Bipolar Disorder: A Question of Moral Character?

The following post was written as a response to another half-informed comment thread in my post “Bipolar Disorder: A Reason Or An Excuse?”. The comment about Downs stems from another comment where the original author weakly related the two. 

At any rate, I decided to turn this into a post, primarily so I would have some place to point people instead of needing to repeat my response on a continued and regular basis. Enjoy!

As posted by Sandi: 


People with Down Syndrome, on average, aren’t as likely as bipolar people to gaslight, cheat on, manipulate, squeal at, violently attack, or play mindgames with people they claim to love as Bipolar people are.

Yes, they ARE different.

I know an individual who has bipolar and his behaviour is ABHORRENT, and I’ve mostly only talked to him on the phone so far. Lying to me (mixing up details, having a “poor memory”, denying having said things, usually negative ones, gaslighting me and shitting on my self esteem, telling me I overanalyze him when I’m just asking a simple question or mistaking what he says for something else (not necessarily anything “deeper” or more psychological like he says I’m doing), using his mother’s sickness as an excuse for not answering valid and gently phrased questions while MY mother was DYING)

Oh, you know, little things like that.

Bipolar people absolutely do know the way their behavior effects others because even though a good percentage of them are little glops of horse jizz who have no empathy, empathy is not necessary to be aware of the fact that others are hurt, just to CARE that they are hurting them. And sadly many of them don’t care. But they know.

And don’t listen to dopes like Natasha Tracy who write Bipolar apology articles, which trick normal humans into dating these (likely to be- not all, but likely to be) uncompassoinate freaks of nature instead of being responsible and warning others that they have higher rates of narcissism and destructive behaviour. Apparently, their “rights” to not be “stereotyped” are more important than keeping the rest of us normies safe.

I am so sick of apolgizing for mentally ill behavior (some of it is stuff like losing temper and control of one’s body, but other stuff, especially the verbal stuff like the pathological lying and the purposeful confusing of the other person for NO reason even of self defense, is on purpose by default).

We have become a society that talks too much about psychology and too little of morals, and sometimes there is such thing as a moral illness.”



At first, I was tempted to sluice this post into the spam heap; but I decided against it.

The similarity that Bipolar Disorder shares with Downs (and many other mental illnesses) is the physical difference of the brain. Some people are born with defective livers, kidneys, lungs; some people are born with defective brains. Many mental illnesses (such as Bipolar Disorder) are genetic. My family has a history of Bipolar Disorder, as do many others. So behavior-wise, no, they are not the same. They are the same in that they are the result of physical problems with the brain that impact functionality in a negative way.

In regards to the individual you know – why are you still talking to them if they are so awful to you? How about not letting them do it? How about distancing yourself from the person? How about minimizing the damage the person can do to you?

Time and time again, people lament on how awful they are treated by a Bipolar person, never once considering that they simply don’t have to be involved.

I regularly see people complain that Bipolar Disorder is used an excuse. My question is – what difference does it make? The only thing stopping you from standing up for yourself is you. Would it make you feel better if the person would just say “hey, I’m an asshole!” How many terrible people have you known to do that, who were not just seeking attention? How many dozens of times have you heard “he seemed so nice” or “I’ve known him all my life” right after some horror came to light?

“Blah blah blah. They use it an excuse.” No. People that whine about it being used as an excuse are the ones using it as an excuse. NOTHING is stopping you from standing up for yourself and saying “You can’t do this, this is wrong.” and taking steps to remove yourself from that situation.

So let’s talk about a problem of society; a society that values opinions and feelings more than facts. I’m sick of people acting like they’re entirely helpless and putting the responsibility on someone who is KNOWN TO BE MENTALLY ILL to make good, rational decisions. That seems like a fantastic idea! Let’s also walk out into the middle of a highway blindfolded. I’m sure that will work out great too.

I’m sick of people thinking their feelings and opinions are a replacement for fact. It’s clear that you’re angry and upset about being treated badly; as you should be. That is fair and valid. Making sweeping statements about the Disorder and the people suffering from it based on those feelings? Not so much.

