Having a chronic illness means that you see it and feel it for the grand majority of your life. Sometimes it’s visible to the public and at other times it’s hidden beneath your skin. You become so used to it that you don’t necessarily see what life was like before it. But there’s one thing that’s always lingering there – self-blame. So today, whatever you are living with, whatever your “thing” is, put your self-blame on hold when you finish reading. Maybe it’s only going to last for a day, but I hope that you can remember the words on this screen and remind yourself when you’re feeling low and shitty about yourself.
The opposite of self-blame is self-acceptance. Blaming yourself indicates that you expect yourself to be some kind of perfect, and when you’re not, you become ashamed and guilty for failing. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s important to learn how to manage your expectations (see the blog post here). Self acceptance is a component to managing your expectations… AKA accepting that you are human and you are not perfect. Sorry not sorry.
Now repeat after me: You are human and you have flaws and sometimes you’re shitty and you suck and other times you’re a damn saint and like, the best person ever. Let’s be honest, your self-blame might be happening with or without a mental illness because you just have a type-A personality. Umm… like me. Unfortunately, your mental illness is the big easy target to pin your perfectionist tendencies on. Yes, I can preach this right now but I do it all the time.
How do you live in your skin? How do you stop this cycle of self-blame, shame, and guilt? I’ve personally accepted that most people are mean and they wouldn’t stick around if they didn’t like you enough, including your flaws and all. Thanks Beyonce. However, you also might think, “They just feel bad for me and they don’t actually care/love me.” In some cases that might be true but you’ll never be able to test them to know that, no matter how clever you think your pop quizzes are. Your tests might only prove to be true because it is the very thing that is pushing them away. Remember last week’s blog post? If you forgot, you can click here to read it.
Your self-blame and guilt is fostered by all the stuff that happens behind closed doors. For example, my husband might skip going to the gym just incase I’m not stable yet. Or he might make up an excuse to miss a social event or meeting because he knows I need him even though I don’t ask for it. I don’t know about you but for me, it feels so shameful to be an adult and needing someone, depending on someone. And by that I mean having someone to dress and undress you when you’re chained to your bed because of anxiety and depression. Or having someone constantly encouraging you to do all the seemingly basic things in life, like eating, showering, or just peeing, because you’re still in shackles from anxiety and depression. It suddenly feels like I’m somebody else’s burden.”
I begin to snap out of this when I take ownership of my journey. I stop questioning why certain people are their in my life, and start focusing on healing myself and becoming the person that I want to be again. Of course I’ve given myself the time swim in my self-deprecating thoughts. But when enough is enough, I have to kick up my heels and move on. I celebrate the little victories for all the things I’ve been doing for myself to get better. Even if it’s putting together a PB&J sandwich, or cutting an apple, or setting out my clothes for work the next day.
Eliminating self-blame = appreciating all the little things you can do for yourself. Because self-acceptance = accepting you’ve just got me myself and I (can you tell I love Beyonce?). Everyone else is on the sidelines of your marathon to cheer you on and hand you cups of water when you look damn sweaty. Hold on to those small victories when you feel empty and have nothing left in yourself. Take everything in small strides and you’ll get there eventually. It sounds ambiguous but what do you have to lose when it feels like you’ve got nothing left anyways?
No matter what the reason is, self-acceptance is the only button you can push to place all these negative feelings on hold. It’s accepting that your mental illness is part of your identity, but it’s not all that you are.
My last tip is this: write down everything that you are because you are so much more than a medical label and diagnosis. Sometimes we need concrete proof like this to appreciate ourselves and who we are. You’ll always be connected to your mental illness. You’ll always have this thing that can physically or emotionally stop you from being able to work at somebody else’s pace. But you are not that somebody. You are you and you’ll appreciate life from a different perspective than that somebody who is living without your battles. You have this magic power to connect to people; to feel other people’s emotions. You are emotionally intelligent and aware.
And really, to be normal is the exception.
P.S. I’m super excited to announce that tomorrow is October and it’ll be Happy SAD month here (SAD: Seasonal Affective Disorder.) ALL. OCTOBER. LONG. Starting Friday of course – New blog posts every Friday between 12 to 1PM Eastern time. Don’t miss a beat in October by subscribing down below! Your e-mails are completely private and not shared to anyone else. See ya soon!