Taking Responsibility for My Actions Despite Mental Illness

So I’m going to put out an unpopular opinion here.  One of the biggest parts of maintaining relationships throughout my mood swings is taking responsibility for all the stupid things I do and say when manic and occasionally when depressed.

Because, let’s face it.  I may not have been thinking clearly, and I may have been uncontrollably impulsive, but having a mood disorder doesn’t negate the harm I do or the hurt I cause.  And why would anyone want to stay friends with someone who makes them feel bad?

90% of the time I’m easy to get along with and mellow, temperament-wise, but that other 10% of the time, when I’m saying the first thing that bubbles into my mind (mania) or trying to drive people away from me (depression), I can be a jerk, and this catches people by surprise.  It’s entirely unexpected based on prior behavior, especially if they don’t know that I’m bipolar!

And it hurts them.

They may not forever remember my words, but they will always remember how I made them feel.

It’s my job, when i return to normal, to owe up to the way I’ve acted, admit my error, and apologize.  Mental illness is not a write off for being a jerk.  I may not feel that I’m entirely responsible, or I may not clearly remember the incident, but that doesn’t matter.  If I want to keep my friends, I’m going to address the situation.  It doesn’t matter that I was sick; it matters that I hurt them.

Fortunately this isn’t something that comes up all that often as I rarely lash out at people, and I am rarely entirely thoughtless when I speak.  It is, however, humiliating when it does happen, and I’ll be frank: sincerely apologizing for something I don’t feel is my fault or is just plain embarrassing is hard.

And I can’t do a half-baked apology and call it good.  i have to mean it, because they know me and they can tell if I don’t.  I’m not saying it’s easy for me.  I’m just saying it has to happen if I want to be a good friend.

Have you had situations like this?  How do you deal with the fall out?  Because sometimes changing my name and fleeing the country seems like a fine idea!

2 thoughts on “Taking Responsibility for My Actions Despite Mental Illness

  1. Loved reading this!!!! Sounds like we have a similar attitude. I have seriously fucked up time and time again, but never ONCE in my life have I ever said the phrase “but I’ve got bipolar I couldn’t help it” that sentence pisses me off to be honest. In my mind bipolar explains why I think and act the way I do sometimes but it does not excuse my bad behaviour. Bipolar is a big part of me but it’s not all of me. I always apologise, people do understand and sometimes people do take it easy on me as they know I can go a bit weird and I don’t mean it lol but anyone who acts like the world owes them because they have issues gives bipolar a bad name xxx

  2. Yes! Bipolar explains but doesn’t excuse. You put that well. I’m rapid cycling (~2 weeks per swing) so it can be very sudden and obvious that I’m sick, and my friends will often give me some leeway, but I want to be a good friend and have stable relationships.

    People who use bipolar as an excuse give people a bad impression of the disorder and increase social stigma. 🙁

    Nice to meet you! I’ve been peeking at your blog, and we do seem to think alike. 🙂

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