I’m sick of ignorant people thinking that Bipolar Disorder is some new or made up mental illness. The oldest surviving mention of the Disorder is from one thousand years ago in The Canon of Medicine, written by the Persian doctor Avicenna. Early on it was known as the Circular Illness, then it became Manic-Depression, now it’s Bipolar Disorder. Bipolar Disorder has a long and storied history; ranging from the pens of the Persian physician to Chinese doctors of the 1500s to the European developments of the 1800’s and 1900’s that paved the understanding we have today.

We have become a society that talks too much about psychology and too little of morals, huh? There’s another argument I’m sick of hearing. Humanity is no different today than it has ever been. People pine for the alleged golden age; a time when racism and sexism were fine. A time when mentally ill people were locked away in asylums in conditions worse than prisons with even less rights. Humanity has always been awful and always will be.

And some people are just toxic people who also happen to be mentally ill. Some people are mentally ill and able to maintain some sense of normalcy with the assistance of meds, self-management, and support from friends and family. Some people cannot be helped. Some people can.

You always have a choice. You can choose who you let into your life and how you let them affect you. It may not always be a good choice, but at least you have one.

We, on the other hand, have to spend the rest of our lives dealing and managing this mental illness – 24/7/365 – while being bombarded by the unfounded, asinine opinions of people who seem to think that “oh, it’s just a matter of making better decisions” or “be a better person”.

And no matter how awful you think you’ve been treated – I can guarantee you that person has done just as bad to themselves; oftentimes without even realizing the destruction and chaos they create. People like you act like being mentally ill is a get out of jail free card, like the crap we do in our lives doesn’t have repercussions. It ALL does. It’s miserable, horrible, and painful; and that’s part of the reason why untreated Bipolars have a 20%+ suicide rate.

But hey! I guess I could have easily avoided those 7 suicide attempts, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, dozens of lost jobs, two broken engagements, ruined relationships, homelessness, and screwing up college if I was just a more moral, better person!

I’m kind of confused though. I mean, I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into helping inform people, helping them find local services, being a shoulder, pulling them out of depression, tempering their escalations, and calming their fears. I’ve helped a few people leave abusive relationships. I’ve helped a vet past his hurdles to seek care for his PTSD. I’ve been a friend to people who felt like they had no one in this world; listening to their darkest pains and thoughts. I’ve encouraged at least a couple dozen people back into therapist and doctor’s offices, helped them communicate with their professionals better, and push towards wellness.

Yet here I am, still Bipolar! I must not be moral enough? I must not care enough? Is that right?

I have ALWAYS been capable of empathy and care. However, this little glop of horse jizz spent years full of hate, anger, and self-loathing; unable to keep anything together because of the physically rooted mental illness I inherited. I was able to attain a large degree of perspective and understanding by educating myself on the Disorder, how it’s treated, how it affects me, and medication.

I do agree with you on one point though; caring and empathy are woefully rare in this world. Particularly from people who stand behind their “morals” to pass judgment on people and things they know nothing about.

And despite our “disagreement” on the basic facts of mental illness, I am very sorry to hear about what you went through with your mother. That must have been extremely painful and difficult for you. My condolences to you and your family.


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16 Responses to Bipolar Disorder: A Question of Moral Character?

  1. Lissa says:

    Wow…Your response was dead on..All the years I have known you..You were never a bad person,Just confused sometimes

  2. Karen says:

    Bipolar is an ‘affective’ disorder that affects cognitive functions, but what Sandi is referring to is related to personality (probably a personality disorder by the sound of it). I agree with Dennis that just because Sandi’s individual has the tag of bipolar (and uses it as an excuse), does not mean that bipolar explains his behaviour.

    • Dennis says:

      It’s hard telling. I have met more than a couple of Bipolar people who had strong functionality on the escalated side of things. And they always came off as awful and delusional because they were almost always on the escalated side of the spectrum.

      Regardless; it’s not for us to guess at really. Dude’s got problems that need professionally sorted out. That’s the bottom line.

  3. Bekr says:

    Wow! I always find it ‘funny’ how quick people are to judge an entire ‘population’ of people based on 1 person. Seems she does not even know this person either, as she stated she had only talked with him on the phone. And where is her empathy? What is her excuse for all of the rudeness and name calling? “uncompassoinate freaks of nature” Perhaps she is the one with this so called moral illness.
    Well said Dennis! Love your writing.

