Recently I was talking to a friend (also with bipolar) about personal responsibility. She is a very successful, high-functioning person and one thing we agreed on was the importance of taking personal responsibility for your bipolar disorder.
Personal responsibility means a lot of things to a lot of people but I’m specifically talking about taking responsibility for your actions – even when they are mostly as a result of bipolar disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Actions
Bipolar disorder can massively contribute to many negative actions. A person with bipolar might be excessively angry, sexually promiscuous, paranoid, withdrawn, forgetful or a myriad of other things distinctly caused by their bipolar disorder. And any one of these things can become a problem with others or with life in general.
Controlling Bipolar Actions
I’m a big proponent of using tools to control bipolar-related actions. For example, seeing a therapist, or learning mindfulness or cognitive behavioral therapy skills, or seeing a doctor when things get out of control. In the vast majority of cases, there is no reason why people can’t mostly moderate their own behavior.
In saying that though, there are times when bipolar behavior can’t be easily controlled. For example, if you’re psychotic you may not be capable of applying skills to moderate your own behavior.
But the truth is, whether your actions were bipolar motivated or not, it’s important that you take responsibility for them and not just say, “Oh, it’s not my fault. I have bipolar.”
For example, if I’m feeling hypomanic and severely irritated and I allow that irritation to seep out such that I spew anger at others, it’s important that I later take responsibility for that act, apologize and act to make it right. Because it’s not the other person’s fault and you should feel sorry for hurting him or her, even if you weren’t in total control at the time.
Now I know some people reject this notion and use their bipolar disorder as an excuse – but honestly, by doing that you’re only hurting yourself. By using bipolar disorder as an excuse for your actions you will push people away and make recovery harder. You allow the bipolar to take more control than it deserves. You relinquish your own personal power and become weaker. Using bipolar as an excuse is the easy way out but not one that will benefit you or anyone else.
And if you think beating yourself up about it is the answer, you’re wrong. Making amends to someone means interacting with that person and not sitting in a room self-flagellating.
So deal with your mistakes head-on. Don’t deny that you were acting bitchy. Don’t deny that you keep forgetting your spouse’s birthday and he is hurt by it. Don’t deny that spending $10,000 on a handbag isn’t a reasonable thing. Step up. Apologize. And take back control over your own life. It’s only then that you and others can heal and begin to move forward.