Bipolar: Being Hard on Ourselves

I think a common theme popping up in those of us with Bipolar (and probably depression, anxiety, OCD and Borderline Personality Disorder too) is that we’re really tough on ourselves and seem to set way higher standards for ourselves than others. We’re also damn mean to ourselves: you wouldn’t tell your best friend she had a fat butt and looked damn ugly! OK, I’m sure we do this unconsciously, but maybe we could become more aware of it and challenge it a bit.

Today I got all geared up to take Cassie out for a walk. We set out on our usual route and within the first 5 minutes it began tipping down with rain. We were totally drenched so I decided to take her back and walk her later.

When we got home, my partner made a joke saying sarcastically- “that was a long walk then”. He meant it in a harmless way. But my immediate reaction was hostile, I felt really annoyed by it. It had pushed a sensitive button!

So that got me thinking, why should a seemingly good-humoured dig offend me so much? Then I realised I had already been chastising myself for not carrying on the walk: you’re so lazy, you give up so easily, you’re so stupid!

What?! Where did that last comment come from?! Stupid?!

Anyway, it dawned on me I was so sensitive to my partner’s remark because I was already beating myself up. So his comment just lit the fuse I’d already set up for myself.

Why are we so harsh on ourselves?

The obvious answer would be that was how our parents treated themselves and maybe us, so it has become an ingrained, learned behaviour. We see how others act and copy, simple as. That’s part of how a kid learns. We think this is the norm.

But it’s not the norm, and never should be. We wouldn’t treat ANYONE else in this way! (Well maybe some would, but hopefully not).

To a small child, a harsh adult can bring us to feel that we are despicable and the lowest of the low.

Why do we continue to be harsh once we’ve realised we’re doing it?

Habit? It’s easy to just let our patterns continue? Change takes effort?

But even when I questioned the thoughts that I was lazy and stupid, I still felt resistance to the more caring voice that said: it doesn’t matter, I can just take her out later. Not many people would walk their dog when it’s absolutely pouring with rain. 

The inner bully just wouldn’t accept it and would begin its tirade over again. I’m ugly, I don’t deserve kindness, I’m scum.

Why do I feel so inherently evil inside? Why such resistance to a more compassionate voice? Do I think I don’t deserve such gentle treatment? Do I really think I’m so incredibly rotten at my core?

Going through the torment of Bipolar, you experience the utter hell that can be present in a human being. I think because we have seen that horror in ourselves, we believe that deep down, we really ARE that horrific.

I think every human being has the potential to live life at either end of the scale of great love or great evil. But in terms of Bipolar, maybe we SEE that capacity in ourselves, where others don’t? Through insecure, inconsistent parenting we have been shown how awful we can be, or how wonderful.

Now in Bipolar the pattern continues as adults, but is exacerbated: we see how great we could be (Mania) or how utterly inhuman (Depression). We don’t just see it, we experience how this would feel in terms of the way we  think, feel, behave and JUDGE ourselves. We judge ourselves as despicable in depression and as superhumanly amazing in mania.

The Inner Bully as our Protection from Depravity

Maybe experiencing the depths of human depravity we apply our morals as “decent” citizens, seeing the potential we have for chaos of the worst kind, so keep our harsh judgements in order to control what we see as our innate potential for evil.

To us these harsh judgements help to keep our “depravity” in check. We see them as absolutely essential in keeping us from ACTING out any horrendous thoughts. If I chastise myself for raging at someone, it is because I FEAR my behaviour. It is out of control, it could get worse. But if I am hard on myself, it will help me feel I have some essence of humanity about me, that I can show a moral side. That there is some semblance of good still inside me. And ultimately that I can stop myself from repeating or acting on rage. The inner bully says NO, STOP! Remember how despicable you are, you must stop! Maybe that bully is just terrified.

I guess all this can filter down into smaller behaviours. Less damaging behaviours. It has become a habit to judge ourselves so harshly.

So perhaps we cling to the inner criticism because it’s the only we way know that we can control our innate bad-ness.


Out of all this chaos though, we have proved ourselves incredibly strong for resisting acting on our darkest thoughts. Galadriel in Lord of the Rings is tempted by the power of the ring, but she resists, she knows she will become a terrible, dark queen and knows deep down this is not what she wants. She is then free to continue her life as the beautiful elven mystic.

Seeing our Magnificence

Just like Galadriel, we have to see that, despite perceiving ourselves as such terrifying creatures, we ARE NOT so. Galadriel was still Galadriel after envisioning her depraved alternative.