    • Dennis says:

      Thank you, Bekr. I kind of wondered if this person was just a troll or mentally ill themselves. They cite familiarity with Natasha Tracy, a well-known Bipolar blogger, which means they would need to be at least moderately familiar with the “scene” and follow it to some extent. So I’m thinking the person is probably a shit-disturber.

  4. Siberia says:

    Hi Dennis,
    I am sorry, I am angry.
    A dearest friend of mine suffers from bipolar disorder (with psychotic features). He is still unmedicated (left meds 3 1/2 years ago), as far as I know. And yes, he should be on meds for his own safety.
    His disorder leads him to perceive things and to behave in an irrational way. When manic he thought I was willing to end his life (whatever the meaning of “ending his life” was). I personally don’t know what that meant for him, but he defended himself and attacked me. I received all kind of violent messages (by phone, internet, facebook…).
    How can anybody judge this from a moral point of view? Does anybody think of the pain that this disease generates? Yes, for the sufferer and for others around him. Is the way it works.
    He is one of the most intelligent, caring and valuable person I have ever known. And he is my friend.

    Regards from sunny Spain,


    • Dennis says:

      It’s a very hard, complicated question for everyone, unfortunately. Not a battle that everyone is well-equipped to deal with and fight. Excuses are an easy out for a lot of people on both sides of the coin. It’s just a shit-fest no matter how you slice it, unfortunately.

  5. Debbie H says:

    Wow. You hit this spot on. I came across this site while searching for real experience with bipolar. I’m new to this illness, as my husband of almost 2 years has been newly diagnosed. Finally so much makes sense, but I’m still struggling with how to better understand and support him. We have a 9 month old daughter together, and I have 2 older children from a previous marriage. Thank you for giving me hope and insight.

    • Dennis says:

      The best support you can give your husband is to encourage him to learn as much as he possibly can about his diagnosis and how it’s treated. He is the one that has to want to be well if he is going to get well. Because it’s often a long, slow, shitty, tedious process. It’s not something you can force someone to stick with long-term.

      If he understands he has problems and is willing to work on them, then that is a very good sign. If he is rejecting it and having a hard time with it, encourage him to speak to a therapist regarding his misgivings about the situation. Understanding and acceptance are typically the major hurdles in getting someone to pursue wellness passionately.

      If you guys have any “major” plans on deck, such as buying a house or moving or something like that; gently broach the subject of delaying them until he has a better handle on his mind. Avoid co-signing for anything. Separate bank accounts are a good idea as well, so if he has a bad reaction to treatment and swings unwell, he can’t just clean out the bank account if he has a “great idea”.

      • Debbie H says:

        That helps more than you know…thank you! He’s been going to a therapist for about 7 months now and they’re still trying to find the right med mix. His rage, anger, etc. is now in check but the mood swings still keep us walking on eggshells most of the time since we don’t know from one moment to the next which mood he will be in. When those subside, the 12-17 hour/day of sleep starts in along with depression. Reading your experiences have really helped me understand a lot, especially since my husband does not communicate with me unless we’re at his therapist. I would like to thank you for sharing with the world your experiences. I am truly grateful.

  6. Lisa says:

    I ageee. I spent two days with a person with bipolar disorder who uses it as an excuse to be selfish and wreckless. Never once apologized and victimized herself. However, i spent three years as a house mate with another person with the same mental illness amd she was mindful bc her parents reared her to take responsibility for her own actions. I do think people with bipolar disprder know right from wrong. I was quite upset at the person who used it as an excuse to be right all the time….and accuse others of personally attacking her. I totally relate to the experiences of this article.

    • Dennis says:

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Lisa.

      For the most part, I would agree with you. However, there are some people that are so mentally ill and so used to being damaged that they do not understand that what they experience or do is abnormal. Intellectually, a person may know. But until something breaks through and you really FEEL it, it can be very difficult to make the separation.

      This is why I constantly repeat the phrase, “Everyone deserves to be treated humanely, not necessarily kindly.” Because traditional kindness will just get twisted around and used as a weapon against you when you’re dealing with a damaged person who doesn’t grasp, understand, or care about the depth of her situation.

  7. Nicoll says:

    Dennis, once again your insight has helped me in a profound way. Many, many thanks.

  8. L says:

    Wow. I liked your response to the original writer. I think the person sounds very ignorant about Bipolar disorder.

