Some of Your Pain is Your Fault

You know you are not to blame for your mental health problems. Mental illness is not caused by bad karma or bad decisions. However, some of the pain caused by your mental health issues is your fault. You were/are complicit in your own pain. And you have to learn to forgive yourself.

Here are some things you might have done to cause yourself pain:

  • Avoided getting help for your mental health problems.
  • Pretended you were fine, when you were suffering.
  • Ignored phone calls and messages from friends because you were too scared or sad or numb or angry or jealous or ashamed or whatever to face them.
  • Overeaten in attempts to block out your emotions.
  • Starved yourself in attempts to block out your emotions or achieve perfection.
  • Neglected your studies because it was easier to procrastinate than face the possibility that you could do your best and still fail to live up to your (or someone else’s) expectations.
  • Walked away from jobs because you didn’t have the strength to fight your corner.
  • Slept with people you regret sleeping with.
  • Shut yourself off from relationships or even the opportunity to date people.
  • Cut yourself because it gave you temporary relief.
  • Stayed at home when you might have enjoyed going out.
  • Used drugs or alcohol in attempts to make yourself feel better.
  • Lashed out at someone you love because you were angry or in pain.

You can probably think of dozens of your own examples. The indelible fact is that you have caused some of your pain.

Another fact is that you deserve to be forgiven. You must forgive yourself. By not forgiving yourself, you are prolonging your pain. Forgiving yourself allows you to move on. It helps you to avoid pain in the future. It teaches you that you don’t have to accept the pain that you cause yourself. Some pain in life is inevitable – we get ill, we lose jobs, loved ones die – but you can choose to avoid causing yourself pain.

You will not be 100% successful. You will slip up and cause yourself pain on some occasions. When that happens, you need to forgive yourself again and move on. It’s hard to face up to your own complicity in your pain, but it’s something you must do in order to get past the pain.

Depending on your personal situation, you may need professional help in order to do this; avoiding getting help is one of the most common ways those of us with mental health problems cause ourselves pain. Reach out to anyone you can – your doctor, a therapist, a friend, a family member, a charity, a helpline. Just reach out. Read back through the bullet points and observe how all of the ways we cause ourselves pain are the opposite of reaching out. They are about avoiding genuine connections with our emotions and with other people. The antidote to pain is connection.

WTF Does Resurfacing and Rewriting Mean?

Resurfacing and Rewriting? What do those verbs have in common? They define the processes of recovering from mental illness: striving to get out of the depths of despair and reassessing your life. Reconnecting with the world and reclaiming your story. Because your life is a story and you can change it; you can create a new story.

Stories are not set in stone. They are retold and adapted. They are expanded and edited. Years of mental illness (anxiety, depression and borderline personality disorder) convinced me that my story was a tragedy. I thought I would die before I turned 30 and I believed that I would never achieve anything. Guess what? I turned 31 last month and I have done many things that I thought were impossible for me – learning to drive, earning a degree, getting a short story published.

I don’t want to over-simplify my continuing recovery. It has taken me years of medication and talking therapies to get to the point where I can help myself. However, a major part of the recovery process is learning about the power of the stories you tell about yourself. You can’t change your past, but you can edit it. You can choose to pay more attention to some parts of your story than others. You can pick the main characters, who will have the most influence on your future. You have to decide what you want your story to be – and then start to create your story.

Hence Resurfacing and Rewriting. I want this blog to inspire and encourage you to own your story. To show you that you are not alone; that recovery from mental illness is neither linear nor logical, but it can be fun and fulfilling. I want to help break down the stigma which still surrounds mental health issues and rewrite the story, telling everyone that people with mental illnesses are valuable and should be valued. Most of all, I want to prove that recovery is possible. I have no idea if I will succeed and I’m terrified, but I want my story to be about a woman who overcomes mental illness and learns to be happy. And who kicks some arse along the way!