We have probably done things we’re not proud of while in the midst of a bipolar episode. But it isn’t our fault, right? After all, bipolar disorder isn’t our fault.
Listen in as Gabe and Dr. Nicole explain why thinking that way could negatively impact your relationships and life.
Gabe Howard is an award-winning writer and speaker who lives with bipolar disorder. He is the author of the popular book, “Mental Illness is an Asshole and other Observations,” available from Amazon; signed copies are also available directly from the author.
He is also the host of Healthline Media’s Inside Mental Health podcast available on your favorite podcast player. To learn more about Gabe, or book him for your next event, please visit his website, gabehoward.com.
Dr. Nicole Washington is a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where she attended Southern University and A&M College. After receiving her BS degree, she moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma to enroll in the Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She completed a residency in psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. Since completing her residency training, Washington has spent most of her career caring for and being an advocate for those who are not typically consumers of mental health services, namely underserved communities, those with severe mental health conditions, and high performing professionals. Through her private practice, podcast, speaking, and writing, she seeks to provide education to decrease the stigma associated with psychiatric conditions.
Find out more at DrNicolePsych.com.
Producer’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript has been computer generated and therefore may contain inaccuracies and grammar errors. Thank you.
Announcer: You’re listening to Inside Bipolar, a Healthline Media Podcast, where we tackle bipolar disorder using real-world examples and the latest research.
Gabe Howard: Welcome, everyone. My name is Gabe Howard and I live with bipolar disorder.
Dr. Nicole Washington: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington, a board-certified psychiatrist.
Gabe Howard: And today we’re going to talk about taking responsibility for our actions. And, Dr. Nicole, this is always, it’s always a controversial topic. Whenever I give this type of speech or write a blog like this or do a podcast like this, I get a whole bunch of email that says one of two things. Either, wow, I needed to hear that, thank you, or you know, dude, you’re a jerk. Like, how could you call us out? Like, what’s wrong with you? Why are you being mean? That is stigma. That is self-stigma. That is that is bipolar stigma. We hate you. There’s nothing in the middle. It
Dr. Nicole Washington: So basically, you’re saying, don’t bother sending the email because you’ve already gotten them all. So whichever side you lean on after this episode, roll with it, sit in it, deal with it, feel it. It’s all good.
Gabe Howard: First, I think that is incredible advice, Dr. Nicole. Like. Like let it. Let it sit with it for a while. I can understand that uncomfortable things are uncomfortable, but there’s no growth inside a comfort zone. There just isn’t. There’s this phrase saying, quote, I don’t know. They burn it onto a board and hang it in my in-law’s kitchen. And it says, if you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always got. I think that’s BS. I think if you always do what you’ve always done, you get less. It’s diminishing returns. If you’re not growing, if you’re not changing it, just if we could just find a happy day and just repeat that day on a loop, then bipolar disorder would be no problem. Just. Just when was the last time you were happy? I was happy last Thursday. What’d you do last Thursday? I went to see Iron Man. Well, just go see Iron Man every day, because if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Well, yeah, but I’ve kind of seen Iron Man, now it’s kind of boring. Now I don’t want to do it. That’s my point. If you’re uncomfortable, that’s good. That’s growth. That’s beautiful.
Dr. Nicole Washington: It can be. It can be very beautiful.
Gabe Howard: It can also be awful, right? Let’s be.
Dr. Nicole Washington: [Laughter]
Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole, do you get a lot of people in your office that say things like, It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. They bring up something that they did and you’re like, That’s just terrible. And they’re like, Well, yeah, but it’s not my fault. Is that a phrase you hear a lot?
Dr. Nicole Washington: Of course, because we beat into people’s brains. You know, the fact that you have bipolar disorder is not your fault. The fact that you somehow genetically got this thing, it’s not your fault. It’s nothing you did wrong. So, we keep beating that into people because we don’t want them to walk around feeling like they did something wrong or there’s something wrong with them because they ended up with bipolar disorder.