Despite what we learned as children and have subsequently experienced in Bipolar Disorder/Depression/OCD/Borderline Personality Disorder etc., we are still, in essence, spiritually made of love.

(Sometimes I get channelled messages from spirit and at this point they have started to speak through me- addressed to us all)

“Love is a light and shines so brightly that it cancels out the darkness. You have stayed in the light my friend, you are st
ill there and will continue to be so. Fear not. Trust us to keep you safe from the depravity you fear. You are all loved and exceptionally beautiful in your own ways. We are grateful to Rachel for helping us to speak to you. You who have seen the darkness. Do not fear, do not tremble, we are comforting you. Allow us into your hearts and minds for we long to be with you and show you how much you are loved. Let go of these dark thoughts towards your beautiful selves. They are a falsehood. See yourselves as shining beacons of love. Fill your lives with love of every kind. Fear not for your selves. It is important that you hear our message. We can only help you once you ask us. We can only help you if you feel deserving of us, which every single one of you are, infinitely deserving and worthy of love.

Go forth with joy in your heart my love. You are precious to us and we will never leave you.”

That’s the first time I’ve channelled on my blog and I don’t know how people will react to it. But I felt strongly compelled to do so by spirit and trust them. They really want us all to know how loved we are. I hope you can accept this. I’m starting to and my life is changing for the better because of it. It seems a fitting conclusion to my post.

Related Posts:  Our Constant Companion: The Inner Critic by Dr. Jenner on Boundaries of the Soul; Be Gentle With Yourself by Word From the Well.

Photo Credits

Storm: George Stojkovic via Free Digital Photos; Angel Statue: bl0ndeeo2; Angel Artwork anslatadams

14 thoughts on “Bipolar: Being Hard on Ourselves

  1. mentalhealthtalk

    This is a beautiful and insightful post Rachel. Thank you so much for sharing and, in regards to the channelling, being yourself and letting the message come through and onto your post. That took courage and I admire you for that. Love to you, Trish xo

  2. aealmon

    I recently almost sabotaged Love with the excuse of not wanting to burden him with the life that comes along with loving someone who is mentally ill. Then I made myself think that it is his choice to make not mine.

    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Absolutely! I felt like this when I first started dating my partner. It took a long to time to accept that he is with me for ME, not Bipolar! Despite an illness we still have great qualities and are completely deserving of love in our lives. Well done for letting love in!!

  3. Summer Moon

    This is such a true and beautiful post! I found myself nodding throughout so much of it. It rings true for me on so many levels. One of the main things that popped out at me was your question, “Why do I feel so inherently evil inside?” That hit me with one of those electric shots in the heart that we get when something really hits home.

    Between my bipolar and OCD, I have feared since childhood that I am actually a very evil person who is just pretending to be good. The thoughts that OCD puts into my head are terrifying and I hate that I think them. As a child, I knew that such thoughts were bad and so if I was thinking them, then that must mean I’m bad. That thought process continued into adulthood, and it’s something I still struggle with often. The bipolar only makes it worse, as it gets triggered by those thoughts. I will often wind up in emotional distress due to them, and I will just lay on the couch until my emotions can get stable again. My therapist often tries to help me work through it, so that I will one day accept myself for having “uncomfortable” thoughts that do not reflect who I am. She tells me to not use the term “bad” to describe my thoughts, but rather “uncomfortable” because that is how they make me feel, and do not describe who I am. I still work on that one.

    But, I think that it’s so true that we do continuously beat ourselves up over so many things. It’s almost like a defense mechanism. If I beat myself up first, then no one else can. And, if they try, then I’m already so far beaten by my own thoughts that those outside forces will have little to no effect on me. And, I agree so much that it is also a way to defend ourselves against “depravity”. It makes so much sense that we become our own parents in a sense, and scold ourselves for the negative thoughts, and are continuously trying to keep ourselves in line. I had never thought about it in that way, but wow what sense that makes after reading that description by you!

    I love that you shared your channelling with us. That is such a beautiful gift that you have. I think that by sharing it, you can help so many people because it allows people to interpret it in their own ways. I’m a christian, and for me I interpret what you said as the Holy Spirit being inside of you and relaying God’s message not just to yourself, but to all of us. You’re spreading His unconditional love and unending compassion. That is just how I interpret it, while others will have their own ways of viewing it that can allow them to feel comforted. So, thank you so much for sharing that! 🙂

  4. rachelmiller1511 Post author

    Summer Moon,

    Thank you so so much for your lovely comments. Sometimes I’ll write a post without knowing whether it’ll make any sense to anyone other than me, but it is so wonderful that you understand and can see exactly where I’m coming from! You don’t know how much that means to me! Thank you!

