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I Have Bipolar Disorder. Am I A Good Person?

Am I a good person? Are you a good person? I find these questions are often asked because bipolar disorder can cause you to do some awful things that are entirely out of character.

This is one of the first questions I struggled with after being diagnosed because I did some pretty ugly things, partially due to bipolar disorder.

What makes a good person?

What criteria are you judging "goodness" by? What makes a "good person"? Theologians, philosophers, and stoned people up at 2 in the morning have been trying to answer that question for thousands of years.

Many interpret the world in black and white, good and bad, because it's easier to understand. Unfortunately, that's not how most people work. All of us fall somewhere in-between, some better or worse than others.

This or That

Do you struggle with poor self-esteem?

It's not black and white

The people that I've met in my life that I would consider bad didn't care or consider if their actions were harmful. They didn't think about it at all. If they did, they either deflected or interpreted their negative action as a positive quality.

"I stepped on people to get where I am today. It's because I compete hardest.". . ."They deserve to lose their money if they're dumb enough to fall for that."

Do you care whether or not your actions hurt someone else? You do? Congratulations! You're not a bad person.

Yes, bipolar disorder can impact our state of mind

It's time for an important moment of honesty. The following question will guide you to success or failure - why are you doing wrong things? Did you make a considered choice to do something wrong in a clear state of mind, or was it something else?

You must be 100 percent honest with yourself about the answer. You must accept that you are human. There will be times you are selfish, self-centered, or a jerk. I wanted to blame it all on mental illness because I didn't want to accept my humanness.

But we have to admit flaws

Unfortunately, my refusal to accept my flaws prevented my progress for about a year. My therapist was a saint.

On the other hand, sometimes I look back on an action and find myself asking, "Why did I do that!?" Generally, that's a good indicator of an action driven by my mental illness.

From zero to rage...

A good example is jealousy. I have never in my life been a jealous partner – except for one time. And that one time I watched her smile broadly and hug another guy excitedly. My brain went from zero to rage, I promptly stood up, and started walking over to start a fight.

Thankfully, I was about 50 yards away. It gave the sane part of my brain time to say, "Hey, stupid! You're at her family reunion! Perhaps he's a relative?!"

After the fact? I had absolutely no idea where those feelings or actions came from. Then I learned that hypomania sometimes causes "agitation," and the clinical interpretation of agitation can include rage and impulsiveness.

We're capable of good

You're not condemned to stay as you are. You're capable of change. If you're making bad choices, you can learn to make better choices. If your mental illness is causing you to do things that are harmful or shameful, then treatment and therapy can help.

Don't let yourself fall into all or nothing thinking about progress. Even if you can do things 5 percent better this week than last, that's still some major progress! Big changes are built on small gains.

Bipolar disorder doesn't define us

You may be making wrong choices, or your mental illness may cause you to do bad things, but that doesn't make you a bad person. You don't have to be perfect. Just try. Make the effort. You'll be surprised at what you're capable of.

As for me? Well, I'm off to do some questionable things with some questionable people. I'll have to get back to you on that...

Be well. And remember – take your meds as directed. If you're having a hard time on them, want to quit or change them, talk to your doctor before you do anything.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.