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When I Blame Myself for My Mental Illness

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My anxiety has been awful lately. It overwhelms me like a flood, and suddenly I’m drowning. As I fight off panic attacks, I struggle to organize my thoughts. I start dissociating, even hearing a voice and flipping between personalities. Straining to remember my coping skills, I withdraw into myself, afraid of burdening my friends and husband with my problems.

Even worse, I keep blaming myself. I blame my anxiety on how I’m not thinking the “right” way.  In therapy, I have learned about the thoughts that trigger my anxiety; thought patterns like perfectionism, people pleasing and an inferiority complex. Although I’m working hard to change my thinking, I don’t seem to change. Since I can see how these thoughts cause anxiety, I blame myself for my anxiety.

I feel like if I worked harder at my strategies from counseling, then I would be better. If I thought differently, I would be better. If I could learn to relax, I would be better. Intensely angry, I call myself names, blaming myself for my emotional pain. As I continue to beat myself up, I become more sick.

Suddenly, I stop and take a step back. I have mental illnesses. The anxiety is not my fault.  My thought patterns have been caused by a lot of things; things that have happened in my life, the way I have been treated, along with my sensitive nature. I didn’t create the anxiety, it’s more complex than that. Besides, I have struggled for a very long time and it’s hard to change problems that are deeply rooted.

I repeat to myself, I have mental illnesses. The anxiety, panic attacks, dissociation, manic and depressive episodes — they are not my fault.  My thought patterns that trigger anxiety — they are not my fault.

Healing often comes slowly, and it may take me a long time to get better. But it’s not my fault that it’s taking me so long. We all have our own pattern of healing.

Last night, when I fell into a spiral of self-hatred, blaming myself for my mental problems, I texted a friend about how I felt. She responded back in all caps: stop being so hard on yourself.  I laughed when I read it. Yes, I am being hard on myself.

This week, I resolve to be kinder to myself. When I have a panic attack, I will grieve over it instead of calling myself weak. When anxiety overwhelms me, I will not blame myself for it, but rest to recover. When I flip between mania and depression, I won’t get angry with myself for being “out of control,” but simply try to ride the wave. When I dissociate, I won’t blame myself, but will use my coping skills to deal with that moment. When I struggle, I will tell myself, “I have mental illnesses that make things harder.” I am trying to get better. Some days I’m worse, but it’s not my fault. Beating myself up makes everything worse.

This week, I resolve to be kinder to myself. It’s not my fault that I have mental illnesses, and I deserve kindness and grace as I manage them the best I can.

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Unsplash photo via Mario Azzi

Originally published: September 6, 2017
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