Navigating the Judgment Roller Coaster

A hallmark symptom of bipolar disorder is mood swings from manic highs to depressive lows—most people know that if they know nothing else about bipolar disorder.

But are people familiar with the lapses in judgment that can come with a bipolar mood swing? Not really—at least I wasn’t when I was diagnosed.  It took me years to get a handle on whether I could trust my thoughts when I was in either mood state—depressed or manic.  Thoughts that were truthful and manifestly obvious become muddled to me in depression—and thought that I knew were obviously flights of fancy became amazingly true when I was manic.

Depression alters your judgment in that you see the world through dark lenses—rather than the rose –colored ones of mania. A negative thought you might simply skip over in a normal mood state can take deep root in your life and mind when depressed, and a truth you once believed can be altered beyond recognition by those dark overlays of depressed patterns of thinking.

In mania, your filters for interactions may not work properly. A kind gesture someone (maybe a total stronger) may make can be misinterpreted as a romantic overture.  A compliment at work may bolster your conviction that you are a magnet for good luck—and inflate your self-worth into the stratosphere.  A financial proposal that might sound high-risk when you’re in a normal mood state may sound like just the ticket to riches if you’re manic.

So how does one keep a handle on judgment when bipolar particularly if you cycle quickly from one mood state to another. How do you know the truth of a matter when your filters are set askew by your moods?  I’ve found a few truisms to live by that help me stay steady and out of trouble with my moods.

  1. Know the word of God. If you can recall Bible verse of our value to God, you can withstand the slings and arrows that the world likes to hurl at you. Temptations can be resisted when you know the truth of God’s best for you, which does not include behavior that can harm you.
  2. When manic, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.
  3.  When depressed, if it sounds too hopeless, it likely isn’t.
  4.  Have people around you whom you can trust to have your best interests at heart in any kind of situation. A friend, a professional adviser in a particular field, a caring relative, a competent counselor can often see the truth of a situation that you may be blind to when depressed or manic.
  5. Look for wisdom. If it’s not covered in your Bible knowledge, pray for the truth to be revealed to you whether in your reading on the topic, your talking with others about the topic, or your own thoughts to be changed to where you are thinking clearly about whatever has captured your attention.

Poor Judgment can lead to embarrassment, harm to self or others, financial ruin, or loss of relationships. Don’t think for a moment that your behavior doesn’t affect others in your life of that if you make a poor choice that you’re only hurting yourself.  If one part of the body is suffering, the entire body is affected.  Keep in mind what kind of errors in judgment you tend to make and add in safeguards to your life and mind to protect yourself from lapses.

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