As I wrote last time, I consider about 95% of the time we spend feeling guilty wasted time. I have suggested that guilt does no one any good and instead of sitting around feeling guilty, we should try to make amends for whatever it is about which we feel guilty.
But how does one make amends?
Mental Illness and Mind-Reading
One of the problems I constantly see in relationships involving a person with a mental illness is a lack of communication. A person will write to me and tell me all of what has happened and their feelings about it and yet when it comes to their friends, family or partner, they don’t. They hide things and they most especially don’t talk about their feelings.
Part of this is that we expect people who know us to read our minds (whereas people don`t expect that of me). No, consciously we know people aren’t mind-readers but sometimes we sure act like they are.
And one of the things people can’t read the very most is mental illness. Consider your life before the illness. Would you have understood what you are feeling today? Would you have been able to put yourself in your own shoes? Would you have been able to understand mental illness?
The answer to these questions is probably not. So how do you expect your partner (or family or friends) to?
Mental Illness and Communication
So one of the most powerful things you can do to beat back an illness that’s dying to stay in the dark is to talk about it. Specifically, talk about how you’re feeling. If you’re feeling guilty for something – say so! Apologize! Take responsibility! This single step can go a long way to repairing relationship issues. You can’t assume the other person knows you feel guilty and that you’re sorry if you don’t say so. It’s just not fair. Expecting someone to empath what you’re thinking and feeling isn’t fair.
Making Amends and Mental Illness
And so, making amends start with communication of feelings and then working out a solution from there. If you’re feeling guilty about racking up credit card debt while in a manic phase, maybe you can work out a payment schedule. If you missed your anniversary because you were in the hospital, maybe you can work out another night to celebrate. And so on. Making amends is about coming up with a plan that works for you and your partner (friend, family member) and you can’t possibly make that plan without talking to them honestly.
Will the other person forgive you? Maybe, maybe not. But at least you’ve done your part to work the problem rather than just stew on it.