My eyes are welling up with tears and all I can feel is an immense sense of apology. It is so hard to deal with a mental health disorder. Every day feels heavy. Waking up is a choice I must choose again and again. Taking my medication is a choice. Telling the people around me I need them is a choice. That I would argue is the hardest, because when I look at the people holding me up I am overwhelmed by two things: How intensely I need them, and how unbelievably sorry I feel that I do.
Something the therapist says to you when they’re talking you through the process of recovery is, “This won’t be easy. You’re going to have to do a lot of hard work.” Boy, are they right! The process of working on your mental health is no easy feat. I just want to put a disclaimer out there to people who feel like they have been able to get through the tough times by just putting their minds to it : it isn’t always that easy! Imagine trying to communicate to someone through lead walls or yelling at a horror movie when the main character starts walking towards danger! Trying to tell yourself that you feel better when you have a mental disorder is that kind of futile. You don’t feel like you are in charge of your thoughts. This is how I feel a lot of the time and lately the recurring theme to my nightmares has been : “I am the problem.”
It seems like no matter what sticky situation I am in, I can find an obscure relation to how it can all be traced back to me! My mom is upset today because I wasn’t considerate enough last night. My sister has locked herself away in her room today because she doesn’t want to deal with me. My friends aren’t having a good enough time because I am not being cheerful enough!
I find a way to link everybody’s bad moods or problems to me.
And worst of all deep down this dredge lingers: I am still depressed because I am not trying hard enough. I am not exercising enough. I can’t get myself to meet my deadlines. I am failing my classes. And it’s my fault. It’s my fault. It’s my fault.
A week ago I hit this wall again. It has always been something I struggle with- holding myself responsible for the world’s problems (really, I could find a link between climate change and my past plastic use).
In that moment I found myself coping in the strangest way. I started writing a letter to myself.
There are two main archetypes that I view myself through: The strong, kind, cheerful Anthea who lives as though everyday is an adventure; and the Anthea who just wants to crawl back under her blanket and hide away from everyone.
Through that letter I dug into my happy side and scrounged up all the positivity I could to reassure the latter Anthea that everything would be okay.
It sounds silly sharing this with you, but there was something so immense that I felt when I read it back to myself. Once I personified the woman I wanted to be, consoling me, it made me feel less lonely.
The magic is that I didn’t have to pretend I wasn’t scared or that I was happy or perfect. I could just be me and through that letter I was choosing to be compassionate to that side of me. The apologies dissipated and it felt replaced by something much more powerful; gratitude.
People are important. We lean on each other and I think sometimes it’s okay to need people. Instead of feeling sorry for needing them let’s be grateful. They choose to be there for us when we aren’t strong enough to be there for ourselves. Thank you. To my main pillars. To the strangers who smile at me on the street and the old classmate who calls just to check up on me.
Have you ever asked an athlete what it feels like to be injured? To take even a day out of their intensive training to rest. It’s torture, because the whole time it feels like there is so much they could be doing but they aren’t. This physical ailment is hindering their progress, because to an athlete every day of training is vital.
When we face a mental disturbance or severe mental issue it can feel very similar. Everyday feels like a step in the journey of progress and it is. But when you take even a day to pause from actively training your mind to be better, you feel inundated in self-blame.
It is obviously not as simple as saying “love yourself”. Sorry, no instant cure here! I wish I could say “Shawty, you can put the blame on me” but as wise as Akon may be this journey of self love is a roller coaster. The biggest roller coaster with fifty loops that makes your hurl at the end.
I can’t promise you “self-blame stain remover” but here’s my cheat sheet:
- At least twenty minutes of alone time: Taking time away from people can help us separate ourselves from the false or real expectations that we project on our loved ones. This time can help you realise that it’s okay to be unable to keep everyone happy.
- Write to yourself: Writing kind words to yourself even for five minutes a day or saying them aloud can start disintegrating the cruel record tape of “ I’m the problem!”
- Accepting you’re not perfect! Hate to burst that bubble, superstar. But nobody can really reach perfection. The good news is if “I am the problem”, then I have the power to make things better. Let’s face it there are times when we are at fault. However, instead of beating ourselves up about it we can accept that we make mistakes and work towards being better.
- Dance it out! Bouncing around in your bedroom to your favourite tunes is so therapeutic, no wonder it is practically patented by Meredith and Christina from Grey’s Anatomy! Bonus: screaming along to Punk music in my car usually helps me break my negative thought processes too!
Different things obviously work better for different people, but as we dive into 2021 let’s help each other! Comment down below what helps you deal with self-blame!