Believe me, when I tell you bipolar disorder can absolutely feel like a punishment from God (or the universe, bad karma, etc.) It doesn’t even matter if you believe in any particular god; bipolar disorder can feel like a punishment nonetheless. But why does bipolar disorder feel like a punishment from God, and what can we do about it?
First off, let’s put my prejudices on the table. I am not religious. I do not believe in any particular god. I don’t think my life is controlled by outside forces, positive thoughts, karma, or crystals. I’m a pragmatic, logical sort of person. So, alas, if you’re looking for some sort of theological discussion here, you’ll be disappointed. (For the record, though, I do believe in things I don’t understand, including things more powerful than me.) However, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this because if having a debilitating, possibly fatal illness doesn’t make you think about higher powers, nothing will. And even though I don’t believe in a god, that doesn’t stop bipolar from feeling like a punishment beset on me, regardless.
Why Bipolar Disorder Feels Like a Punishment from God
It varies from person to person, but many people, including me, find bipolar disorder to be extremely disabling and debilitating every single day. Some people, including me, find it extremely painful. Some people, including me, would give anything to be rid of it.
Because of all this, often lifelong, suffering, it is natural to wonder why you have bipolar disorder. It feels like it’s your fault. It feels like you did something wrong. It feels like you did something to deserve it. Even if your rational self knows these things aren’t true, they can sure the heck feel true at various points in your illness. And it’s not much of a leap to go from “it’s my fault somehow” to “God is punishing me.” It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what you’re being punished for or if you think you know of a reason, bipolar feels so all-encompassing that it feels like God is the only one who could control it, or, indeed, give it to you.
And just to add insult to injury, people will actually tell you that bipolar is a punishment from god or that you’re suffering because you do not believe enough or in the right god. (The comments section of this website proves this point often enough.)
Bipolar Disorder Is Not a Punishment from God
But bipolar disorder is not a punishment from God. I am not a theological scholar. I do know that God did a lot of smiting in the Big Book, however, and that does seem to lend itself to the idea that if he didn’t like you, he could give you an illness — mental or otherwise.
But here’s the thing — bipolar disorder is medical. Bipolar disorder is even primarily genetic. If you look up your family line, you’re almost sure to find it. Bipolar disorder strikes people indiscriminately. Bipolar disorder strikes rich people, poor people, good people, bad people, and everyone in between. There is no pattern. There is no evidence that bipolar disorder is a result of God. There is only evidence that bipolar disorder is medical — like thousands of other medical illnesses. God doesn’t give you the flu, and he doesn’t give you bipolar disorder, either.
And if you just stop to think about it, there is no reason for God to give you bipolar disorder. There is nothing you could have done to provoke that. There is nothing that makes anyone deserve a lifelong, possibly fatal, illness. No one deserves bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is not your fault.
Feeling Like Bipolar Disorder Is a Punishment from God Is Self-Stigma
I suspect that the idea that you’re being punished by god is merely a form of internalized stigma. Self-stigma, after all, is something that most of us battle with from time to time. It could also be an over-belief in old testiment religion (if you ask me).
Regareless, though, this belief doesn’t serve a person. It basically relinquishes power and focuses one’s thoughts on relious ideas instead of coping skills that have been shown to effectively help with bipolar disorder. I’m not suggesting prayer, for example, be omitted from one’s life if that’s your thing; I am, however, suggesting there are methods of dealing with bipolar disorder that are far more effective and should always be used in addition. Because in the end, it doesn’t matter why you have bipolar disorder, it only matters that you do. It only matters how you handle the hand you’ve been played. It’s a sucky one, yes, but it’s still doable. God didn’t give you the joker, and he can’t take it away, either.
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