Bipolar: It’s Your Choice


You know, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about choices. It’s because I’ve been helping a friend of mine. She’s a single mom. And she had her daughter when she was a teenager. She doesn’t regret having her daughter, because she loves her very much. But she does regret having had sex at such a young age. She does feel that was a bad choice that she made, and that she should have made a better one. See…You could kind of look at it like that we’re made up of the choices that we make. Because every choice we make affects our future. And even as we can enjoy the results of good choices that we make, we have to pay consequences for bad choices that we make as well. What about you? Do you have any regrets? Have you made any bad choices in your past? I think we all have. Like when we’re young and impulsive. That’s when we make a lot of our bad choices. Like my friend who became a single mom as a teenager. Or like many young people who drive recklessly and get into car accidents. Or who abuse drugs and alcohol.

That’s like the impulsiveness of a person with bipolar disorder who is in a manic episode. So if you were ever impulsive when you were young and made bad decisions, you might be able to better understand how your loved one gets impulsive during a manic episode and makes bad decisions, too. It’s not because they mean to do it. It’s because when they’re in a manic episode…The bipolar kind of “takes over” and impulsivity is one of the results. Then they lose control. And they make bad choices because of it. Like: excessive spending, reckless driving, compulsive gambling, impulsive behavior, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual impropriety, financial mismanagement, foolish business ventures, etc. These are all bad choices, but they make them because they’re in a manic episode.

But just because you understand WHY they make the choices that they make, doesn’t mean that you should just excuse what they do during that episode. As I said earlier, there are still consequences that we have to pay for bad choices that we make. Everyone has to, and just because your loved one was in a manic episode when they made their bad choice is no excuse to get out of the consequences. For example, if they become impulsive and drive recklessly and get in trouble with the law, the police aren’t going to let them get out of that ticket just because they’re in a manic episode. So you should make them pay consequences for their other bad choices that affect you as well.

Well, I have to go!

Your Friend,



  1. Sure, not only do we have to live with this illness, and the things we may do during a manic episode, but Sure punish us as well because we don’t suffer enough, maybe police would be understanding of mania if told or maybe concerned persons could drive got us instead but to punish us for things we can’t control is mean give us a chance give us help and understanding

  2. I don’t really agree that a bipolar sufferer would be asked to pay for certain things he/she does when he /she is manic but then there are other things that cannot be compensated for though, and the bottom line of it all is that all diagnosed with the illness have to be on guard always and comply with medication and reasonable support.

  3. Making the same “mistakes” over and over for a lifetime and expecting to get a “get out of jail free” card because I have an illness is crazy! ( no pun intended)
    People must be held accountable for their actions regardless of what “illness” we have. To think otherwise is ludicrous. Where would the line be drawn? Officer, I am an alcoholic which is in the DSM, you can’t give me a DWI? I like some of your material Mr Oliver,very informative, but I respectfully disagree with a lot of your beliefs.

  4. Completely agree. My husband has bipolar disorder. He was diagnosed in 2008, but he has had “symptoms” for the entire 16 yrs I have known him. When he was younger, he just seemed hot-tempered and impulsive, and (physically) protective of others. And he would always jump to the defense of a woman in an abusive relationship…. until he became my abuser. Then, all of the sudden, everything was my fault, I couldn’t do anything well enough/fast enough/etc. As for other women in abusive relationships, he was no longer defensive (not often anyway, although some cases were exceptions, but I still don’t know why they were different); he would say “well I wonder what she did to deserve it”. The physical abuse (by him toward me) was minimal at first, with more verbal abuse than anything. And i will forever remember the first time he slapped my face….. This went on for years, and I tolerated it because I loved him and I didn’t want to divorce like everyone else I know. After 3 yrs of the abuse, I filed for divorce. We remained “friends” and eventually got back together. He had affairs with other women and “discovered” that I was who he wanted to be with. He swore things would be different.
    Round 2. It got worse. I don’t know why I stayed, aside from the fact that the man I adored had shot my self esteem to hell, and I felt numb. He scared the hell out of me. In 2008, I fled to another state. I didn’t answer my phone for a month, even though he called endlessly for the first two weeks. After the first month had passed, I answered the phone. I gave him a chance to talk. And he gave me a chance to do the same. He had sought out a psychiatrist and had started taking medications…. for Bipolar Disorder. I had wondered for years if this was his issue, and, according to the psychiatrists he has seen, I was correct. After many discussions, with him, our friends, and his family, I went home. You’ve got to understand. I’ve loved him since I was 19…. Things were great for a while. Then he had an allergic reaction to Lamictal, and they changed his meds.
    Here we go again, round 3. The psychiatrist he was seeing refused to change the meds this time. I took the bull by the horns and found him a new psychiatrist, whom he has been with ever since. We have had our struggles with the medications, and with the violent temper outbreaks, but I kept in touch with his psychiatrist and I confronted my husband when he became irrational. He agreed to let me be his guide, along with his psychiatrist. Finally we were getting somewhere. Couples and individual counseling (for both of us), and our new-found faith, along with what has finally been the right combination of medications, and he has been a calm, wonderful man for 3 years, and counting. And yes, we have remarried.
    We openly discuss the past, frequently. His affairs, his temper, the fear he created in me (which is not gone, by the way; just improving gradually). I am helping him heal and he is helping me heal. But he knows that there is NO EXCUSE for his behavior, and he occasionally tries to defend it but then retracts. Not only has our situation created legal/criminal issues for his permanent record, but he has lost friends and family over it. But he is accepting that and dealing with it, finally. I love him and I sincerely believe that he loves me. He has a chemical imbalance which will forever require treatment. He says he feels controlled and “normal” on his meds, and he never wants to go back to the way he was without them. Ours is a team effort; I love him enough to stand by him and support him, as I know that sometimes it has been beyond his control. That does not mean it is acceptable.

  5. I need help. I live with my 42 year old daughter with bipolar symptoms. She refuses to go to a doctor. She other children that don’t live with us. Her youngest (3 year old son) lives with us. She is manic a great amount of time and very abusive verbally to me, calling me all sorts of names, blames me for everything and says I need help not her. She has been physically abusive in the past until I called the police on her and now she just threatens. She has been this way most of her life and when she lives alone she really gets into trouble. I stay with her because of her little boy. I don’t know where she would go or what she would do if I left and yet I am tired and tired of the abuse. Please help. How can I get her to a doctor???

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