The Guilt from Mental Illness

the word "blame' written as hands pointing fingers at a head silhouette showing the brain

Plenty of people try to make you feel guilty for not functioning well regardless of your mental illness. What they don’t know is that you already feel guilty for not doing well. Not succeeding at being normal. There’s a guilt from mental illness that isn’t talked about enough.

Mine is strongest when my depression and/or anxiety have affected my work or people I care about.

  • Not being able to focus or think well enough to be as productive as I should be at work
  • Not having the emotional strength or courage to face social gatherings
  • Not having the control or calm to return texts or answer calls

I struggle most with exhaustion, focus/thinking problems, and unreliable emotional extremes. One of the things that makes those symptoms worse is interacting with other people, especially in person. So when my problems are peaking, I hide away from other people. I stop socializing and avoid gatherings as much as possible. Because…

  1. seeing people is exhausting at all times for me, and I don’t have the spare energy to make it through pretending to be well on top of that.
  2. And the things people talk about and the stuff going on right now aggravate my problems, so I leave social gatherings feeling even more depressed, upset, anxious, and/or suicidal. It’s hard enough to deal with normal levels of depression and anxiety without amping them up!

It’s not that I don’t miss people or don’t want to do things – or not all of me doesn’t. That’s the real problem.

A mind suffering from a mental illness is like a country at war. Different factions struggle for different goals, but so long as the depression/anxiety party holds control, the things the others cry to do don’t happen.

But that lack of control spurs the guilt. I’m supposed to be in control of my mind and my body. And because I can’t, I’m letting other people down. I’m abandoning friends and family by not socializing with them. I’m letting down my coworkers and managers by not getting as much done as I should. I’m not doing the things at home that I should do to be a responsible adult.

Shoulds and supposed tos are really, really, incredibly good at causing guilt. And I have yet to meet a person with mental illness who doesn’t have a bag full of them.

So I guess what I’m saying is that guilt from mental illness is built in. Resist deliberately adding to it.

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