Gabe Howard: So, here’s the reality. It’s not your fault. If it’s a symptom of bipolar disorder, it is absolutely not your fault. I want you to take that put it put it in a box. You can put it on a billboard. I have bipolar disorder, and it’s not my fault. I am going to give you that one. But here’s the thing. It’s not the other person’s fault either. They can take out the same billboard and now we get into the problem. Whose responsibility is it? It’s yours. It is 100% yours. And here is my personal feelings on this. Taking responsibility for the symptoms of bipolar disorder is incredibly empowering. See my bipolar disorder? It led me around. By by my nose. Right? If this were a Looney Tunes cartoon, right? I was Wile E. Coyote and bipolar disorder was the little bird that was running around like, abusing me. I think in this analogy, Dr. Nicole, you might be the person who sells the Acme products. I’m not sure. But seriously, here’s the thing, though. I don’t want to be led around by the Road Runner. I don’t want to be Wile E. Coyote. Wile E. Coyote, he’s the one that we laugh at, make fun of, and just think, Oh, I’m that poor, pitiful coyote. I don’t want people to think of me like the coyote.
Gabe Howard: I want to figure out what I can do to beat the Road Runner. And that is why I think taking responsibility for bipolar disorder, including all of the symptoms that led to the bad things, is extraordinarily powerful. I think it makes me empowered and strong and capable.
Dr. Nicole Washington: It sounds like the first thing you have to do is differentiate between blame and responsibility, because that that’s where I think people get stuck. They get stuck in the hole. It’s not my fault. I didn’t choose to have bipolar disorder. I wouldn’t have this thing. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do this. This is not what I would have chosen. For me, that’s all 100% accurate, but it is yours.
Gabe Howard: Exactly. And let’s take it away from bipolar disorder for a minute. Pretend that you’re driving in your car and you pass out. Right. You can come up with any reason that you want that you passed out. The only thing that you need to be clear on is that it’s not your fault. Something happened in your body, a medical condition that caused you to lose consciousness and you run into another car. If you honestly believe that, you can just get out of the car and be like, hey, I’m sorry I ran into your ride, but that’s your problem. I don’t have to pay for this. I don’t have to apologize. I don’t have to ask if you’re okay. I don’t have to provide first aid. I don’t have to do anything. I passed out in my car. Ran into your car. I’m good. Ha, ha. Nobody would believe that. Just even as I’m saying it, people are like, wow, you don’t even give first aid. You ran into their car, dude. Right? Yeah. Nobody cares that you passed out. It’s the same way in bipolar disorder. Apply it backwards.
Dr. Nicole Washington: You’re right. You’re right. And so, I will often use the either seizure disorder or diabetes analogy. So, if a person has a seizure disorder, not your fault. Not your fault that you inherited this thing. Right. But it is your responsibility to make sure that if you’re going to be driving, if you’re going to be operating machinery or doing anything that can affect anyone else, that you take your meds consistently. So, if you just decide, well, I just don’t like how they make me feel. I’m not going to take them. I’m not going to talk to my doctor about it. I’m just not going to do it. But you still decide to go ahead and drive and do these things that you know can negatively affect people. That’s your responsibility. That’s where it does become your issue and your problem. If you have diabetes and you know that your blood sugar can drop to nothing if you don’t do what you need to do as far as eating and making sure your meds are right, and then you just choose not to do those things that’s on you. So, if you have bipolar disorder and you know, I should probably take my medicine, I should probably go ahead and be consistent with my follow-up with my psychiatrist, my follow-up with my therapist. I should probably do all these things if I want to achieve stability and not be in danger of doing these other things. That’s on you now. Not saying that even if you do everything right and you take the meds and you do the stuff and you seen your doctor and for some reason you have an episode and just something happens, I think people around you will respond to that scenario a whole lot different than you just making the decision to not take care of your illness.
