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How It Feels to Believe You Have a Mental Illness Because You’re a ‘Bad’ Person

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When I get depressed, my automatic thought is I have done something “bad” to deserve the symptoms that are reappearing. In my mind, adverse behavior is not a manifestation of depressive symptoms, but a fundamental failure in my character. For example, I believe I am unlovable because my anxiety and sadness get in the way of giving my partner the attention he deserves. Or, I’m useless because I can’t get out of bed until 3 p.m. It’s not the chemical imbalances in my brain that are causing the exhaustion and incessant crying, but that I’m an inherently broken person. Someone who is unable to keep steady employment, healthy relationships or a social life.

• What is Bipolar disorder?

A therapist once told me the consequences of bipolar disorder, such as being unable to keep a job, can be partially attributed to the genetic components of the disorder. I nodded like I understood. However, deep down, I was thinking, “Lady, you are full of shit. I have bipolar symptoms because I’m bad.”

I get so angry with myself when these depressive symptoms reappear because I’m sure I have done something wrong to deserve them. The “something wrong” could be as insignificant as not folding the laundry when promised. Frustrated, I end up screaming, punching pillows and throwing books across the room. Depression is a horrid beast.

My latest depression was magnified when I worked an extra-long day. I’m unable to work more than two short days a week because I get so overwhelmed with the external stimulation, long lists of to-dos and co-worker chatter. It’s hard making small talk when my brain is so foggy. Forgetting simple words, such as apple and desk, is really embarrassing.

Not only is my mind exhausted, but so is my body. My muscles ache from tension, my ears ring from the constant noise and lights become too bright. Afterward, all I can do is lie alone in a dark, quiet room. Sometimes I spend the rest of the night crying because of how worn-out I feel.

What is most heartbreaking about these depressive episodes is how I end up feeling so empty and alone. It physically hurts my heart thinking about how badly I crave love and acceptance. I want others to love me so I don’t feel so alone, and accept me so I no longer feel irreparably damaged. I have had many, many (many) years of therapy, and still have not found a way to love and accept myself. Deep down, I truly believe I have a mental illness because I am a bad person. No matter how hard I’ve tried (and I’ve tried f*cking hard), I can’t seem to change this.

Life will be much harder than it needs to be until I can separate my perception of who I am from the lies my depression fills my mind with. I need to be able to recognize it’s depression leading to these symptoms and not my personality or “bad” behavior. Hating myself makes everything in life, especially working, so much harder.

Tears are rolling down my cheeks as I write this post.

However, there is hope hidden within this endless, self-disparaging diatribe. Being aware of your thought processes and observing how your mind is distorting your self-image is crucial to halting this incessant self-ridicule. If you can calmly notice the hostile thoughts ricocheting throughout your mind, without emotionally attaching to them, you have curtailed some of depression’s power.

Getty image by uzenzen

Originally published: November 11, 2019
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