Shame is a stronger, more-lasting emotion than love or grief. It’s can stain one’s soul in shades that never lighten or fade with time. Sex is so often the earliest lesson plan in shame. There are expectations and attitudes which are acceptable within contexts we learn through trial and error, standards to cleave to demonstrate self-respect and control, and perversions and desires to swallow lest one lose one’s reputation or oneself entirely. I carry my sexual shame on my shoulders. I’ve earned its weight.

Two years ago I spent months crying in a dark basement with the sensation that I was coming apart inside, that each synapse was burning to break my body. I lost days. I drank to sleep, to not be. I chased anti-anxiety drugs with every drink I could get and hold down before passing into the black. But the drinking never led to deliverance, and some nights my shadow self came up from all that hurt, loneliness, and wanting to matter, and spoke for me, message for me, though for me, was me. The shame comes from the fact that regardless of how sick I was, what I did was my fault. It echoes from the fact that I have the seeds of my own destruction planted fertile inside my soul, that I am the gardener for my shadow self. The shame leaves scars that no matter who I was then, what my mind or perception of reality was, there is only me. If I break, I break myself.

Addiction is a familiar symptom for those who are miswired like me, who lack the right hormones in the correct amount, and who subconsciously run after ways to spike their dopamine levels to feel better, or their stress hormones to feel at all since. You see what is not common knowledge to the uninitiated is that severe depression isn’t simply sadness and a sense of worthlessness, but when it’s at its height it feels like nothing at all. No joy or sadness. No hopes or fears. Simply an unending, impenetrable grey abyss rolling endless into the horizon of nothing matters or will. My drinking began as a way to fight to feel, to cut the bonds that held me from chasing the drive inside myself that promised release and sensation. I drank not to be me, but when I wasn’t me I was only the most base, crude, hypersexual version of myself reaching out to anyone at hand to feel wanted, important, that I mattered. That part of myself, more than any sense of loneliness, fear, or not meaning much at all, frightens me more than any other. It’s ruined friendships I cherished, cost my reputation and respect with others, and exposed the worst part of myself, the part that I fight to bury in the night soil of my heart, to those who had no want to see it. Who saw it as the real me.

Hypersexuality is a common symptom for those with Bipolar since the hormones which lead to a feeling of well-being, of bonding and security, are flood the bloodstream during sexual excitement. I’ve been hypersexual since I was a child, before the decades of therapists and doctors came to help me understand myself and medicate, and most everything I regret in my life results from choices I made when my mind was not mine, and was. I am guilty of so many moral failings that to catalog them here is more than I can carry. When I haven’t been strong or given in to the shift inside, I’ve exposed every part of myself in public and private to scavenge a rush of endorphins mindless beyond the present. The times I found escape where never worth the harm I caused to myself, my relationships, and most importantly to those who there is no way to apologize and make it right.

Shame presses me each day whether it be embarrassment over instances in which I didn’t hold tighter discipline over my mind, fight harder not to go under the waves of swelling bad thoughts and misperceptions, or simple regrets that in moments when I had the chance to be a better person I failed time again. I am ashamed that in evening weakness I’ve let go of the grips on my stability out of weakness or familiarity with falling apart. I am ashamed that I can’t remember conversations that cost me friends, of wrong turns spun down so willfully self-destructive, and that even though I understand the nature of my illness and the hurt I’ve caused when reckless or lost that in the end the blame. There is no feeling worse than hurting someone who didn’t mean to, no terror like waking up out of a blind drunk night wondering who you were and whom you need to apologize too, and no shame as cutting as one born from allowing oneself to turn into a person you hate because in the instant when control is in your hands, if only loosely, the shadow part of yourself is given reign because being out of control, erased, chasing chaos feels familiar—in a sick way feels like a safe return to the worthless person a part of you will always see as you at heart.

In the past, I struggled worse than I am at the time of this writing, but my shame is as tangible now as the keys beneath my fingers. I’ve often wondered if part of the stigma attached to my condition Bipolar II comes from an inability to convey in language both what living with it is like, as well as to the impossible task of rationalizing the self-destructive, abusive, and desperate lengths they lead myself and others to.

I earned the shame I carry through sleazy conversations I can’t remember, pornographic texts and web chats, and learning to late that my fight to keep the shade of me I fear most in the dark is a daily one. I’m insecure. I don’t like myself. I wish I were better. I’m afraid of who I am to other people and that causes me to desperately stay secluded while aching to be part of a circle of people who understand. But in the end, these are feelings I own, thoughts that will arise and move on. There’s a shadow inside me, but my shame is a tool. It teaches me to stay vigilant. It drops me humble. It reminds me of what I lose when I lose myself, but own the blame alone.