Gabe Howard: I want to stick with the driving analogy just for a moment, because you’re absolutely right. With the seizure disorder and the diabetes disorder, there are things that you can do to lower your chances. I don’t want anybody to hear that if you do everything right, you will never have a symptom. You will never. You can do everything right. And the worst-case scenario can happen. It’s true with diabetes, it’s true with seizure disorder, and it’s absolutely true with bipolar disorder. But you’ve got to ask yourself, we talk about the post mortem a lot on this show where the thing happened, it’s over and you’re looking backwards and you’re thinking, hey, could I have impacted the outcome at all? And sometimes the answer is no, but sometimes the answer is yes. And here’s why. I want to just get as much out of the car analogy as I possibly can. If I’m manic, if I have grandiosity, if I have racing thoughts, if I’m if I’m thinking to myself, hmm, I got some depression or if I’m having a panic attack because I also have some anxiety issues and I decide that I’m not going to let, making air quotes, let my wife drive because I’m going to drive. There. That little decision right there can be the difference between having to take responsibility or getting home safely. So, I don’t want everybody just to look gigantic picture like, oh, well, as long as I take my meds, see my psychiatrist and see my therapist and learn coping skills.
Gabe Howard: No, no, no, no, no. Those are all important. Nobody’s saying that they’re not. But sometimes it’s also about humility, right? Maybe I shouldn’t go out tonight. Maybe I should let somebody else drive. Maybe I should tell somebody that I’m not feeling 100% and educate them so that they can look out for me and, of course, do all these things. When you’re well, it’s always, always, always great to have a bipolar wingman to help you manage symptoms wherever. And look, I want to give everybody a freebie right now, if you are listening to this podcast, you are doing one of those little things to put yourself in a better position because I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that the reason that you’re listening is because you’re looking for ideas. You’re just looking for some things to try to see if they work for you. See, there’s an example of taking responsibility. Not blame, responsibility and educating yourself so that you can have better outcomes. Big pat on the back like a standing ovation. You should see the crowd. The crowd is going wild. You can’t hear it because we told them to be quiet and they are an obedient audience. But it’s wild here. Dr. Nicole, just confirm. It’s just wild, wild.
Dr. Nicole Washington: Wild. Insanity.
Gabe Howard: Calm down, everybody. Shh.
Dr. Nicole Washington: Calm down. Simmer down. Simmer down. But what about before? Like before you were well before you had gained all this insight and knowledge about bipolar disorder. And you thought I got this? What about before? What about the stuff that you did way back when? Before you were as enlightened as you are now? How did you make amends or take responsibility for that stuff?
Gabe Howard: These are the tougher ones, usually because they occurred over time. Right. You know, after the fact, you do something. Maybe you get together in a couple of days, right. You know, you piss somebody off on Monday and you apologized on Wednesday. That tends to go better than you’ve literally been angering somebody, annoying somebody, pissing somebody off for five years, and then suddenly you get diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you get some therapy, you listen to this podcast, whatever, and you’re like, oh, man, I was really hard on my mom, dad, grandma, grandpa, brother, sister. It’s usually family who you can abuse for five years, let’s be honest, right? Your friends tend to go away after a year or two of abuse. Even your besties that hang in for that year or two. So now all of a sudden, you’ve got this diagnosis and you need to go backwards. You need to be like, Hey, you know how I’ve been an asshole for a while? And they will usually agree with you. And then you’ve got to figure out how to make amends. Now, I. I have so many things to say on this, Dr. Nicole. I don’t even know how to arrange it in my head. But the first thing that I want to say is that is still your responsibility, right? It is absolutely still your responsibility to fix it.
