Depression, Bipolar and Guilt – Throwback


Today’s Throwback is from January 2014:

I feel guilty. Very guilty. What do I feel guilty for? That’s easy…damn near everything.

In the June 6, 2012 edition of Forbes magazine, contributor Alice G. Walton states:

Anybody who’s been depressed can tell you that feelings of guilt and self-blame can be overwhelming. In fact, the tendency to blame oneself excessively (and inappropriately) is a key factor in depression.

It’s a vicious cycle. Depression leads to guilt, which leads to feeling further depressed, leading to further guilt, leading to….You get the idea.

I’ve felt guilty for minor things throughout my life. I sometimes will feel bad for things I’ve said over 20 years ago, knowing full well the other person has probably forgotten about the moment a long time ago.
There’s plenty of things that I’ve said or done over the years that I’m not too proud of. People I’ve hurt because of my alcoholism, not spending time with my daughter, spending money I didn’t have and not being able to pay it back. These are all things that I believe would make most people feel some guilt, but I don’t ever feel “some” guilt. I am “consumed” by it.

When I talk with my pdoc and my therapist about past indiscretions, both of them remind me that those actions were caused by a Bradley who no longer exists. Those actions were caused by the undiagnosed, unmedicated Bradley of long ago. Today’s Bradley is more balanced. Today’s Bradley uses better judgment. Today’s Bradley is better than yesterday’s Bradley. When I’m in their offices it makes complete sense. It makes me better at accepting myself and it makes me proud to be who I am today. Those feelings of forgiving myself are very strong – until about an hour after I walk out their doors. Once the feelings come back, they flood my brain with guilt and shame once again.

Alice G. Walton’s Forbes article is based on a 2010 University of Maryland study on how different parts of the brain communicate during periods of guilt. I’m going to try and explain it without using words like “anterior temporal lobe” or “subgenual cingjlate cortex” or “septal region.”

In very simple terms, that even I can understand, they had two separate groups of students. One group was made up of students who have suffered from depression. The other group, obviously, did not suffer from depression. Each student was given statements to read that could cause guilt and they read those statements as they were undergoing MRI scans. Now, because I’ve suffered from seizure,s I’ve had to undergo more MRI’s than I can count. I can’t imagine having to read while having one done, but apparently they found students who could.

Here is the interesting part. Each of the two groups read the statements and both resulted in firings in two parts of the brain. One part of the brain involves socially appropriate behavior and the other involves feelings of guilt. In both groups the firings in the brain occurred simultaneously. However, in the group that had not been depressed firings occurred which connected the two parts together, like a bridge. In the group of people who had suffered from depression, no bridge existed. Both sides of the brain reacted simultaneously, but were independent of each other.

What does all this mean? I have no clue and neither do the doctors. Currently they are trying to determine the chicken and the egg questions – whether depression causes these brain differences to develop, or the brain differences lead to the development of depression. Either outcome could lead to further understanding how depression works and hopefully, lead to more effective ways to combat it.

How does this affect me? (Of course, you know it always has to be about me) As a person who thrives on guilt, I hope and pray for the day that a “cure” is found to eradicate both depression and bipolar disorder. Most of my guilt comes from relying on people who’ve cared for me back before I was properly medicated. This is especially true regarding Maurice. I am grateful for all the time he cared for me when things were at their worst. On several occasions he had to drop everything he was doing and come find me because I would be lost and wandering around.

Now he continues to care for me because of physical problems I’m having. I currently have a case of severe radiculitis, meaning I have swollen disks in my neck that are pressing on my nerves which cause shooting extreme pain running down my right arm. I won’t be able to see a surgeon until March, so until then Maurice is taking care of everything. He works about 10 hours a day…I’m on disability. I can’t wash dishes, he does. I can’t do laundry, he does. I can’t fold clothes, he does. I feel helpless and guilty. He keeps telling me to stop feeling guilty, but that’s been a real struggle for me. Now, at least I understand why I likely am consumed with so much guilt. I only wish that understanding brought relief.