    I am a 41 year old woman that was recently diagnosed. I am not and have never been the way that Bipolar was described in the original post. I am not immoral, violent, manipulating, or a cheater. I have been married to one man for 12 years and have never even thought of cheating on him.

    I, also, have been promoted 5 times in the last six years. I am dependable, loyal, and trustworthy. I would have never known I was BPII other than I went through a bout of depression and took an antidepressant that made me manic for the first time in my life.

    It was after that point that my mood would go up and down. I was admitted as an outpatient and treated with a mood stabilizer. It took a while but my mood is stable again (i.e. not depressed). I am typically in a good mood most of the time, but after my mom died ten years ago I go through a depressed mood about a week a month.

    This time it was different due to feeling isolated in my department and I took it really hard. But, when I was admitted as an Outpatient, I met a lot of other Bipolar people. Most everyone tgat I met would be considered normal by society’s standards for the most part. They just experience life with more extreme highs and lows.

    • Dennis says:

      Hello there. Original author of the blog post here. I’d like to start by saying: congratulations your recovery process! It sounds like you’ve been doing very well in getting things under proper control. I am very happy for you and I hope it holds for a long time.

      Here’s the thing. It sounds like you’ve landed on the more mild end of the Disorder. How do I know that? You still have your husband and are/were able to have a career, which implies you were stable enough to perform consistently in whatever training and work you pursued. Again, awesome. I am genuinely happy for you. But, that kind of story is not typical, at all. And you can’t use the people you met in outpatient as a good metric either, because those people (most likely) accept that they have a mental illness, need to manage it, need to treat it. A lot of other people do not. And those are the people that do a great deal of damage to their lives, to their family’s lives, attempt suicide, wind up in jail or homeless, or dead.

      On top of that are the people who do want to be well but aren’t able to find that. I know people with Bipolar Disorder that have tried dozens of combinations of medications, only to eventually be found medication resistant. I know people with Bipolar Disorder with college degrees, now living on Disability in Section 8 housing because even with medication, they aren’t stable enough to work. And I know far too many people who have been tossed aside and thrown away by the people who claimed to love them. And I also know people who have recovered a great deal and live relatively typical lives now after a lifetime of suffering and struggle.

      Though we people with Bipolar Disorder share commonalities in symptoms, the way it looks and actually functions in each of us can be very different. My website and work focuses largely on navigating the negative, most difficult parts of what mental illness can bring. If you haven’t experienced much of that in your life, then it’s not going to resonate with you as true to your life experience. And that’s okay. That’s something you need to keep in mind if you are going to read through websites and books about Bipolar Disorder. Even doctors and therapists are stained by their own perceptions of the way people with Bipolar Disorder are. For example, I had a doctor who was surprised when I told him I had unwell cycles that lasted months. Turns out, he had been working in crisis care for 15 years before shifting to his private practice, so he was seeing the extremes of the extreme for 15 years. He had little experience with hypomania.

      If you’d like to counterbalance your experiences with the other side of the coin, attend some support groups in your area where you’ll get to hear many more stories from a much broader spectrum of people, particularly if you can find a Friends and Family group to attend. Their perception is generally less understated and sugarcoated.

      I’d like to leave you with two important pieces of information that may help you further down the road.

      If you want to change or quit your medication, be certain you talk to your doctor first! If you discontinue a medication in the wrong way, it can be make you severely unwell and land you inpatient or suicidal. If you are doing well while on medication, it’s because of the medication. It’s super common for people to decide they don’t want to take it anymore and turn their lives inside out. Bipolar Disorder is for life. It can never be cured, only managed.

      Bipolar Disorder is not a minor mental illness. It’s serious. The suicide rate is upwards of 20% and it shaves decades off of our natural lifespans. Do not underestimate it. Learn as much about it as you can from as many sources as you can and figure out what applies to you and what does not. Anyone that claims to have “all the answers” or the singular answer is completely full of shit. There are no singular or simple answers. I highly recommend looking into a therapist that is familiar with Bipolar Disorder and asking them to help you learn more about it and yourself. You’ll also be able to bounce things you learn off of them to get a better understanding of them and what you may have to deal with in the future.

      I hope things continue to go smoothly for you and your family.

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