When You Feel Guilty About Being Depressed

I have a great life. I really do. I could write you a gratitude list a mile long containing all the good things. I have a fulfilling job, a loving husband and family, great friends and good physical health. I don’t mention these things to brag — I mention them because I don’t feel like I deserve them when a depressive episode hits. When my depression hits, I can rationally think about how lucky I am, but I don’t feel it, and that makes me feel like a terrible person.

For me, there are so many feelings that go along with depression: sadness, emptiness, numbness and guilt. The guilt is actually the worst part for me. I feel guilty about the tasks that go unfinished when I can’t seem to find the motivation to move. I feel guilty about neglecting my loved ones when I don’t have the emotional energy to engage with them. I feel guilty about wasting time as my life passes me by. I have a body that works and I can’t make myself use it. That’s what it feels like sometimes — like I’m on the outside, watching my life pass by as I stand by helplessly (or more likely lying in bed under the covers). I’m screaming on the inside, but from the outside, I probably look and sound like a woman who doesn’t appreciate or care about her life. And the truth is, sometimes I can’t care about anything, and in those moments I hate myself.

This is a vicious and dangerous cycle. Hating myself for the way my depression makes me feel doesn’t benefit me or anyone else. Punishing myself for not “appreciating” the gifts in my life in the grips of depression doesn’t change anything. I have to separate my illness from my reality. I have to remind myself that I am not my illness and those dark thoughts are just that – thoughts. They only have power if I give them power.

It helps me to think of the feelings associated with a depressive episode as symptoms like the ones you get with the flu. No one with the flu feels guilty for having a fever or body aches. I shouldn’t feel guilty for feeling sad, numb or fatigued when my brain is sick.

I’m not saying this is easy to do. It sneaks up on me all the time. I’m getting much faster at catching it and naming it though, the more I learn about myself and this disorder. I have to try to be gentle with myself. I’m doing the very best I can every day. Having this illness has made me kinder and more empathetic to others. I just need to extend that kindness to myself. I deserve it and so do you.

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Thinkstock photo via DGLimages

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