Bipolar is not a character Defect

Let’s get one thing straight….

This is hard to remember. Sometimes hard for us to be believe.  When we are depressed we think the worst about everything, especially ourselves.

Bipolar is not, has never been, and never will be a character defect.

It is not a flaw.

It is not a psychological issue.

All people have flaws.  It is ordinary to be flawed.  It is not ordinary to experience mania and depression.

All of those things we do and think and say that we cringe over and rail against and beat ourselves up about are…


of a brain disorder.

Wanting to harm yourself is a

SYMPTOM…not an issue with your personality or character.

Not being able to stop yourself from spending money


Crying all day at every little thing


Only thinking negative thoughts and being unable to change it


Hating your life


Being unable to sit still through anything


Feeling like you are going crazy


We think there is something SO wrong with us when we feel all this stuff.  And there is.  It is a brain disorder called Bipolar.

But we sort of have to remind ourselves of that over and over.  Because our reflex is to think that there is something wrong with US

our very own self

When we go to the specialist docs for our disorder we don’t usually talk about aches and pains of a physical nature.  We are not asked a slew of questions about our bodies and their physical functions.  Nope.  Instead, because this disorder effects the brain, we have to trot out all of the crazy shit we THINK and FEEL and DO.  Most people don’t ever have to do that.

It feels like that kind of thing should be private, shameful, embarrassing.  But if everything was easy, it should be no more shaming than telling the endocrinolologist that you are constipated if you have a thyroid issue.  It just happens.  It is the way of the illness.

Some of us don’t like sharing it all and others of us are like “who cares! its just this stupid illness.”  And then there is the in between of course.

Some nonBipolars may feel like we are a bunch of TMI over sharers.  But what they don’t get is that usually we are just going on and on about our symptoms.  We all have our own personal and psychological issues that are not Bipolar. We also have an overwhelming amount of emotion going on inside us because of Bipolar.  So we might share a lot of that to get it out of our emotional space.  It might all sound exceedingly personal but to us it is just the outer edge.

Not that it is easy for everyone to share their Bipolar feelings and escapades.  And there are many reasons for that. One is being afraid of stigma, of it hurting us somehow in the end.  Another is because we are connecting to it personally.

Unfortunately,  if a non bipolar exhibits the kinds of symptoms involved in our illness one may conclude that they do have some sort of real flaw.  Because the symptoms don’t look like medical symptoms.  They can look like poor behavior, laziness, over sensitivity, and a negative attitude.  And that is super annoying for us because it swings the door wide open for people to judge the heck out of us.


I get that it isn’t as simply cut as this.  Like everything with Bipolar, it is more complicated than words can do justice.  I don’t judge nonBipolars for their actions.  Everybody has their own complex baggage behind the scenes. Us too.  But I am just trying to make a point.

Did you ever see the t-shirt thats says…

“I’m Bipolar. What’s Your Excuse?”

I am not saying that this is an entirely appropriate attitude.  Bipolar is not an excuse for behavior that hurts others. It is an explanation.

I do think, however, that many of us would be well off to remember the shirt.  Most of us do not ever use Bipolar as an excuse.  Quite the opposite.  We tend to beat ourselves down and blame the hell out of ourselves for all of our Bipolar shit.

So just try the shirt on for a minute and see how it feels.


Add Yours
  1. Bidad

    Thank you for this post. You make many important points that both those with bipolar and us muggles should keep in mind. The point that the same behavior may be a symptom of bipolar or a character question is particularly crucial. Most people jump to the character issue assumption or have immediate reactions based on the implicit assumption that character is the issue. I have done so.

    Thank you also for the graphic above your title.


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