Gabe Howard: And the next thing that I want to say is a lot of people don’t want to fix it because they’re like, Well, but they wronged me too, and that’s probably accurate. I’m going to I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if you have been doing shitty things to somebody for five years, they have no doubt done shitty things back. Right. It’s usually it’s not completely one sided where one side was like, I just loved him so much. I was just supporting her so much. And he was an evil dragon, right? It’s never that. It’s usually a lot of codependency, to be honest. But, you got to make the first move. And you’re thinking, Well, but what if they broke the relationship? Look, do you want it fixed? Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy? You got to make a choice. Cut them off forever. They’re done. They’re dead to you. Or let it go. Letting go is easier said than done. I would like to say that you can watch Frozen, play the song, Don’t Like the Snow Anyway and be done, but it is what it is. I said like the snow anyways and not the cold anyways to avoid any Disney lawsuits.
Dr. Nicole Washington: [Laughter]
Gabe Howard: It’s not that I don’t know the lyrics.
Dr. Nicole Washington: The. The initial apology is the tough part because I don’t know that people in general walking around breathing know how to apologize. You apologize for your stuff in the statement. You don’t apologize for your part and then point out the wrong that the other person committed towards you. That’s on them. So, when you apologize for all these things, you can say, I completely was not thinking clearly about this illness. They told me I had this thing. I didn’t believe it. I wasn’t really taking my medicine consistently. I didn’t do the things that were recommended to me. I just I just wasn’t handling my illness well. And that’s on me. And I know I did some things that were out of character. Believe me, I’m working on this, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. That’s a that’s how you address that. Not. But you also didn’t have to do this and on me and you didn’t have to call the police and you didn’t have to do this. And you. That’s not an apology. Stop, stop, stop at your stuff and let them let them, when they figure out their part, come back around and apologize and just know it may not happen.
Gabe Howard: I want to touch on that people don’t know how to apologize. Right. The apology that you’re supposed to give is I’m sorry that I did X right. But here is why. You probably don’t want to start lecturing people on what they did to you. Our base premise is that bipolar disorder and the symptoms of bipolar disorder are responsible for the things that we did. So, we’re coming in with this apology where we’re like, look, I want to make amends for all the things that I did because I had bipolar disorder, because I was symptomatic from bipolar disorder, because I was experiencing mental health issues. I had a mental illness. And that is why I did the things that I did. And I’m so sorry and I want to make up for it. And then we shift just like suddenly to but I remember everything you did perfectly accurately, 100%. I know exactly what you did. My mind is sharp as a tack. And I have I have a perfect recall of how you hurt me. That is. That is unreasonable. It is unreasonable that your behavior was driven by bipolar disorder, and that’s what caused you to make the mistake. But the way that you took what they did, what they said, the way that you felt it and the way that you remember it was not impacted at all. The reality is, the more people I talk and sometimes I trip over it, Look, I’ve been in recovery for 15 years, you would think that I have heard all of the stories of all of the things that I did before I reached recovery.
Gabe Howard: No, sometimes I’ll just be sitting there and I’ll be like, Dad, do you remember the time that you did X? My father was slowly turning like, No, that never happened. I’m like, Yeah, Dad, you did this, this, this, this, this, this, this, remember? And he’s like, when I was like, at that trip where we went to the Jersey Shore, it’s like, Yeah, I didn’t go on that trip, Gabe. Remember? That’s the one where I had to work. And your mom and your grandparents went with the kids, remember? I had to sit that one out. No, I remember getting in a fight with you. Yeah. Look, I wasn’t even there, and I’m just. And I’m thinking to myself, but I. I remember it. I feel it. It’s in my bones. If lie detectors were real, I would pass it. But, yeah, I also know for a fact that my entire family didn’t get together and, like, erased my dad out of all the pictures and lie about whether or not he went to the 1987 Jersey Shore Howard vacation. I so that that’s an important thing to understand.
