A couple of weeks ago, I had a bad night directing choir. A woman on the front row was chatting away when I was trying to instruct. I tried to talk over her, but it was no use. I got very frustrated, as would anybody, except that I was manic which makes it 10 times as much. Then I realized that she was conferring about the music. So I tried to communicate that we were going to take a little talking break while they worked it out. I turned to the pianist and we started talking. But by then, my frustration was too extreme to play it off. It came off as brutally sarcastic. Every cell in my body was frustrated and embarrassed and resentful in a very palpable way.
After rehearsal and after I had taken my medicine, I felt bad about the way it had gone so I sent her a text.
Me: Thanks for being patient with me tonight. My meds just aren’t cutting it right now so I got really intense. I’m sorry.
Her: You were just fine :). I’ll put you in my prayers tonight that you will feel better. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
The next Sunday, I sat down by her and she said,
Remember how I said I was going to pray for you Wednesday? I sensed God saying to me that you need to forgive myself, because he’s already forgiven you.
I choked back tears when she said that, and so I knew deep down that it must be true. I judge myself as guilty for being sick. When my symptoms cause problems, I feel so bad. I feel like I’ve not held up my end of the bargain. This is why it’s so important to be open about being sick. People are very understanding and compassionate by and large…or at least they try to be.
I think part of it is that I’m under the gun at home. I committed adultery in my sickness before I was treated. I was welcomed back home on the condition that I do everything I can do to stay well. If I get sick again and there’s some little thing I’m not doing, then my marriage might be over. I know that’s no way to live, but I don’t know what else to do.
I am guilty. Sick or not, I broke every vow I made when I married my wife. Me having been sick does not take her pain and mistrust away. But I put a lot of stock in the woman who prayed for me. I trust her experience. So I constructed a prayer to say on my knees before bed.
Lord, I surrender to you my guilt over being sick.
I didn’t ask for forgiveness. I already have that, but I don’t really know how to forgive myself. What does it really mean to forgive one’s own self? Do I look in the mirror and say it? Maybe. Do I forgive and forget? Can’t. Do I just try to let it go? I feel too guilty to do this. It’s so much easier to forgive someone else because I’m compassionate with other people, and I don’t really know what’s going on in their heads so I assume the best. Well I know what’s going on in my head and sometimes I don’t feel like I deserve compassion. Bipolar alters a person’s reality. When I’m behaving in a hurtful or obnoxious way, it feels like I’m doing it because I’m simply an asshole. In the end, I decided to give that conundrum up to a much higher power. I suspect I’m going to have to pray this every night for awhile. My experience is that praying is not a one time deal. It takes time to change. It takes time to forgive.