Are you Guilty of Having Guilt?by Susan Moreno on Sep. 19, 2009, under brain disorders, depression, Health, mental illness, PTSD, recovery, schizophrenia, stigma
What are shame and guilt?
Shame and guilt are the:
* Feelings of embarrassment, blame and responsibility for negative circumstances that have befallen yourself or others.
* Feelings of regret for your real or imagined misdeeds, both past and present.
* Sense of remorse for thoughts, feelings or attitudes that were or are negative, uncomplimentary or non-accepting concerning yourself or others.
* Feelings of obligation for not pleasing, not helping or not placating another.
* Feelings of bewilderment and lack of balance for not responding to a situation in the “correct way.”
* Feelings of loss for not having done or said something to someone who is no longer available to you.
* Accepting of responsibility for someone else’s misfortune or problem because it bothers you to see that person suffer.
* Motivators to amend all real or perceived wrongs.
* Strong moral sense of right and wrong that inhibits you from choosing a “wrong” course of action.
* Driving forces or masks behind which irrational beliefs hide.
If you are a family member or loved one of someone who has a mental illness you undoubtedly have experienced one if not all of the feeling listed above. I know I have.
When my son was first diagnosed with a serious mental illness I blamed everything from the flu I had while I was pregnant with him to the bug spray I used in the house when he was growing up. Could it have been my parenting? Was I too permissive or over-protective? Did I spoil him, or not give him enough? Should I have re-married after his father died in a car accident? (one very cruel psychiatric nurse suggested that) Did I not handle the grief properly? (Both my children went to grief counseling) What about the early signs? Did I ignore them or was it that I was just ignorant of the symptoms? Did I get him into treatment early enough?
The questions can go on forever, but now I know something that anyone with a family member with a brain disorder should know……….IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT!!! It never was and it never will be. You certainly cannot blame yourself if mental illness runs in your family. Yes, there is a genetic component, but who says that’s your fault?
All family members of those living with mental illness can do is support and love them. Be encouraging, but don’t pressure. Especially after a serious crisis……it will take your loved one time to heal – just like an injury to the physical body takes time. And, don’t feel guilty because you may have pressured him, quarreled, or not understood what was happening before. Be empathetic and put yourselves in their shoes. Imagine what it must be like to have the rug pulled out from under you and your reality. And, then imagine what it will be like when a sense of balance returns. Your relative is in recovery and he’s able to feel your love and support and you’ve been there to assist him in his journey.
If I’ve said it before, it needs to be repeated. It’s important to educate yourself about mental illness. It’s not an easy road to be on……actually it’s more like a roller coaster with the ups and downs and sometimes terrifying sense of no control. So learn what you can and remember to take care of yourself as well! If you are not doing well and your guilt is making you ill, you can’t be there for your loved one either.