Dr. Nicole Washington: And the clarity of being able to step back and take a breath when people tell you things. So, if in the midst of all of this apologizing and you being frustrated that someone did this and this and that and it comes up and that person says to you that that’s not it’s not really how that happened. I didn’t drag you out of the restaurant because I was tripping. I drug you out because they were getting ready to call the police because you’d been yelling at the wait. You know, they don’t remember it the exact way. So that that’s the problem. When somebody is telling you something that happened in the midst of all this apologizing and you think, well, that’s not what I remember. Take a minute and just stop and ask yourself, what does it benefit this person to make that up? Like, this person loves me. They are part of my team. These are my people, my mom, my dad, my siblings, my spouse. What does it benefit them to make up a story about what happened? And if multiple people around you are telling you something and you trust those people, you might want to just consider the fact that you don’t remember it the way it happened. And that’s not a skill that I see a lot of people possessing, honestly.
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Dr. Nicole Washington: And we’re back talking about how bipolar disorder is not your fault, but it is your responsibility.
Gabe Howard: I completely understand this desire to believe what’s in your gut. It’s everywhere, right? Trust your gut. Trust your gut. You’ve got to trust your instincts. We even say this in in support groups and getting well with bipolar disorder. It’s like you’ve got to have faith and you’ve got to move forward. You’ve got to trust your gut. You’ve got to trust your instincts. You’ve got to give yourself credit. And then we’re saying, no, no, no, no, don’t believe anything that happened, because it’s probably all rattled around in your brain. I have no problem with people investigating. In fact, I encourage it. You should not just believe everything that everyone tells you, but ask for that proof. Ask around. You don’t have to believe it. The second that they say it, you can just say thank you. Thank you for that information. It is something that I will look into and then decide. So many people, they’re told something and they’re like, nope, I don’t remember it that way.
Gabe Howard: It’s a lie. You’re lying to me, you’re done. It’s over. And they do no further investigation. I’m telling you, this is not about them. This is not about what they’re telling you. This is about you. If you want to get to the bottom of what happened when you were symptomatic, if you want to get to the bottom of what happened before you reached recovery, if you just want to get to the bottom of what happens when you’re manic, depressed, having racing thoughts, grandiose, whatever it is, collecting that data and sifting through it and working it out with a good therapist, with your doctor Nicole or working it out in a support group or sitting with it yourself is such incredible data and that’s for you. Again, forget about them for a moment. When people tell me all these things, I started to notice a pattern. Whenever I hit mania is when I got in a lot of fights with my family and I thought that they were wrong 100% of the time. And it turns out that no, see, the mania hit and they knew I was in danger. They knew that I was about to do stuff that was not in my best interest and they were trying to stop me. So that made mania turned them into the enemy. And once I developed that pattern, I didn’t even have to have other people explain anything to me.
Gabe Howard: I think, oh, you know, I was I was I was manic that day. And I got in a fight with my best friend who I haven’t talked to in two years. I know I was manic that week because X, Y, and Z happened. I should just call up and be like, Dude, I had mania and I bet you didn’t even do anything to me. I can just start it that way. But forget about this. This, this episode just happens to be about apologies, but I want to put just a little segway. This is this is how we learn these coping skills. This is this is the data that we use to get better. And that’s why I say it is empowering. It is so empowering to take responsibility for these symptoms and admit when you were wrong. You know what? Forget about repairing relationships for a moment. This is just incredible data to use to get better. And beating bipolar disorder feels amazing. Just forget about making up with grandma. Forget about having a better relationship with your dad. That data makes it harder for bipolar disorder to get into your head to take over, and it makes it easier for you to learn these coping skills. But sincerely, I think most of us want our family and friends back. We want stable relationships. Let’s touch on that for a moment. Dr. Nicole, do you get a lot of people in your office that just have these massive regrets that it’s like, I hurt this person, I know I hurt this person and this is impacting their recovery. Because regret is powerful.
