Bipolar is Not Your Fault

Author: Chris Chambers


It is my 15-year anniversary since I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Looking back, I think one of the most painful parts of my journey was the underlying belief that bipolar disorder was my fault. I had certain traumas in childhood that instigated a pattern of believing that everything was my fault. My go-to response was to conclude anything wrong around and within me was my fault. I had the pervasive belief that if I just said or did the right things, I could fix it. If I just did enough, everything would be okay. Those beliefs still show up in my life, but I have put considerable effort into rewiring them over the past five or six years, and I continue to do so. Thankfully, I am noticing huge shifts in my ways of thinking.

With all that being said, it was only natural for me to believe bipolar disorder was my fault. There are also insidious societal messages that reinforce the belief that bipolar disorder is the person’s fault. Stigma statements like “if you could just get it together “convey the message of individual fault. I spent easily a decade of my life analyzing my every action with a critical mind. The shadow of blame showed up with every depression, every mania, and every mood. The idea that the reason for my suffering was because of something I was doing wrong haunted me. I knew that bipolar disorder is a brain-based medical condition. I actually worked as a registered nurse in psychiatry in my early 20’s. I know the science. Yet, the belief that if I could just do the right thing, I wouldn’t have bipolar episodes anymore, clung to me.

It was only as I began to work through trauma and dismantle these persistent beliefs around fault, that I truly began to see and feel the reality: bipolar disorder is not my fault. My actions influence my disorder, which empowers me to live a lifestyle that supports the health of my brain; but bipolar disorder is a brain-based condition that is not within my control, and it is certainly, unequivocally not my fault. Not only is the disorder not my fault, the episodes and symptoms experienced are not my fault. There is no “right” thing to do. There is no “fix “. It just is. It is a disorder influenced by a myriad of factors, like inherent brain structure and wiring, environmental light levels, stress (positive and challenging), relational connections and more. We do have the power to influence bipolar disorder, and often make a huge impact; but ultimately it is not something we can control.

I share this to bring awareness to the stigma messages around fault. My aim is to illustrate through my experience how damaging these statements are. Also, I hope to spark awareness for individuals with bipolar disorder. If you are noticing messages around not doing enough, not getting it right, or any other fault-based messages, know that you are not alone. Those messages, while natural and understandable, are just plain incorrect. I give you full encouragement to tell those thoughts, in your own way, to “be quiet“. Over time, they do get much quieter. Lastly, just in case you need to hear it, bipolar disorder and everything you experience because of it, is not your fault.


Chris Chambers is a bubbly and caring individual. She is queer, passionate and kind, and owns being a cat-mom. Chris has had a few careers in her life thus far. She began as a registered nurse, moved into massage therapy, then worked as a peer support worker in community mental health. She currently works as a Yoga Teacher. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the Spring of 2008 after her first manic episode with psychosis. Chris lived with rapid cycling and mixed states for 12 years. Since changing her profession, she has found greater stability. Chris is passionate about living an embodied and mindful life. She loves to write, and particularly enjoys expressing insights regarding her journey with Bipolar Disorder.



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