Thoughts about redemption

Copyright JM Schreiber 2012
Copyright JM Schreiber 2012

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.
Have no fear for atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time.
How long shall they kill our prophets,
While we stand aside and look? Ooh!
Some say it’s just a part of it:
We’ve got to fulfill the book.

Won’t you help to sing
These songs of freedom? –
‘Cause all I ever have:
Redemption songs.”

This song by the late Bob Marley has echoed in my mind frequently over the past month or so. Written after the diagnosis of cancer that would ultimately claim his life, it is thought to speak to his personal reflections on mortality. My own longing for redemption relates directly back to my inability to resolve the circumstances which led up to the extraordinarily manic behaviour that marked my final days in the office. And my inability to let it go.

What is redemption?

Disregarding the financial and transaction contexts by which the term is used, redemption is typically understood as:
1. an act of redeeming or the state of being redeemed.
2. deliverance; rescue.
3. deliverance from sin.
4. atonement for guilt.

Looking at the news over the past few weeks, there are some very public examples of behaviour that can not be easily excused. The videotape of NFL star Ray Rice punching and dragging his unconscious fiancee from an elevator, the resignation of a Vancouver CEO caught on video kicking and abusing a puppy, and most recently another NFL player accused of excessively brutal corporal punishment against his own children are just the latest in a litany of public figures behaving badly. Unfortunately, they might have been met  with relatively minor reprimands had there not been videotapes or pictures and an element of public shaming.

How many sports heroes, businessmen, politicians and celebrities have been brought down by grossly inappropriate, violent and even illegal actions only to eventually find redemption in the public eye? Many, have found such redemption more than once.

But what if your only “sin” is to have become ill due to a mental health disorder, where does redemption come from? I don’t even know what I want anymore. I have tried to apologize for my behaviour which I know was highly agitated and unpleasant, but there is no way to explain how trapped I was within that state,how miserable and unable to even know what was happening to me until a lot of interpersonal damage was done. Because no one from work will communicate with me I cannot have that conversation, no one can appreciate the degree to which I am still struggling and I can’t stop beating myself up inside for not recognizing the warning signs months before mania was in full swing.

If this was as straight forward as having lost a job, as much as there is grief and loss, I could at least busy myself with looking for a new job. But I am still technically connected to my employer and the question of return is unspoken but not denied. Meanwhile I am not able to function well enough to look for another option or contemplate a return. I am also increasingly aware that everything I loved about the job I had is exactly what, over time, made me ill.

The fact is, I am in limbo. I still have a lot of healing ahead. So why is the desire for redemption so important? Or is this really more the need to be heard and understood?

Isn’t that what we all seek in the end?

Author: roughghosts

Literary blog of Joseph Schreiber. Writer. Reader. Editor. Photographer.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts about redemption”

  1. That’s my favourite Bob song.

    Those circumstances … you know more than I do about this, so it’s a genuine question; are bipolar episodes always caused/triggered by something one can pinpoint?

    Have you tried writing it all down? Privately, I mean.

    “We then discover to our dismay that our attempts to solve (our problems) by an effort of will avails us nothing, that our good intentions, as the saying goes, merely pave the way to hell…conscious effort are indispensable but do not get us far enough in our really critical areas…A resolution of this seemingly hopeless impasse eventually occurs by virtue of the awareness that the ego’s claim of a capacity to control rests on an illusion…Then we have come to a point of acceptance that initiates a fundamental transformation of which we are the object, not the subject. Transformation of our personality occurs in us, upon us, but not by us… The point of hopelessness, the point of no return, then is the turning point.” (Whitmont, pp. 307-308)

    What’s the next step as far as your job is concerned? Jeez, the no communication is harsh, no wonder you are struggling so hard.

    And then you said ” I am also increasingly aware that everything I loved about the job I had is exactly what, over time, made me ill.” – surely that’s your cause/trigger? Or did I miss something?

    And yeah I think you’re spot on about us all needing to be heard and understood.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Stress can be a huge factor and worrying about things can really throw out your sleep and your ability to do all those helpful self care things that shiny happy people are supposed to do to stay healthy (exercise, eat well, etc). Over the past year my work load increased dramatically, my boss was crazy, my son was having some rough times and a string of financial crises (car, dental, plumbing) all combined. So really a breakdown is not surprising but I could not get a break from the pressures at work and I had no one to go to and no one to clue into the signs that I was losing it. I understand that and I need to stop thinking about work.

      What I loved about my work at its best was the fact that it was very dynamic. We worked with all kinds of people and you never knew what crisis would come up next. The workload was heavy but there was never a dull moment. However structure and supervision were lacking. Moving forward I think I will need to look carefully at how structured and functional a potential work environment is. Unfortunately not-for-profit tends to be more of a fly by the seat of your pants environment, which is great for my hypomanic tendencies, but I always have that risk of manic to worry about.


      1. Hmm ok, so basically you actually do know the answers to your own questions. If I remember correctly, you said it happened in June? That’s not very long ago at all. It’s bloody hard to (I’m trying not to use the word forgive) ourselves for catastrophic meltdowns … particularly when they affect other people/life/stuff so clearly. You didn’t only cause damage though, you got damaged too. I think you’re brave for confronting it, I can’t face my own. I think, from what I know, that no matter how shitty it makes you feel, you are making progress. Lolling at shiny happy people … yeahhhh, bless ’em….

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Looking back, I started to lose sleep in November, I started to have mini manic breaks (mixed state) by early in the new year, by March and April it was a gong show but I wasn’t fully manic until June. I would have been still manic or mixed for another month or so after leaving work.

        I am wanting to have understanding for the manic aspects -which in this case was really this highly irritable state and an inflated sense of self esteem. But at the same time I am still angry at the Board and my former boss who never appreciated the amount of work I had been doing. I was the senior manager, I knew the program inside out, knew most of the clients, sat on hospital and police committees and was negotiating a funding transition. Suddenly everyone got a raise but me and I was supposed to co-direct with this young staff who knew nothing about our programs and services while I still had all this work on my plate and nine years experience. I was already so stressed that rather than handling it with grace, my mental illness stepped in. Maybe if I can get over my anger I can let go.

        All I want at the moment is the short-term disability income I am owed (I finally got the August installment today) but I have had to have an advocate negotiate that. I have paid into long term disability so unless I am well enough to work, I need to hang in for that and buy myself time to really get well and plan my next stage of life. I don’t honestly expect I would ever return to my old job, there would be too many triggers. But they can’t fire me without risking a human rights complaint and I can’t afford to quit and have no income. So that’s why there is this uneasy truce.

        Thanks for your feedback. Helpful therapy especially since I just found out my psychiatrist is in the hospital! You can send Alberta Health Services your bill! 🙂


  2. You’ve been through a rough year like me. Scary how similar our timelines and symptoms are. Personally, I am a spiritual person and I find redemption through my spirituality, my relationship with God. It’s still tough though, when there’s so much hurt. Awhile ago, I posted lyrics to (spiritual) song I wrote related to redemption. I don’t know what your own spirituality is like. But it helps me.


    1. My spirituality is complicated. I witnessed ugly discrimination against people who had mental health issues in the church I grew up in (Catholic). I have considered reaching out for more spiritual support but my sleep schedule has not been accommodating. It is something I have been exploring with my therapist tough. I have been drawing on more philosophical and spiritual resources of all sorts too.

      Liked by 1 person

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