Dr. Nicole Washington: It is and it makes you feel helpless. And then it makes you think, well, why try? I’m just going to keep doing these things anyway. And then you’re less likely to keep up with all your appointments and your meds, and then you keep doing the stuff that you regret. And so, it’s this ugly circle, this this ugly, ugly circle. And I do see it a ton, especially around like infidelity, around just the things that you say when you’re when you’re manic sometimes that you just wouldn’t normally say. And people are very, very hurt by those things. Even once the person realizes it’s bipolar disorder talking and they know it’s just hurtful to hear certain things and to have certain things happen to you, I think this is a really big spot where therapy comes into play. A lot of people who have bipolar disorder, they say, well, I don’t think I need therapy because like therapy isn’t going to stop me from becoming a manic. Therapy isn’t going to change the fact that my mania or my depression, they’re going to come. And that may be true, but I think therapy is a place for a person with bipolar illness where they can process through all this other muck, all the how do I how do I even start the conversation with someone who I haven’t spoken to in five years because I cheated on them and now they’re married and have a family? Is it weird if I want to contact them and apologize? Those are the kinds of things that therapy helps you work out.
Dr. Nicole Washington: And so, I definitely will encourage anybody who’s listening who is one of those people who thought, I don’t really need therapy, I just need my meds. It’s bipolar disorder. It’s not just like anxiety or depression. Like, I need my meds. I don’t need a therapist. That’s not true, because there’s not a person that I’ve ever met with bipolar disorder who hasn’t done something, said something that they need to work through because they’re just hoping it around and holding on to it and feeling helpless and having lower self-esteem and just feeling bad about who they are as a person because of it. So, I would say if you’re somebody who has had that thought for sure, find a space to process through that. And it doesn’t have to be like committing to therapy weekly for the next ten years. It could be a short term to help you, to help you handle a certain situation. It doesn’t have to be this long-term thing you sign up for, but I encourage anyone to go ahead and take that step if you have not.
Gabe Howard: Regret and trauma are big, big barriers to reaching recovery. I know that the regret and trauma that I felt made me just feel worthless. Well, how am I going to beat bipolar disorder if I feel worthless? How am I going to get in the ring? Right. Right. That that bell rings. And I just I basically laid down because I was like, well, I’m garbage. I’m a garbage person. And that’s how I felt. And I felt like garbage because as I started getting closer towards recovery, I’m not in recovery, but I’m also not as sick and in the crisis points that I was. I’m halfway through my journey. I’m not in recovery, but I am so, so far past where I started. And that’s when those things hit for me because I started having this thought, I don’t deserve to be. Well, why don’t you deserve to be well? Well, I did this to my ex-wife, right? And I told my mom I hated her. And I screamed this at my sister and I lied to this person. And those things start to come in really clearly. In my opinion, I feel like it’s bipolar disorder, thinking, okay, the things that we use to abuse them before are no longer working. The medication helped clear that up. Gabe’s doctor, Nicole, got rid of this. So, you know what? Let’s just. Let’s just make his memory a little more clear at those things he did to those people he claimed to love.
Gabe Howard: And because we’re more stable, those things hit harder. It’s really easy. It’s really easy during mania to forget about all the horrible things that you did. That’s one of the things that mania does. It’s really easy in the middle of a mixed episode or racing thoughts to just not let those things land, but you start to get that stability and you’re like, Hey, dude, you told your mom you hated her. Yeah, we can do about it. I’m ashamed. I’m going to just hold it in and it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work. I like what you said there, Dr. Cole. I. I hate cosigning things that you say because it just seems jerky to me, but I just. I really want to repeat it. So many people with bipolar disorder that I talked to her like, why don’t I go to therapy? Because I don’t need that for the rest of my life. I don’t know how that rumor got started that you have to go to therapy for the rest of your life that that you are stuck in it once a week. I have been in recovery for 15 years. I’ve gone as long as four or five years without going to therapy, and then something big will happen and I go back for a few months. I go back for a year. I really feel that’s worth touching on because so many people are just like, No, no, I’m not. No, I’m not laying on that couch. Also, it’s probably important to point out there’s no couch.
Dr. Nicole Washington: There is no couch.
Gabe Howard: There’s no couch.
Dr. Nicole Washington: There is no couch. There is no couch. No.
