We recently became aware of an insightful and inspiring blog which offers real and actionable advice for those with bipolar disorder. “3 Ways You Can Stop Blaming Yourself for Having Bipolar Disorder” was written by Gabe Howard, an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar and anxiety disorders. With Mr. Howard’s permission, we are pleased to feature him as a guest contributor this month and to share this blog with you. If you or someone you care about is dealing with a bipolar disorder, his advice may offer help and hope.
Learning to put an end to blaming yourself for bipolar disorder symptoms is not easy, but the benefits can last a lifetime.
There are, of course, more than three ways to stop blaming yourself for bipolar disorder. This list is in no way exhaustive, and I am in no position to say that any of these methods will work for you. That said, they are really good ideas, and these ideas have helped many people, myself included. If you are looking for the easy way out, I’d suggest clicking the back button now. I’ve read many lists on the internet and I work very hard to make my readers think. While eating ice cream on the couch might make you stop blaming yourself for a moment, these methods have a significantly greater potential to work for a lifetime.
There is a common theme that I hear a lot from people with bipolar disorder. It is obvious that, on some level, we feel the need to be “forgiven” for having bipolar disorder.
I reject this entire premise outright. Forgiveness implies guilt. If you’re not guilty of something, there’s nothing to forgive. We no more need forgiveness for an illness than we do for our hair color. Don’t buy into the lie that bipolar disorder is a character or personality flaw. It isn’t. It’s an illness that some people have, and it has no further moral or ethical implications.
Now, if you made a mistake, hurt someone, or caused a problem, and bipolar was the primary cause of that issue, that is different. Which leads us to….
For years, I felt a great deal of guilt about the people I hurt when I was at my sickest points. I didn’t think there was anything I could do about it, because, after all, it wasn’t my fault they were hurt.
I was correct. What happened wasn’t my fault, but it wasn’t their fault either. Since it wasn’t their fault, and my illness caused the issue, this made it my responsibility. This is unfair, yes, but that is just the way it is, and accepting it made a world of difference. There is a lot of power in owning up to our actions, especially the ones we aren’t entirely responsible for. Reaching out to people and explaining why I did what I did, apologizing, and making amends, all felt very good. Remember, bipolar disorder is an explanation for what happened, not an excuse. Taking responsibility helps shift the balance of power away from the disease and back to you. But what about the things we can’t make amends for, or the people we’ve hurt who won’t forgive us? This is where it is important to….
Above all else, you need to focus on living with bipolar disorder in the present. The truth is that the past is over, and we have the most control right now. Focusing on today will help us shape the future we want. Time spent dwelling on what you did wrong years ago won’t change anything except putting today’s outlook in a negative light.
Blaming yourself for past mistakes is not productive, doesn’t make amends for anything, and doesn’t make you feel better. If, instead, you used that same amount of time to focus on the present — things you are doing well, accomplishments, and working toward a better future — it makes it much easier to let go of the regrets of yesterday.
The best you can do is to acknowledge what happened, apologize and make things right, and do everything in your power to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Blaming yourself is foolish. Treat yourself with the same respect you would expect from others. After all, if you are blaming yourself for having bipolar disorder, why shouldn’t others do the same?
Gabe Howard is also the author of a highly-regarded, straight-talking book on mental illness, and he hosts two weekly podcasts: “Psych Central Show,” which examines mental health in a casual and accessible fashion, and “A Bipolar, a Schizophrenic, and a Podcast,” which looks at life through the unique lens of people living with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. You can learn more about the book, the podcasts, and Gabe Howard at his website: GabeHoward.com.
For more information about how Bipolar Disorder may qualify for SSDI/SSI, read our blog post. If you, a family member, or a friend can’t to work due to a bipolar disorder, you may qualify for Social Security disability benefits. To schedule a free consultation with Nash Disability Law complete our simple online form, or better yet, call our office today at 312.219.9414.