“You Brought This On Yourself,”

My mother’s back: her way of avoiding conflict.

That’s what my mother used to say, her back to me, and her hands wrist deep in dishwater.  I needn’t see her hands to know she was wringing them upon hearing my news; I could tell by the way the muscles in her forearms were flexing.  There were several of these confessions at the kitchen table over the years, and I always found her reaction astonishing.  She was incapable of ever helping me solve whatever dilemma I disclosed.  The scope of my problems were well beyond the dimensions of her upper-flat apartment and any collateral influence her small circle of single-mothers might discover.  No, my mother lived a small, tightly wound existence, and like those gated-communities with elaborate, electronic gates and guard-posts manned by ex-militia, she’d honed the art of deflection, quickly interrupting my admission like a towering volley ball player blocking an opponents spike, by conjuring up the standard retort to unwelcome news, “You brought this on yourself.”

Which in many instances was both honest and obvious.  Most people don’t find themselves in a pickle by being an innocent bystander.  Most pickles are borne of poor planning and even poorer execution.  But not all admissions warrant my mother’s standard suppression.  For instance, the admission that you suffer from a mental illness in which you slide from a manic state to a depressive state as easily as Ferrari’s change lanes on the Autobahn. And that stress is a definite trigger, especially if that stress is a direct response to particular issues, situations, or circumstances.

What I’d like to know is whether other bipolar patients are accused of mania by a friend or relative when attempting to communicate important (and potentially volatile issues), and if so, does your intensity escalate in direct response to their continued defensiveness about the issues you are attempting to discuss?  And if the discussion derails and car after car of well-intentioned-but poorly-stated-examples jump track and pile atop each other deeply burying your initial point, does the person with whom you are now arguing with pull out the trump card, the ace-in-the-hole, the Coup de Grace and draw the conclusion that your passionate (implication: ridiculous) and persevering (implication: absurd) diatribe is characteristically manic, therefore you are literally, ranting like a lunatic, what do you do?  Back off as proof of your sanity (thereby recusing your accusations)?  Or stand firm and mad which guts the rationality of your point-of-view?

I recently cautioned a close friend that, out of desperation, played that card, and immediately quelled my interrogation.  But later, when civility returned, I quietly cautioned him of setting this precedent: “If I’m defenseless or simply tired of fighting, and he is intent at satisfying his blood lust, I’ll shut him up by asserting he’s Manic.”  Because most likely I’m not manic and accusing me of being manic in the context of an argument is cowardly and insensitive.

And lest you’ve forgotten, my mental illness is a disease not a strategy; it’s not my power play.

I’m out of control and therefore, by the very nature of the disease, am incapable of rational thought or reason; and the last thing an irrational person wants to hear is he’s behaving irrationally.  Talk about a dog chasing its tail!

Any thoughts?


3 thoughts on ““You Brought This On Yourself,”

  1. 3 years ago I visited my sisters and bro-in-law in Florida. When I arrived there was a bowl of M&M’s. I always took a handful when my dad was alive. Rog said, “One at a time”. I was 56 years old, at the time, and resentful he treated me as a child. (being the youngest I was not valued nor really seen as part of the family). Rog made amends yet I decided to leave this environment which was unfriendly and which I did not belong.

    I blew up. My one sister was out of the room and she thought I was manic. At the time, telling her what bothered me would not have helped.

    My parents did what parents do — to minimize damage and preserve their reputation. I was out of control since conception. Tied to a crib, angry when Mo was sick, afraid of abandonment and made a decision at age 4, “no one can I trust, no one listens, no one cares”. I am unlearning this, in touch with my anger and less depressed.

    Thank you TM Mulligan for this blog and exploring thoughts, perceptions and actions of a certified bi-polar II.


  2. I think this one affects all of us in all our variations. My family’s interpretation of my mental issues was ‘he’s capricious’. That served to undermine and dismiss anything I said or felt. If I was angry it was said that I was having ‘an attack’. They were able to not take it seriously and use it against me all at once.
    I had a therapist when I was 12 who helped clarify things in my own mind (in doing so he changed my life.) He doubled as a law professor and taught me logic- that in turn allowed me to analyze and judge my actions for myself.
    This has, of course, led me to a somewhat obsessive use of logical analysis to dissect myself and the world around me; But it also means I can dissociate what is emotion, what is bias caused by a mental issue and what is fact.


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