It’s not you: removing blame from mental illness

Mental illness is hard enough to process without the shame, guilt and blame that comes along with (sadly) the stigma of having a mental illness.

They’re fluid concepts and they look different for each person.

Mental health connects us and if you’ve had depression, you understand it, but without experiencing it, it’s very hard to explain or pin down your feelings on a quick two minute coffee break.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, so I thought I’d write a piece each day of this working week about something I’ve learned from my experience with mental illness.

Last year I wrote a letter to my mind for Trigger Publishing’s campaign.

This year’s Mental Health Awareness week has the theme of kindness, so I thought I’d start with being kind to yourself and to others, by removing blame from mental illness.

Let’s start with it’s not your fault that you feel this way. 

It’s not you.

But it’s also not them. 

There is no one to blame for how you’re feeling. There’s no one cause.

There are many triggers, causes and influences that chip away at you and result in a mindset that alters how you view yourself and the world. But that isn’t someone else’s fault and it sure as hell isn’t your fault. 

It happens. You weren’t designed to always be well.

You aren’t immortal, impenetrable or invincible. 

There are events in this world and in your life that will knock you sideways, make you fall on your ass and make your head and body hurt in ways you cannot fathom or express in words. 

But that’s not your fault. 

When my Dad got ill, the first person I blamed was God. My Dad was a religious man and this was how his God repaid him. Terminal cancer at 45. 

When I say blamed, I don’t mean got a bit frustrated, I mean I shouted up at the sky, cried myself to sleep, bore a rage that could shatter buildings.

But God didn’t answer back, he didn’t save Dad and at this point in time I don’t blame God for what happened. I don’t think that what happened could have been any different whatever any of us did. 

Then I blamed myself.

I was angry for all the times I’d been angry with my Dad. He’d been a Dad to me, a borderline rebellious teenager. He’d say I couldn’t dye my hair, so I dyed my hair. He’d say I couldn’t wear that outfit out as it was too short, too revealing, that I was too young and I’d do it anyway. 

I blamed myself for ignoring opportunities to blissfully enjoy being with my Dad, when in actual fact, I’m grateful that I had a brief experience of the arguments that do grow between fathers and daughters. It was a real relationship. Let’s just say if your parents always agree with you then something isn’t quite right. 

The blame and rage was the beginning of depression, not that I knew that yet. 

In the moment you search for an explanation, someone to blame for how you feel. The choice we all take in the moment is to blame ourselves, but overtime it’s clear that no one is to blame. 

You are not your mental illness. 

You are not responsible.

When you get a cold you don’t question everything you’ve done up to this point to wonder what you did wrong to feel this way. You usually notice the cause or pass it off as it’s just going around at the moment. 

So, do the same with mental illness. 

Feeling anxious? Think of 5 events in the past 6 months that could have built up to you feeling that way. 

Feeling depressed today? Reflect on 3 events that have happened in the past week for your mood to change. 

Focus on events, rather than people.

If you’re searching for someone or something to blame, it’s more likely that you’re trying to find the cause to resolve it and improve your mental health. 

There are no quick fixes. There is no point blaming yourself or anyone else as the triggers and causes will be woven into your life that you might not be able to notice them anymore or for yourself. 

If you are struggling with a mental illness don’t suffer in silence. You are not alone and you are not to blame for how you feel.

NHS helplines

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