Do you also become riddled with guilt, as well? If so, what usually triggers it? Does this possible explanation bring any relief?

14 comments on Depression, Bipolar and Guilt – Throwback

  1. YES and now if I dont comment I will feel guilty about it, sigh. This is no laughing matter.. must be one of those days.. think i need a nap…

    Excellent post… 🙂

    Kind Regards and we are always learning and gathering tools – K

  2. I absolutely experience guilt…it’s pretty consistent and occurs daily. Triggers: guilt about being a recluse, bipolar…and apparently manipulative (according to my ex). However, I think the latter has a lot to do with her feeling guilt. Instead of when someone does something that hurts me (I discovered emotions in the last 3 years, ha) …I feel guilty that I caused them to say or do/not do something. Grrrr….I hate it.

    Sorry to hear that about your radiculitis. One of my friends had something similar and he had the nerves fried that were causing the issues. The doc told him that the nerves would regenerate in 2-3 years so it’s pretty much a bandaid but he’s functional now. No pain. Have you been given that option? Already tried it?

    1. Haven’t been given the option to have my nerves fried. My GP sent me to a neurologist who ran tests and determined it was nothing neurological. He was very rude, basically saying “I can’t help you. Goodbye” I wound up working with a physical therapist which helped a lot, however my GP says he still suspects it’s a neurologic problem. I disagree, but I’ll be seeing him later this month and we’ll discuss and see what my next step will be. My belief is that I’ll end up back with a physical therapist and this time, when the insurance runs out, I’ll continue to do as I was trained which was not the case the last time.

  3. You know how out of it I am, and why that is…..I’ll return over the next day or to read post this carefully, soak it in, and make an informed comment! Or at least try to do that.
    p.s. Just by being born a Jewish girl of serious Jews, I’m replete with guilt! 😉

    1. I know it’s a stereotype, but Jews and Catholics have turned guilt into an art form. Be well my friend and be kind to yourself over the next few days.

  4. Always riddled with guilt. Doc says it’s one of the reasons my mood won’t stay stable. I’m to work on my negative self talk to decrease the guilt and shame so as to hopefully avoid bringing on depression and increased anxiety. Not being perfect triggers it for me, hence I have it all of the time! Lol. I’ve really set myself up for misery. See there I go again. Oh man, do I have some work to do!

  5. I’m sorry about the pain you have, Bradley.
    Did you try acupuncture? I didn’t believe in it until it was the only option I had while pregnant because I couldn’t take any kind of meds. I had severe pain in my hips and back that went to my knee and I couldn’t walk. I’m not sure if that could help you, but if you live near a “China Town”, you can give it a try 🙂
    (I hate needles and I swear I didn’t feel the man putting those needles anywhere except when he had to do it on my wrists and ankles. That was a little bit painful but nothing comparing to the back pain 🙂 ).

    1. I actually haven’t given it much of a thought. China Towns a bit far for me, but there’s some in my immediate area. I may have to give it a try

  6. Interesting. My depression was unipolar. It had lasted all my adult life and up until the 80s. I was a uni student during the 60s and 70s, and I underwent Gestalt therapy, in vogue at the time. I believed that my moods were due to childhood trauma. Through therapy, dream analysis and writing about it, I went back to the first guilt incident, my brother’s fall from a pony that I thought I’d caused. After a painful nervous breakdown, and a little medication, I slowly recovered. Then the kick in the backside: my gorgeous daughter was diagnosed with bipolar in 2003! Developing a deep spirituality and an awareness of an energy that underpins everything, has helped me a lot. When guilty memories surface, I ask for help through meditation. Good luck with your struggle with guilty memories, Bradley. I know the feeling…

    1. Happy to read you found what helps you. I’ve had much improvement since I posted this originally a couple of years ago. I wonder, though, if it ever goes completely goes away.

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