There she was, gathering her sheep. Five, Ten, Fifty … oh why not make it 100 sheep. No need to be lazy! Suddenly a few sheep began wandering off. The little girl stared at the remaining 93 sheep and thought to herself, “It’s only a few sheep; no one will notice I haven’t taken care of them. They’ll probably be okay and take care of themselves anyway.”
When she returned with her 7 sheep deficient flock, her father looked at her and cried, “Where are the other sheep!? You told me you could handle 100 sheep! Where did they go?”
Tears welled up in the daughter’s eyes. “I’m so sorry daddy. It’s just they wandered off and I couldn’t find them and I probably shouldn’t have taken on 100 sheep. It’s just, I must be manic and got in over my head. I’m so sorry!”
Her father, concerned yet sympathetic, sent the oldest brother to find the missing sheep and the incident was forgotten. Until …
“68, 69, 70, 7 …. Seriously! I only took 75 damn sheep this time. Where did those other five go?” The little girl stomped her foot then looked around, knowing the sheep were already gone and if she let the remaining 70 sheep behind to go after the missing 5, they’d probably all get lost too.
Back at the farm her father growled, “You said you could handle 75. I told you it would be too much but you promised, since it was less than before, you could handle it.”
The girl bit her lip to hold back the tears. “I thought I had them all. I mean there were only 75. I really did think I could handle it.” She hung her head in shame. “I’m SOOO sorry! I guess I’m still a bit manic.”
The young child was so distraught by her failures she refused to take out the sheep for the next 4 days, telling her father, “I just can’t do it, Daddy. I feel like I’ll mess up again and disappoint you and I feel so horrible. I’m so sorry. I just feel so depressed.”
So her father took on the extra sheep during her absence until she was finally ready to give it another shot.
“Only 25 this time, Daddy. I’m not losing another sheep ever again.”
The day ended. 25 sheep returned.
The next day she took 30. 30 came back.
Then 45 the next.
And by the end of the week she was up to taking on 50 sheep. She felt good. She felt powerful. She felt it must have just been a bad day when she lost the other sheep.
“I’m going to take 75 today,” she announced the following morning.
“But – ” her father began.
“I can do it,” she assured him. “I’m feeling much better now. I can totally handle 75 sheep. Last time I was just upset about losing the 7 sheep the day before when obviously 100 sheep was WAY too much! 75 is the perfect number for me. I promise!”
He reluctantly agreed and off she went with her huge flock.
Want to guess what she said when she returned with only half the flock?
How many times has she apologized and chalked it up to her illness?
Luckily, this isn’t a math problem. And having bipolar isn’t like herding sheep. But I know I do find myself apologizing more often than I’d prefer due to my inadequate follow-through. And the reasons are always, “I was overwhelmed.” Or, “I took on too much.” Or, “I just couldn’t find the motivation.”
Sound familiar? Uncomfortably familiar?
I think it’s important to be aware of the number of, “Sorry”s we give out due to our cycles. It’s actually a habit of mine to apologize for everything, but how are others going to know I’m sincere if I’m ALWAYS apologizing.
Cycles are real. Ups and downs happen. Things go unfinished and people are disappointed. But they don’t have to. Make use of the ups so when it’s time for a down there isn’t so much left on your plate. And be careful when apologizing and having bipolar be the excuse. Bipolar is not an excuse. It is the cause of some of our behaviors. But a cause and an excuse are different things. The little girl knew she was taking on too much. She did it anyway. She knew it was an accident, but she still refused to go out after it happened. Could bipolar have been the cause? Sure. But it’s not an excuse. She still knew better. She still made the choices. And she still continued to make unwise choices after. Bipolar wasn’t the excuse … her inability to learn from her mistakes was! I’m pretty sure there’s not an appropriate apology to go with that one ;)