family.  She inferred I was going through some kind of bipolar mania. The venom she spewed came directly from my father.  Where else would she hear that Mormon-like rhetoric spouting from the world’s most accomplished Jew of convenience?  A man who says “God willing he’ll remodel the bathroom” when he returns from his European Cruise. My dad goes to synagogue barely three times a year and thinks God is going to bless his bathroom redesign when he returns from vacation.  You have to go at least ten times a year for God to bless a bathroom redesign.

This woman, who looks like a Jack in the Box with the huge head and smaller body, also got her facts mixed up and had no business commenting on my finances or my current state of bipolarity.  “So, I told her she had a big mouth.”  Apparently she was mortally wounded and is still carrying the grudge six months later.  I said this in an email.  It would have been funnier to see the dumbstruck look on her face if I had said it in person.  She is the kind of person who tells other people to shut up.  You don’t tell her.

It’s a great feeling when you know you are right and put someone in their place.  Or, it’s supposed to be a good feeling.  The problem is when you are bipolar you often second guess yourself; “What if I’m wrong and she goes to her death bed having been unjustly criticized?” “What if I was too harsh and my words gave her a heart attack?  Could I be brought up on attempted murder charges?” “What if  I just kept my feelings to myself in the interest of keeping the peace?  People don’t always have to say everything that pops into their heads.”  “Maybe I could have corrected her in a nicer way.”  I could hear Ward Cleaver telling me,  “Hey mister, that kind of talk was uncalled for!”

I’m not sure where this second guessing comes from in people with Bipolar Disorder.  Maybe it’s the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder making you doubt whether you turned off the stove over and over again even though you are 100% positive you did.  In this case I am doubting my judgement even though this woman was completely out of line and insulting.  Was telling her she had a big mouth going overboard?  Do I have to keep going over it to make sure I was justified and did the right thing?  Is telling someone they have a big mouth ever the right thing to do?

On this one I entered what I call “The Bipolar House of Mirrors.”  In this hell-house no matter what you said, how right you were, how tactfully you phrased it, your mind forces you to go back and dissect the situation down to the last syllable.  Every room you go into looking for an answer distorts your comments in a different and more bizarre way.  Enough rumination and you get to the point where you aren’t exactly sure what you said, just that it was very bad.  So awful you’ll do almost anything to get out of that rusty shack.

I detest “The Bipolar House of Mirrors.”  So, I’ve developed a technique to head off having to go there whenever possible.  I simply apologize for everything, even when I’m right.  Six months ago a van backed into the front of my car while it was parked.  I apologized to the driver for him not seeing my car because it sits low to the ground and is hard to view from a van.  A waitress dumped a tray full of hot coffee on me at a breakfast seminar. I apologized for my seat being too close to the aisle and for wearing a light colored suit making the spill look overly dramatic.  Or, there was the time a cop was giving me a ticket for something I really did not do, but I apologized and thanked him anyway.  Anything but those mirrors.

Often I question why are people so concerned with what others think.  I don’t believe this is a trait restricted to only bipolar people, but I do think people with Bipolar Illness have the hardest time with it.  Normal people are able to accept reality and let things go with seemingly more ease.  But those afflicted with bipolar spend a lot of time fighting the demons in their heads.  Things get distorted and we are not sure we have an accurate picture of how we present in front of others.  We can’t help wondering what people think, because the last thing we want them to know is that we are mentally ill.  Bipolars have to constantly meter and evaluate their behavior so they can do things, like function normally in the work place. We have to catch ourselves before we start fondly reminiscing about a computer we once owned to the IT guy for an entire hour in front of the whole office.

The one thing you’re probably still asking yourself is why my father talks to his friends about my finances and spending patterns?  I think everyone has someone who takes great pleasure in life criticizing your choices, spending habits and lifestyle.  My father happens to be my nemesis.  But as my grandfather always used to say, “blood is not thicker than water.”   So I guess it’s par for the course.

I had a co-worker just like my dad who used to call it out to the whole building every time I bought something new.  “Hey, Pete just got a new Shelby Mustang in a down economy.  You should see it.  It’s crazy.”  Or in a meeting, “Pete, show everyone what’s under your shirt sleeve… Oh, a new Omega Planet Ocean.  What are they around, four thousand?  You’re kidding me, in this economy?”  And showing your indiscretions, or what they perceive as such, points out the careful management of their resources.  But deep down inside they are actually bitter because they wish they went for the ridiculously fast car and flashy watch.

So here’s what we’ve learned.  Never speak up, even if you are right.  If you do say something, you’ll spend the rest of your life feeling awful about it.  However, you can always apologize for being right and make the situation go away.  But, if the incident happens with someone at work, make sure not to talk to the IT guy .  And if someone still tries to bully you by pointing out all of your purchases and decisions as being ill-fated and comical, you can always seek refuge with your family.  Unless of course you have my father, who will perpetuate the whole thing by telling friends and family alike all your purchases and decisions are ill-fated and comical.  Then you should actually start making purchases and decisions that are ill-fated and comical.  Like I always say; if they cast you for the part, you might as well play it.