Wednesday, April 21, 2010


Manic-depressive individuals experience acute shame and humiliation for many reasons: because of psychosis [particularly manic] and shame for bizarre and inappropriate behavior, violence, financial irregularities, and sexual indiscretions, to name a few of the common problems. One patient stated, "No one who has not had the experience can realize the mortification of having been insane" [Reiss, 1910]. Robert Lowell, in "Home," describes the indignities of psychiatric hospitalization: "we might envy museum pieces/that can be pasted together or disfigured/and feel no indignity" [1977]. And Graves [1942] wrote:
While the intoxication of mania lasts, I for one have no disposition to embrace death. After the intoxication is over, my chief emotional reaction is shame and disgust with myself, and a wonder that my fear of death could be so wonderfully and idiotically twisted. That the facing humiliation, of despair, or deprivation should produce a desire for death is quite natural.
Joshua Logan, in turn, described his chagrin in the wake of a manic episode:
How can I go back to the theatre after all I've put my friends through, after all the galloping whispers and all the people who've seen me in this strange state. How will anybody, as long as I live, believe that I'm well again? [Logan, 1976, p. 180] 
In portions of two letters to T.S. Eliot, Robert Lowell wrote of his embarrassment following two different manic episodes:
[June 1961] The whole business has been very bruising, and it is fierce facing the pain I have caused, and humiliating [to] think that it has all happened before and that control and self-knowledge come so slowly, if at all.
[March 1964] I want to apologize for plaguing you with so many telephone calls last November and December. When the "enthusiasm" is coming on me it is accompanied by a feverish reaching to my friends. After it's over I wince and whither. [Robert Lowell, cited in I. Hamilton, 1982, pp. 286, 307]
* Manic-Depressive Illness, F.K. Goodwin & K.R. Jamison, Oxford University Press, 1990, p.19