Gabe Howard: Dr. Nicole, the last thing that I want to ouch on is, is some people are just so angry. They’re so angry about the things that happened that they don’t want to make amends, even though they’re in recovery, approaching recovery. They’re just like, you know what? No, no. My parents wronged me, my family wronged me. And now that I have clarity, they wronged me. And listen, your family may have wronged you. I’m not trying to get in your life. I’m not saying that they didn’t. But I am saying this in order to make a mistake, in order to do something wrong, these people have to be in your life. They have to actively be there. And for me this made a big difference because when I reached recovery, I started volunteering to moderate support groups. You know, I was trained so that I was the person that got to enforce all the little rules and say, no crosstalk. And I got to talk to dozens of people, hundreds of people. And then when I became a podcaster and a speaker, I got to meet people from all over the country. And a significant a significant number of people told me that their families won’t have anything to do with them, that their families cut them off a long time ago, that they haven’t talked to their mom, dad, brother, sister, grandma, grandpa and uncle in 15 years.
Gabe Howard: And I think to myself, okay, here are all of the things that my family did that just that just frankly, they still kind of anger me to this day. But they wouldn’t have made any of those mistakes if when I was 21, they were just like, you know what? You’re an asshole and we don’t want anything to do with you. We are gone. They wouldn’t have made any of those mistakes because they would have just. Tossed me out. And when I compare the mistakes that my family made to them, literally abandoning me, that opened my heart. That was a hard-fought thing for me to learn that did not come. I was really ready to cut them all off. They really, really hurt me. And between bipolar disorder, lying to me about the mistakes that they actually made, although they made many, many, many, many, many, many, many mistakes, and realizing that in order to make a mistake, you have to be present and trying that opened many doors for Gabe Howard personally.
Dr. Nicole Washington: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. It I guess the one thing I thought was you could just have a crappy family, right? Like, you could just have a family who doesn’t support you, and. And they just aren’t good people, but they probably are going to not be good people even when you’re stable. If your beef with your family is only when you’re manic or only when you end up hospitalized or only when you’re in an episode, that’s probably a different scenario. So, I
Gabe Howard: It might be you. It might be you.
Dr. Nicole Washington: [Laughter] So I do think, so I do think it’s necessary to think through like, is this a long-standing issue with my family or have I always felt like they were toxic and not supportive and gaslighting me and making up stuff and drama filled and chaotic? If that’s the case, this this making amends may not go the way that you think it might go. But that shouldn’t be surprising because this is who they are. They’ve shown you who they are. It is what it is. But if it’s literally only when you’re sick or hospitalized or in an episode, we’ve got a we got to take a step back and just think through. But it is important to know that even if you apologize and make amends and try to make it better, it may not go the way you were hoping it would go. And that’s okay because you’ve done your part and you’ve completed your circle in this thing and you’ve closed your loop. You packaged it up, you wrapped it up, put the bow on it, sat it on the shelf, it’s done. And there’s not a whole lot else that you can do if they don’t receive it and don’t accept it. And then also, you know, you talked about your family and the mistakes they made. Sometimes those mistakes just come out of ignorance.
Gabe Howard: That was exactly, exactly in my family.
Dr. Nicole Washington: [Laughter]
Gabe Howard: They did all the wrong things, but not out of malice.
Dr. Nicole Washington: No.
Gabe Howard: Out of stupidity. Straight up stupidity.
Dr. Nicole Washington: They’d never loved someone so deeply who had bipolar disorder before. They didn’t know that the things they were doing were making things worse. They had no idea, which is why family support groups and being involved with organizations like NAMI and things like that are so valuable to families because they have no idea. I mean, you wouldn’t know about bipolar illness. Had you not gotten the illness right. You would not have known had you not developed those symptoms. They’re in the same boat. They don’t know the mistakes that they’re making. The things that I hear family members say to their loved ones, the things that I’ve seen people do when they think they’re showing tough love and all this stuff, it is all out of ignorance.