    You made the comment that if you beat yourself up first, then no one else can. Too true!

    The uncomfortable thoughts you talk about with your OCD I can relate to. I think when I’m having a depressive episode, maybe mixed, I’ve experienced these kinds of thoughts. I don’t have them all the time, but they feel as if I’m terribly bad just for even thinking them. I think they’re called intrusive thoughts. Don’t know if it’s the same thing or not?

    Thank you also for your lovely comments about God’s message. I really appreciate it.


    1. Summer Moon

      You are so very welcome! 🙂 And thank you again for giving me so much to think about.

      As for your question regarding intrusive thoughts being the same thing… yes, that is how my psychiatrist refers to them too. When she first described them in that way, I remember thinking how it made so much sense, ’cause they literally do intrude in our daily lives. I know I don’t welcome them, yet there they are. I wish there was a switch we could hit that would just turn them off and block them forever.

  5. Tallulah "Lulu" Stark

    You know, although I’m without a doubt hard on myself, I feel as if there is something fundamentally flawed about a person who doesn’t criticize themselves at least a little. I really believe that is just human nature. Except, in disorder, it’s taken to an extreme.

    But back to human nature. We as a species are always striving to be better, to do better. Some say it’s the competitive spirit. I think it’s an evolutionary trait for innovation and adaptation. But, since the world we live in has fundamentally changed since primal times, we’re left with all of the maladaptive evolutionary traits that we have no idea what to do with.
    I wish I could tell you that I have the remedy for self-depreciating behavior. I don’t. And things like the triggeryou describe

  6. rachelmiller1511 Post author

    I guess I’m thinking it’s all about awareness: being aware when I’m beating myself up and distinguishing this from constructive criticism.

    I agree that without some form of self-judgement we would probably never move forwards. But I think we can do this in a much kinder way, not necessarily in the you’re ugly/stupid/a loser vein.

    And perhaps this is the time to start turning just plain mean criticism of ourselves into more positive encouragement. Perhaps far more can be achieved this way. I can’t imagine Leonardo Da Vinci went around beating himself up too much. He was probably so inspired with life and in the flow/present moment to think negative thoughts about himself. But I may be wrong!

    Maybe this is part of our next evolutionary step????

  7. Jen

    So, so, so true. I sometimes cling onto being hard on myself to make sure I am doing the right/decent thing in life.
    You made me slap my forehead (metaphorically) at the reasoning behind your ‘sensitive button’ being pressed – I do that quite a lot and (thanks to your post) have only just made the connection. Duh!
    I suffer with depression and anxiety, not bipolar, so do not get to experience the ‘feeling like I’m amazing’ part. But since I have ‘hopped the fence’ if you will, and started to accept that I am a mental health sufferer not a mental health nurse anymore, I realise how little I truly knew and noticed about both myself and mental health problems. It’s a strange feeling. But a real one at last.
    I hope to have the courage to write as you do one day.
    Jen x

    1. rachelmiller1511 Post author

      Aw thank you Jen for that last comment! Appreciate that a lot 🙂

      So glad you can relate. Sometimes I don’t know if how I write things down is how I’m thinking them in my head! Trying to get your point to make sense can be tricky!

      Hard luck on missing out on the feeling amazing part!

      It’s funny that you say you’re only really just recognising your own mental health issues; I’ve only really started to acknowledge how debilitating my anxiety can be. It’s pretty likely I have a separate anxiety disorder. I’ve not really realised it before, I just thought it was all part of the Bipolar package!

      My Mum was a mental health nurse :). Think she was glad to retire too! She got hit with a brick once!! And the windscreen wipers pulled off her car!!!

      Thanks for your input!


  8. Jen

    Reblogged this on Type B Negative and commented:
    The thoughts here on being hard on ourselves I found to be incredibly insightful and helpful – Thank you Rachel for having the guts to write so openly, intelligently and honestly. I just wanted to share it with my readers – I hope you don’t mind x

  9. Pingback: Self-Forgiveness: A Work in Progress | My Bipolar Life

  10. Pingback: Was That Real? | Emotional Wellness

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