Excusing Yourself by Virtue of a Diagnosis

A woman in Troy, Michigan is suing a car dealership because she blames them for selling her a car while being “bipolar.” This is bullshit. See here for the latest coverage of the story and see here for where I first became aware of the story. From the Star Tribune:

Amy Berner tells the Detroit News she suffers from “impulsivity and difficulty in decision-making,” and the dealer used that to get her to sign a $444 per month lease for a Mazda CX-9.

Personally I find this to be pathetic excuse. Every salesman “uses” people’s susceptibility to impulsiveness to sell. This is a societal problem. Not a bipolar problem. Lots of shoppers regret spending sprees and they don’t have the luxury of blaming a supposed illness to get out of the situation, they just have to live with the consequences of their actions. As I commented on Furious Seasons: (with some editing)

I’m sorry, but outside of having empathy for this woman because I’ve been there, I think she needs to take responsibility for her actions.I have in the past been quite impulsive. Spent myself into heavy debt and put myself at personal risk in various ways. I took responsibility for my actions in the end and I did so by dealing with the consequences of my actions. I could have used my label as an excuse, but I didn’t. It is most often a cop out to use your label. I’ll make exceptions for people who are floridly psychotic and people suffering from side effects, like in the instances where anti-depressants can cause someone to become violent. Short of that…get a grip! This phenomena of blaming everything on the “illness” is part of why there is so much stigma.

Otherwise natural consequences help one recover. Hence, I don’t think the dealer should necessarily take the car back! If he wants to be a good guy that’s his prerogative, but he certainly should not be coerced into doing so.

I am better for having taken responsibility for my actions. If I had continually said my actions were outside my control I would be a hell of a lot more dysfunctional than I am now.

Impulsiveness is purely a psychological problem. Just because we have a label does not mean we cannot make a choice to do the appropriate and right thing in any given situation.

Another realm in which a person diagnosed with a mental disorder must take responsibility is in relationships. I am not always easy to live with. I am married and have caused my husband a lot of grief throughout the years. He is not without empathy, but he has his limits. As I heal–especially since I’ve changed my diet and begun my withdrawal–I’ve become more and more reasonable. The mere fact that I have taken control of my care and recovery has empowered me to not use the label as an excuse for inexcusable behavior. It’s much easier to shirk responsibility when you believe you are a victim of a disease beyond your control. Once you conclude it is within your control, taking responsibility is the only ethical option. I regret many things associated with some of my past behavior, and I will continue to regret some future behavior, I’m sure. I have at times felt like my behavior was beyond my control. But the reality is that the only thing beyond my control, at least in any given moment, is my emotions, not the behavior associated with the emotions. You can choose to act on your emotions or not. I’m not suggesting this is easy for anyone including those without a diagnosis. But unkind behavior of any kind, based on present emotion or not, is simply inexcusable. You may be forgiven for it, by a loving spouse, family member or friend, but that does not make it right.

One thought on “Excusing Yourself by Virtue of a Diagnosis

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  1. “Another realm in which a person diagnosed with a mental disorder must take responsibility is in relationships. I am not always easy to live with. I am married and have caused my husband a lot of grief throughout the years. He is not without empathy, but he has his limits. As I heal–especially since I’ve changed my diet and begun my withdrawal–I’ve become more and more reasonable. The mere fact that I have taken control of my care and recovery has empowered me to not use the label as an excuse for inexcusable behavior. It’s much easier to shirk responsibility when you believe you are a victim of a disease beyond your control. Once you conclude it is within your control, taking responsibility is the only ethical option. I regret many things associated with some of my past behavior, and I will continue to regret some future behavior, I’m sure. I have at times felt like my behavior was beyond my control. But the reality is that the only thing beyond my control, at least in any given moment, is my emotions, not the behavior associated with the emotions. You can choose to act on your emotions or not. I’m not suggesting this is easy for anyone including those without a diagnosis. But unkind behavior of any kind, based on present emotion or not, is simply inexcusable. You may be forgiven for it, by a loving spouse, family member or friend, but that does not make it right.”

    Great, great, great, great point.

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