Gabe Howard: Truer words have never been spoken. Patience is a virtue on this. I would love for everything to be a Hallmark movie where you’re going to go to your family. There’s going to be a gentle snow or a light spring rain. There’s going to be piano music plan and the camera’s going to pan over and you’re going to be standing there and your mom or grandma or whoever you’re mad at is going to see you and embrace you. And you’re like, I’m starting like tears are going to roll. Look, that’s not reality. It’s going to be a lot of awkward conversations. It’s going to be a lot of awkward text messages and emails. It’s going to be a lot of awkward. It’s going to be a lot of uncomfortable. It’s going to be a lot of things for most people, not for everybody. Somebody’s got to have that Hallmark moment and I am so envious of that person. But for most of us, even if we get that conversation that we want and it goes the way that we want, trust has to be rebuilt on both sides. You’re going to be feeling each other out and figuring it out. But I got to tell you, just like it takes a long time to learn coping skills and beat bipolar disorder. It takes a long time to repair relationships. But if you’ve reached recovery with bipolar disorder, you can do anything and you can make up with anyone you want. As long as they’re working as hard as you are and you will know and maybe they won’t at first.
Gabe Howard: Maybe you’ve got to carry the water for both of you for a while. But eventually they’ll either show themselves to not be interested. And like Dr. Nicole said, you did your part or they’ll start helping. And before you know it, it’ll just be a thing that happened. It’ll be a thing in the past. It’ll be a thing that you’ve moved on from. And those are wonderful feelings. But I don’t want to leave anybody with this idea in their head that one, everything is fixable because not everything is fixable. But doing your part does have real value. And too, I don’t want anybody to think this is easy. Please don’t listen to a half hour or 45-minute podcast and think to yourself, Oh, I’m just going to go do what Gabe and Dr. Nichols and everything’s going to be better. Nobody said that. Nobody said that. And then finally, when you’re getting ready to write that email, please send it. But can you not call me names?
Dr. Nicole Washington: [Laughter]
Gabe Howard: Right? Like, that’s all I ask. Just don’t call me names. You can tell me I’m wrong. I accept that. You can tell me that I’m an idiot. I know no one idiot’s calling me names. See, I just. Dr. Nicole. I don’t. I don’t even know. I love it when people write me emails, but maybe not at 3 a.m. when you’re angry. I really think that the majority of people listening to our podcast between the hours of midnight and five, just judging from when the emails come in. Dr. Nicole, thank you so much for being here. It is awesome, awesome, awesome to do the show with you.
Dr. Nicole Washington: Just, you know, this is a good general life, too. How about this? When you’re angry and this also goes to when you want to tell your family all the things they did to you that you didn’t like. And this also applies to when you disagree with Gabe. Just put it in draft. Put it in draft for 24 hours, come back and read it. When you’re in a cooler headspace, if you still feel like you want to send it, send away. If you then say, Oh, that’s a little harsh, you’ll thank me for the 24-hour draft rule. I usually tell people 24 hours just it applies to so many life scenarios. So just take that and do with it. Do with it what you will.
Gabe Howard: Thank you, Dr. Nicole. Thank you to our listeners. Thank you, everybody, for tuning in to this week’s episode of Inside Bipolar. My name is Gabe Howard and I am the author of “Mental Illness Is an Asshole and Other Observations.” I’m also an award-winning public speaker who could be available for your next event. The book is on Amazon because, well, everything is on Amazon, but you can grab a signed copy with free swag just by heading over to my website at gabehoward.com.
Dr. Nicole Washington: And I’m Dr. Nicole Washington. You can find me on all social media platforms at @DrNicolePsych to see all the things I have my hand in at any given moment.
Gabe Howard: We need you to do us a favor. Wherever you downloaded this episode, please follow or subscribe. It is absolutely free. And we need a second favor because we’re feeling like we’re friends. See, we don’t have a huge advertising budget, but we do have is you. So please share the show, share it on social media, share it with a support group, send an email, hell, send a text message. Sharing the show is how we grow. We will see everybody next time on Inside Bipolar.
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