Mostly We Die Because Of Infected Memories

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More women than men attempt suicide, but more men
succeed because we use more lethal means.
Something I read from Health Canada.

“…Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery /
None but ourselves can free our minds.”
“Redemption Song” Bob Marley & The Wailers, 1980 ‘Uprising’.

People with Manic Depression are forever searching for a reason for our depression, and when we can’t find one we create one. There are no reasons needed for a Manic Depressive to be depressed. We have a disease which spontaneously creates our depressions. So how do you find meaning when there’s no meaning? You start by reassigning your memories.

When I tried to fall to sleep when I was Unmedicated I was never sure if I had a million memories swirling through my head at a thousand miles an hour, or four memories spinning at a million miles per hour. Most nights I could actually see the thoughts as though they were coloured tracers, as though I were looking at drunk fireflies or CNN during the first Gulf War.

A good sleep period for me during the 18-years I was unmedicated was four or five hours with no convoluted dreams or nightmares. Now I take a pill at night, 100mg of Seroquel, and I can sleep for an entire, uninterrupted eight hours.

Falling to sleep without the medication I mentally beat myself up with memories of past girlfriends, of events which occurred in early grade-school, of situations at work. These memories were embarrassing, they made me wince, and occasionally I even had to strike my head to make them stop. But they wouldn’t, sometimes they would even pop-up while I was awake. They made me want to apologize to those who, in my memories, I thought I’d done serious harm to. But if you, as I have on occasion, bring up one of these memories with someone who was involved, with someone you believe you’ve harmed in some way, their recollection is almost entirely different. They’ll tell you, as they have me, that those events were near meaningless or completely forgotten. And then when you examine them yourself you realize that the pain you’ve currently associated with the memory far exceeds the reality of the memory.


Now, how many memories do we actually have? How many are actually stored away? Are these events given importance simply because they are remembered, and replayed over and over again? Is this simply another trick played on us by our disease? In our minds, every night, each of these memories are played like interactive movies. Some you can change, maybe give them new endings or middles to lessen the punch, but mostly they just play front to back, beginning to end. I no longer believe that it is the memories themselves which are the direct cause of the pain, I now believe that we are feeling real and current pain and we are finding memories which could explain the pain. Simply: I believe that the disease causes us pain, and in an attempt to explain that pain we find painful memories.

This one used to haunt me at least once a week for eighteen years:

In grade three or four B. Flarnlord (not his real name or initial) brought a soccer ball to school. His ball, so he chose the teams. I wasn’t on one. Later on I jumped him and pinned him to the ground until some other kids pulled me off him. This is one of the memories the disease haunts me with. A simple schoolyard fight between two kids, twenty-five years ago. I feel a normal amount of remorse about this event as I type it out now, but just a few months ago, on a night I ran out of Seroquel, it was this memory which had me locked in a horrible fantasy for over an hour. Replaying it over and over again. Seeing the event from his side: a kid with a horrible last name for a child brings a new soccer ball to school in a bid to make him, not popular, but at least not mockable for a few days, but he gets beaten on at lunchtime. B. got embarrassed, he got humiliated and worse, he was back to being Lord of The Flarns.*

So if I don’t take my pills The Disease makes me feel shame, and I get to relive B.’s pain. But it’s completely out of proportion. There really is no “pain” from the B. event twenty-five years ago, but the disease forces me to search for an event to associate the pain caused by the disease. It could have been anything, but my mind chose B. and that fucking soccer ball.

Simply: The disease causes me to feel emotional pain; my brain doesn’t understand said pain is illusionary, so; my brain searches out a comparable event to beat me with, but; I take pills to control my Disease and therefore dampen the illusionary pain, so; my brain leaves me alone, and finally; I am left in peace and can begin to clearly understand that the events in question were actually dealt with long ago.

I apologize if I just explained that four times over… it’s because I’ve never really put this into words before.

