This is something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time and I’ve noticed that more people on twitter seem to be struggling with the same thing. Mental Health guilt.
Mental health guilt means feeling guilty that you’re struggling with a mental health issue because you feel like you have nothing to be mentally ill for.
When I first started battling depression & anxiety seriously, I was 17 and in my final year of college completing my A-Levels. I was surrounded by friends who I felt comfortable around. I was sociable in college & performed in every college show. I had a lot of work & was stressed just like everybody else (stress is my main trigger for the depression & anxiety to return).
I’ve never really struggled in school & I’ve always been fairly bright (not bragging but trying to explain the context). My parents have always showed me & my brother love, support, security. They’re still together in a happy marriage, I’ve definitely not had a tricky upbringing.
Financially, I’ve never had to worry about asking for things that I’d like. I wouldn’t always get them but I never had to worry about asking.
I’ve never even actually had anyone close to me who has died. I still have all of my grandparents & even still have a great-nan. I’ve never had to deal with loss.
Basically, from the outside looking in, my life is practically perfect. So what do I have to be depressed about? Who am I to be feeling this way? There are people who have it so much worse than me!
Here is where the mental health guilt comes in.
The over-riding thoughts & feelings that my feelings aren’t valid. That I’m over-reacting. That I’m making it up somehow. Feeling guilty that I have had this seemingly perfect life so I shouldn’t be depressed.
I think the guilt is one of the reasons why I didn’t talk about my mental health for so long. I didn’t want to risk alienating myself from those close to me who knew that physically I had nothing to be depressed about.
Except that’s not how depression & anxiety works.
Anxiety isn’t rational.
Depression lies to you.
Anxiety & depression doesn’t let you see what is going right in your life.
I’m going to tell you something that you need to repeat to yourself whenever you feel the guilt coming through. Your feelings are valid. Just because you haven’t had any trauma doesn’t mean that what you’re feeling isn’t real.
Depression, anxiety and a whole host of other mental health struggles can affect anyone, at any age, at any time. Depression does not discriminate.
The guilt comes in waves but I am starting to gain control on it now that I understand it better. You would never say to yourself ‘I don’t know why I feel so happy when X has it so much better than me’ so why do we tell ourselves the reverse?
I could count my blessings, I could look at the things going right in my life but I was still depressed. If anything, not having a ‘real’ reason to be depressed made me worse. The fact that I knew that from the outside looking in there was no reason to be feeling so dreadful, it alienated me. I withdrew more because I didn’t want anyone to ask me why I was depressed. I didn’t want anyone reinforcing the unhelpful thoughts that I was already plagued with.
Now, I know that depression & anxiety is just a part of how I am. It is not a curable illness, it is remissive. It comes & goes. I no longer obsess over the guilt because I don’t need to make myself feel any worse than the depression already does.
If you find yourself feeling guilty about your mental health, think about how you would react if somebody told you they felt the way you do. Would you tell them that they have no reason? Or would you support them? Don’t deny yourself of support, your illness is real and you don’t need to worry about perceptions.
This post was written as part of Mental Health Monday.