“It was one thing to make a mistake; it was another thing to keep making it.” — Jodi Picoult
Mistakes. We’ve all made them. And they stink. If you’re one of the lucky ones and received your bipolar diagnosis young, then you have a lifetime ahead of you to try and do your best to not make repeated mistakes. But if you’re older, and perhaps didn’t receive your diagnosis until much later in life, you most likely have a long list, perhaps volumes of mistakes in your past. Some errors took place under mania or depression, and some were just plain old goof ups that can happen to anybody in a “normal” mood. Some slip ups were minor, others so horrendous you would give anything to erase them from existence. Unfortunately, some of us have erased ourselves from life instead as a way to correct our mistakes. And that’s one mistake we can’t ever undo.
It’s easier to forgive someone else their errors, than forgive ourselves. For some reason, that’s just human nature. Even though our therapists can’t fix this issue, they can certainly guide us through the steps to learning to forgive ourselves. They can help us sort out why we did certain things we shouldn’t have when under the influence of a mood. They offer understanding and compassion when we struggle to like ourselves after we come to terms with our terrible behaviors. And that is something you won’t necessarily get from family or friends. Therefore, having a specialist to help us recover from trauma, anger, grief, and loss is paramount.
People with Bipolar have patterns of behaviors when in certain moods that lead to making poor decisions. (We also have altered brain chemistry, which doesn’t help matters any.) Working with our therapists to learn those patterns, and to detect when a mood is coming, are the first steps in making sure we don’t make the same mistakes again. Once we have a grasp on the bigger picture, we can move forward to changing how we behave in the future.
Certainly, forgiving ourselves might be one of the most difficult things we face having Bipolar. We can beat ourselves up mentally day in and day out. Rumination can rear its ugly head. The key is to remember that you have a choice every day. Do you choose to make the same mistakes again, or do you chose to take a different approach? If you choose to take the higher road, that’s one step in the direction to making smarter, more responsible choices. And that moves you further from the mistakes of your past.
Remember: I will forgive the mistakes of my past. My mistakes do not define who I am today, nor the person I will be tomorrow.