One more time: The Disease hits me with a feeling — shame, powerful shame: 85/100. So my brain finds a shameful moment to explain this feeling, even if that memory ranks only: 30/100. But that Found Memory is now assigned the ranking of the New Pain. So B. should only be a 30 but, in my Disease Induced Fantasy, B. is now ramped right up to an 85 and suddenly I’m a heartless bastard all the way back to Grade Fucking Three who has caused so much pain to so many people that I should just get it over with and load the shotgun. Suddenly this disease has me convinced it’s rational to pump a bullet into my head by convincing me I’m a Complete Unforgiveable Fuck over something from twenty-five years ago that never really happened.

This disease is so insidious that even when we do have rational memories with real emotions, they’re drug up later by the disease and corrupted so It can use them to beat us mercilessly with them. Did you accidentally piss off your mother twenty years ago? Thought it wasn’t really that bad that you left her waiting? Well, SURPRISE, here it is again, only this time it’s presented through a full Motley Crue Stack of Marshall Manic Depressive Amplifiers. And, SURPRISE, that one little event was really what made her stop loving you. Even if she hasn’t, even if she’s right there in the room with you telling you how much she cares for you, even if she is right there begging you not to leave, even if she’s right there begging you to take your fucking pills.

We get depressed. We get hyper. No news there. But Manic Depression is really about every emotion and our complete lack of control over those emotions. So. How can we be in control when we have a disease which spontaneously creates our depressions and hyperactivity? Take your pills. And there’s a very good reason why this disease isn’t called “Joy Depression” or “Happy Depression”. It’s because being Manic isn’t about Joy or Happiness. It’s about being completely out of control. It’s about not being able to stop doing… everything. Manic is to Joy as Obsessive Compulsion is to turning off the light. So take the fucking pills and make your memories yours again.


[*…it actually was a little more brutal than that. I choked him until three larger kids pulled me off him. Damn it. The image still bothers me, but it’s not something I want to die over anymore.]




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Classic, crazy people with no pants, Depression, Health, Humor, Humour, Lithium, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Punk. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Mostly We Die Because Of Infected Memories

  1. puddlejumper says:

    I love this. I was planning to do a post on Monday giving more details of how I got to finally getting a diagnosis.
    Would you mind if I link to this post?
    It just sums up so perfectly what bipolar FEELS like.
    I’ll wait till I get an okay from you.

  2. Gabriel... says:

    Thanks for that.
    By all means, link away… actually, I’d be eternally grateful if you could link to the ‘main page’. Somehow it feels like ‘the front door.’
    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make sure all the words and grammar is spelled write in my post.

  3. puddlejumper says:

    No probs!
    Will ask people to knock politely too.
    Does this mean you’ll add me to your blogroll?

  4. Gabriel... says:

    Sister, it has already been done. Later on tonight I plan on raising a flag in the village square with your URL on it. I think there’s at least one other person here with Internet access, so expect a spike in hits tomorrow.

  5. queenminx says:

    I have never been diagnosed with ‘manic’ depression. I just get depressed. I live with it, somehow, it defines me. I have also been told, I am a bit ‘bi-polar’. I don’t mind this either.

    I consider myself lucky, in that, my mum works in psychiatry. Therefore, I have never been sectioned. I just phone my mum and wail at her for a time until I feel, if not better, at least a little saner.

    The ’emotionally kicking your arse’ and ‘driving yourself away in your head’ (as my gran would say), you talk about in your post, echoes my own turmoil of emotions and memories and how I, constantly, or so it feels (there we go, it ‘feels’) as though I can’t get off this train heading to emotional overload with with no stops in between to ‘excercise my legs’or get a decent sandwich.

    So … thanks for your insight … it’s an eye-opener.


  6. Gabriel... says:

    I think it works the same way to everyone all over the world. It’s just people sometimes lack the clarity necessary to move past certain events or memories. When you’re suffering from a ‘normal’ depression your clarity is obscured, but ‘normal’ people eventually regain that clarity. People who have a disease which messes with their perceptions don’t have that switch.
    It’s important to remember though, that ‘normal’ depressions can become too deep to get out of alone. If you feel like your clarity is being fucked with, find help.

  7. puddlejumper says:

    The link is in place. Hopefully now you will be swamped by the hoards, though since the Britney Thing has quietened down its fairly quiet again over at mine.
    At least I hopefully won’t be in any danger of directing too many teenage fascist bunny boilers your way.
    Most of my visitors are lovely and some of them are even housetrained!
    Laters dude.

