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.