The Connection Between Mental Illness and Guilt
Guilt. I hate that word. I hate the feelings that attach itself to it and the times in which I felt that my mental illness, the actions resulting from it, hurt other people. Hurting those I loved felt like the worse sort of guilt. Like being punched in the stomach and unable to breathe. Guilt is not just a word nor a feeling: When you live with a mental illness it can come to define your life. It can become dangerous.
What is the Definition of Guilt?
"Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes or believes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a moral standard, and bears significant responsibility for that violation. It is closely related to the concept of remorse."
Alright, that makes sense, it looks correct on paper but it feels a heck of a lot different...
Why Might We Feel Guilt When We Live With a Mental Illness?
- Your behavior, pre-diagnosis or when working to become well, hurt people you love.
- You may feel may feel that the diagnosis of mental illness will scare people away.
- You may need to apologize to people you love, or to employers, and it's difficult to explain that your actions were, in part, a result of an untreated illness.
- Simply being told you have a chronic illness causes feelings of guilt and shame.
The reasons why those of us who live a mental illness feel guilt are numerous and it can be hard to figure out why we feel the way we feel, but we can take time to figure out how we can move away from the emotion and embrace our life and work to recover. Self-care can be exceptionally helpful when working through feelings of guilt.
Using Self-Care to Recover From Feelings of Guilt
It's important to point out that everyone has feelings of guilt from time to time. It allows us to feel humility and work through our problems, but when recovering from mental illness guilt can take on a life of its own and self-care can help us move on.
Throughout my journey with mental illness I have used self-care practices such as:
- Sitting down and exploring why I feel guilt. Is it because I feel I have hurt people? If so, how can I work to recover the relationships?
- Talking to other people. My mental health care team, family and friends. More often than not they tell me my feelings are a little misplaced. Sure, my feelings are normal but, they tell me, they have recovered from them and moved on.
- Learning to accept the feelings of guilt and move past them.
It's a complicated feeling but working to understand it allows us to recover from our mental illness.
Champagne, N. (2012, October 25). The Connection Between Mental Illness and Guilt, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, July 18 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/recoveringfrommentalillness/2012/10/the-connection-between-mental-illness-and-guilt