- The fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law.
- A feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
- Conduct involving the commission of such crimes, wrongs, etc.
Now I can give you my definition of guilt. Poop that keeps building up in your head until you have reached maximum level.
I am of the belief that when dealing with mental health issues, guilt is prevalent. I spent many years consumed by it. We can live it, breathe it. It’s not like the act is done and we can move on. Each time we drag someone through a depression episode: guilt. Each time we lose control of our anger: guilt. Then just when we think we may have accepted what we have done and tried to move on: another episode and more guilt. It is a fr!@#$ circus ride and there seems to be no way to get off. We just keep riding around and around.
I spent a long time in a state of psychosis. Of course, at the time I could not distinguish between right or wrong, so how could I feel guilty? If I may jump topics here for a minute, during that time I was on my own. I had no one to talk to and my psychiatrist knew nothing. Also myself nor my family knew anything about my illness. Maybe if we had we could have recognized the dangers. The point I want to make is that knowledge of your illness is power! Learn about yourself, begin to understand yourself and you will be able to gain control over your illness rather than letting it control you.
Back to guilt. Once I began getting better and regaining some control over my mind, I was mortified! How could I have done what I did to my family to me? The damage had been done. I had no way of going back for a re-do. My guilt was holding me back from moving forward because I lived in the past. I could not break free from it. Silence or quiet times were my enemies. Over and over in my mind I would replay every screw up…at least the ones I could remember. It was like I had started walking down a new path but then ran into a brick wall! I was stopped cold.
One of the biggest challenges I faced was when writing my memoir. I had to rehash all of it. The point of the book was to show people the reality of bipolar disorder and to offer hope because of how far I have come. This meant putting in black and white as many mistakes as I could remember. Then to add insult to injury, I re-wrote the damn thing 5 times! So if I did not feel crappy the first time I had 4 other chances to wreck real havoc on my brain. To say there has not been a dull moment in my life during the 4 years it has taken me to complete the book is a true understatement!
Before I reached my now state of “recovery” or “remission” what ever it should be called…I stayed on that circus ride which I thought would be permanent. I had no hope that there would ever be a point where I could jump off and stand on my own feet. If I tried I got swooped up again. I would be wrapped in guilt about what I put my husband though when the depression came. There was no chance to recover. Another one would come and as I said in my definition, it just keeps piling and piling until my brain was full of poop!
The more time that passed the more time I had to feel guilty about. Then I came to a place that I now find myself living in. Wonderful…yes! Also tragic. I was then fully aware and conscious of all I had done. The realization was overwhelming as my mind became clearer. It was almost like the better I got the worst I felt. Part of the reason it has taken me so long to write the book is because of the different stages I was at with my bipolar disorder but also because I had to take time away because I could not handle going back. It was just too painful and it choked me with guilt.
I will refer again to what I said about understanding your illness. I had no idea why I did the things I did. I passed it off as pure insanity something extremely defective with me. My doctor had given a name to what I had but I was clueless as to what it meant. That had to be the point where my way of thinking began to change. Once I knew what I was dealing with. When I could look back and say…”ohhh shit now I know why I did that!” It is not because we are rotten people. Often quite the opposite. It is an illness. That means some of the bad stuff is out of our control.
If I had cancer and was undergoing chemotherapy, I would feel bad that my hubby had to take care of me and that I was not capable of doing things like I used to. But would I blame myself? Don’t think so. I mean aside from being a smoker all your life and getting lung cancer we really do not have complete control over our health. We can take such good care of ourselves yet it still happens. We become very ill. Am I going to blame myself? Again doubt it. I know people who did not listen to their doctor and end up having a heart attack. I still have never heard one of them complain about being overwrought with guilt. So why do we continue to carry all the baggage?
The more I understood myself and the more I discovered others with similar issues, the more I was able to let go of the past. I have done what I could to fix some of the damage but the rest had to be thrown away. There was nothing I was going to do that could change my actions. I also accepted that it was never deliberate. I did not set out to consciously destroy my family. I do however now understand how it happened and that does help.
I am not going to say I have completely moved past it. The final re-write I did of the book was still difficult. It still hurts and that is a scar that will stay. But I do not let it over take me. I do not get so caught up in it that it destroys my present. I think that is the key. Trying to just stay focused on the present and accepting life…accepting ourselves. I know I have made this statement many times but the one thing I always keep in my mind whether it be past or present…psychosis or recovery…I am doing the best I can! Please do not demand any more of yourself!