Insanity Plea

Now that I’m on a roll (four good days in a row!!), I thought it might be interesting to talk about how people with mental illness learn to determine the difference between what is “us” and what is our disorder. It’s taking me what seems like forever to figure this out, and even though I’ve got a decent handle on it now, I’m still wrong some of the time.

Looking back over this recent mixed-mood episode, for example, I can see where I made mistakes. I thought that because it was situational—I broke my toe, I’ve been unhappy at work, it was the anniversary of a horrific loss—it didn’t qualify as a legitimate episode. That’s why I didn’t call Dr. Awesomesauce until I was deep into it; I couldn’t pinpoint the causes nor articulate the reasons for my distress, so I blundered through it as best I could…..and went without needed treatment for weeks.

I also judged myself pretty harshly for what I believed to be an overreaction to everyday stressors. I don’t want to be one of those people who blame their condition for everything that goes sideways in their lives, but there are times when I really CAN’T control what my body does or what comes out of my mouth. It’s like the illness takes possession of me and spends itself in frenetic foot- and finger-tapping, leg-bouncing, pacing, and noisemaking. Unfortunately, it also has an obnoxious habit of speaking through me….and usually not for anyone’s benefit.

Still, I can’t just plead insanity every time the son-of-a-bitch gets me into trouble, and to this end I have gone overboard in telling myself that if I would simply try harder, I could avoid all the unpleasantness. (Funny how that hasn’t worked out for me.) This is what comes of being raised by a hypercritical mother who succeeded in driving home the message that absolutely everything that went wrong in my life was my own fault. In fact, she did her job so well that I’ve been known to let serious mood episodes go until I’m practically on the bottom steps of the psych unit before I allow myself to ask for help. Just like when I was a child, I’m afraid

Of course, Dr. A knows I have this attitude, and it drives him up the wall. The dear man has done everything he can to make me trust him, and for the most part I do. But I have trust issues with EVERYONE, so when someone—and that includes family and friends—goes the extra mile for me, it’s always something of a shock. I mean, if you can’t trust the woman who gave birth to you, who can you trust?

But that’s a post for a whole ‘nother day, so to speak. For now, I’m content just to have made progress toward remission, and learned another lesson in discerning where bipolar ends and I begin.


Published by bpnurse

I'm a retired registered nurse and writer who also happens to be street-rat crazy, if the DSM-IV.....oops, 5---is to be believed. I was diagnosed with bipolar I disorder at the age of 55, and am still sorting through the ashes of the flaming garbage pile that my life had become. Here, I'll share the lumps and bumps of a late-life journey toward sanity.... along with some rants, gripes, sour grapes and good old-fashioned whining from time to time. It's not easy being bipolar in a unipolar world; let's figure it out together.

6 thoughts on “Insanity Plea

  1. I don’t think I know where Bipolar ends and I begin either. I’ve just sort of thought that we were one and the same. Which has the side effect of making me hyper vigilant for watching for the signs that I might be slipping one direction of the other. Which I’m sure has other unintended consequences.


  2. We’ll put! For me it gets complicated too because taking personal responsibility is such an important part of recovery and I find it hard to tell when backing off on something is appropriate due to mental health needs, as opposed to needing to use tough love on myself…I make the wrong call sometimes and end up with a worse dip as a result.


  3. You both speak great truths. I really appreciate the comments because it helps me to understand that this (bipolar) isn’t a singular experience, and that I’m not the only person on earth who goes through all this. Thank you!!


  4. I’m learning that sometimes it’s better to be cautious and assume that it’s the bipolar acting until otherwise proven differently. I don’t know where the bipolar ends and I begin because, well, the lines are blurred. I was talking about this in group last week, about how I used to use it as a crutch but now I just see it as another aspect of me. Some people don’t have such blurry lines with their illness, such as if someone has anxiety but bipolar symptoms can be so sweeping, right? I know this doesn’t make much sense and it’s because I’m physically ill. I’ve missed a couple doses of my meds and it shows but I’m rolling with it, because what else am I supposed to do?


    1. You make a good point. I tend to do the opposite—I’ll assume it’s NOT the BP acting up but just something “situational”. I use that term a lot, and what I do is try to ignore my symptoms because I don’t want to believe I’m having another episode. 😦


  5. OMG, a thousand times yes about feeling like everything is your fault (I also had a hypercritical mother. Father, too.) I keep a “Bipolar Quotes” collection and that paragraph you wrote just got pasted in it to remind me that everything is NOT my fault and that others have gone through/are battling the same thing. Recently I’ve been going through my old journals and have finally been able to objectively say–hey, that really wasn’t my fault. My mother told me when I was 16, “You’ve ruined every day of my life!” It sounds so ridiculous now (really? Every day, even before I was born?) but I’m sure it was another drop in the guilt bucket at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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