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How I Stopped Blaming Myself for Experiencing Depression

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I’ve always been a self-blamer. I would blame myself for the rain, for my bad mood, for gaining weight. It was always my fault and I thought I deserved to be punished. So when I became ill with depression, it was no wonder I blamed myself for being sick. Unfortunately, this belief lasted throughout my illness and even lingered as I started to feel better. It didn’t matter that I became depressed following a fourth failed frozen embryo transfer, or that my body was reeling from many hormones. It simply had to be my fault.

But the reality was simple: I was sick. Depression severely impaired my thinking and judgment. It was not my fault.

But accepting this has been a continuous process.

For several months after my hospitalizations I was plagued with guilt. I thought I had ruined my then 4-year-old daughter’s summer as well as my husband’s and my therapist’s. I felt severe guilt — guilt about not spending more time with my family, guilt I needed my therapist so much. I had flashbacks to different situations related to being in the hospital and basically felt an ongoing feeling of embarrassment for having been so needy.

But the truth was my daughter had a great summer and her routine was not really interrupted. My husband had a stressful summer, but it was because of illness. My therapist tells me time and time again how there was no reason for her to be mad at me, that I was doing the best I could at the time. The times I can let go of it usually occur after a cognitive exercise of repeatedly telling myself, “I was sick. I was very sick. No one’s life was ruined and there is no reason to blame myself.”

It’s humbling to realize you are not powerful enough to cause depression. This is what I try to hold on to now. It was not my fault I needed the hospital for 12 days last July. It was not my fault my husband and daughter had to get by during those days without my presence. It was not my fault I needed ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) to pull me out of my depression. It was not my fault I was unable to be a good friend during those months. It was not my fault.

I was lucky to have my family and friends to help me as I regained my footing in my life. I worry for other patients with little support, this traumatic period after illness can be difficult. It can be overwhelming at times, but knowing and feeling the love and support of my family and friends made it manageable.

I continue to struggle with self-blame, but I have more skills to use to manage it. I use my “good cognition,” as my therapist taught me, and use the skills I’ve learned to accept my thoughts and feelings. This will always be a struggle for me, but I am proud of how far I’ve come. I feel hopeful in the future I’ll have the ability not to blame, but to accept.

Originally published: September 10, 2015
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