When things go wrong it’s human nature to look for someone to blame. Often people look for others to blame but for a lot of us with mental illness, it’s more likely that we’d choose the easier victim – ourselves. It makes sense. We’re the one common variable in everything bad that has ever happened to us. We’re the one thing that doesn’t change. Something I hear people say a lot is “I hate myself.” I say it too, often when I’ve done something embarrassing, but for a lot of people and even for me sometimes, it has a deeper meaning. We’re not saying it out of embarrassment but out of pure, true self-loathing. It’s because we blame ourselves for the bad things that have happened to us, and in some cases it’s true. It is our fault. We’re the idiots that got drunk and lost our wallets. We’re the hotheads who got into a fight at the bar and landed an assault charge. We’re the cowards that picked up a needle for the first time.
But it seems we often forget about another common variable, and that is our mental illness. It is never without us and we are never without it. Something so so important is the ability to recognize when it’s coming into play. It’s important to be able to recognize when it is to blame. It’s not always really us having a panic attack over a boy that didn’t text us back, but our anxiety. It’s not always us jumping from one wild decision to the next, but our bipolar. It’s not always us making the decision to pull out a blade or swallow a bottle of pills, but our depression. In order to stay sane, it’s crucial that you learn to recognize this. You’ll drive yourself mad blaming yourself for everything bad that has ever happened in your life. Sometimes it really truly just was not your fault. Your mental illness is never your fault.
I wrote before about how I’d never felt more suicidal than the day after I attempted suicide. A lot of that was due to the regret and embarrassment I felt both from failing but also for ever trying in the first place. I was embarrassed that my friends had to be practically stripped down in order to visit me in the hospital. Mainly though, I felt a bitter, almost cruel sense of guilt. I felt so guilty that my roommate had to drive me to the hospital on her first night back from vacation. I felt so guilty that my best friend was being attacked for not getting to me first. I felt so guilty that everyone had to change their everyday pattern in order to cater to me, the suicidal psychopath sitting in bed next to someone who “really deserved to be there.” What I’ve come to realize about that night is that it wasn’t me who picked up that bottle. It wasn’t me shoving pills down my throat. It was my depression, and it was trying to kill me.
This is not to say we should blame all our faults on our mental illness. As I said, sometimes it really is just our fault! Sometimes we really did mess up and in those times we should accept blame and deal with any repercussions that follow. However, sometimes our mental illness makes decisions for us that are beyond our control, and during those times we should cut ourselves some slack. It’s not our fault that we self-destruct. It’s not our fault that we’re sick.
Dedicated to a friend who needs to give herself a break.