  8. G,
    I read the entry and I was a bit thunderstruck in that I had the same horrible pre-sleep agitations and bouts of despair, while trying to sleep in the past.

    I suffered in this way *for years* and I didn’t directly link it to Bipolar Disease–I just thought I was ridiculously anxious (maybe it was my personality type) full of self-loathing and suffering from common household insomnia.


    I was tortured by the racing thoughts that kept me awake. I imagined the most horrible scenarios– my own child being abducted and murdered, myself being abducted by aliens and tortured–sometimes it was really strange things but most of the time it was common occurences that I blew out of proportion or twisted into bizarre events with horrific outcomes. I, too thought of events from my past and flogged myself with guilt and grief. I would cry silently or in wails. My poor husband!

    Thank you for writing this entry. It helped me to “see” that what I was going through was a symptom of the disease and not my own cruel doings.I don’t experience those symptoms anymore and I seem to have dropped the knife from my throat.

    Regurigitating horror stories before bedtime was something I discussed with my doctor at the time, but he didn’t directly state that it was linked to bipolar. But now I am thnking “What isn’t?” I do think he had put me on Trazadone for a while because he thought that might help.

    That aspect of the disease seems to have dissipated for now…always on guard though.

  9. Gabriel... says:

    Thanks very much Clare.

  10. how about those of us who take pills for depression but are not diagnosed as manic depressive.
    i have no reason to be depressed, so i search one out. it’s tiring

  11. Gabriel... says:

    Not all depressions are Depressions… and not all Depressives are depressed all the time.

    Sometimes there are no motives. Sometimes things just happen. Sometimes we get depressed because someone dies. Sometimes we get depressed because a TV show is cancelled. Sometimes we get depressed because a burst of chemicals in our brain makes a wrong turn and ends up in the wrong neighbourhood. Sometimes the depression is gone when we wake up. Sometimes it comes back and stays.

    It’s tiring because God has OCD and sometimes it’s our switch that he keeps flicking…

  12. Alicia says:

    I’d love to say something profound but all I can must is “wow, you’re in my head”. But I think it’s like that every time I read how someone else is experiencing something remotely close to what I do.

    Of all the years with manic depression, I have experienced depression, but it wasn’t as drastic as my manic periods. Until this last year, that is. It is scary when I’d rather be in my out-of-control manic state than the deep, darkest, most hideous place I’ve been the past couple months.

    Anyhow, I am grateful to have discovered your side and will definitely return. Thank you for sharing!

  13. feartheseeds says:

    If there’s one thing about being in a manic phase that I can say is “good”, it’s not knowing how fucking crazy you’re acting. The depressions are always worse that way, because you’re trapped inside your thoughts and you can’t stop thinking about how freaking depressed and “worthless” you are. Plus, at least sometimes when you’re manic you’re outside and doing stuff… even if you’re not wearing pants and you’ve painted your torso bright blue to align yourself with the spirits.

    Wow yourself. That’s a great site you’ve created.

  14. JSG says:

    I have just been working on a book about (amongst other things) becoming bipolar…and spontaneously a large part of it revolves around memory. It is a very interesting and important issue…& thanx for the brilliant piece.

  15. Gabriel... says:

    Thanks… come again when it’s published. Or before. Or if you’d like to discuss the book. Or hockey.

  16. JSG says:

    Cool. I will approach [the publisher], thanx. I’ll send u a copy of my book if u like, I am seeking feedback. Will be reading yr stuff.

  17. feartheseeds says:

    As much as I’m intrigued it’s never a good idea to be sending an unpublished manuscript around, especially to other authors you’ve just met online… if you’re looking for feedback I’d suggest getting a blog and maybe putting up small pieces of your work and inviting people you know or trust to take a look at it. This blog has really helped me focus. If you check the [publishers] website you’ll see that it’s a Canadian publisher which almost exclusively publishes Canadian writers, so if you fit that criteria find their submissions policy and have at it. Let me know when you start the blog.

  18. JSG says:

    Thanx…sound advice….
    i set this up a while back but havent tended it

  19. melanie says:

    After many years…I have missed your words.

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