Bipolar disorder is not your fault. Schizophrenia is not your fault. Depression is not your fault. You did nothing to deserve a mental illness. You are a good person and being sick does not affect that. Mental illness landed on you and started eating away at your brain. It could have happened to anyone. You had nothing to do with it. Mental illness is not your fault.
Now, why would I spend an entire post saying something that people should already know is true? That’s easy. That’s because it doesn’t feel true. It feels like it’s your fault if you have bipolar disorder. It feels like it’s your fault if you have a serious mental illness. It feels like your fault that you are sick. These feelings may not reflect the situation accurately, but they are genuine feelings that people with mental illness experience every day.
What Did I Do to Deserve Bipolar Disorder?
There is a trite and childish notion that is perpetuated by many that people get what they deserve. Like attracts like. Good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people. This must be true, otherwise why put in all the work to be good at all?
But the thing is, logic and experience show us this isn’t true. Thinking that you can control what happens to you just by being a “good person” is magical thinking. Nuns who have devoted their entire lives to helping others get cancer. Innocent children starve to death. Single parents working three jobs and barely making ends meet get killed, leaving their children orphans. These things just happen to people. And these terrible things do not reflect upon the people. Cancer, starvation, and death speak to life and not to the value of the individuals who befell those circumstances. Wrong place, wrong time. Right time, wrong body. It’s the dice the universe throws you at work. Those people did nothing to deserve what happened to them. People with mental illness do nothing to deserve what happens to them either.
You did nothing to deserve bipolar disorder, you just got unlucky. Sorry.
Why Does Mental Illness Feel Like My Fault?
I blame our society for people feeling like their mental illness is their fault. I suppose it comes down to the fact that people look down on people with mental illness (this is stigma and prejudice at work). If you’re looked down upon, you start to feel less than others. Moreover, we tend to internalize stigma and prejudice.
We often call this self-stigma where we look down upon ourselves the same way society does. It’s the power of repetition. If you’re told, tacitly or otherwise, over and over that you’re deficient, you start to believe it about yourself. And in society, our own deficiencies are our fault. But mental illness is not a deficiency. A deficiency is not being able to control your road rage. A deficiency is yelling at your partner over nothing. A deficiency is a lack of kindness. Bipolar disorder, depression, etc. is not a deficiency. It’s an illness. And illnesses are never your fault.
And let’s not forget the ridiculous notion that people with mental illness, even serious mental illness like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, can just “snap out of it” if they really want to. Of course, this isn’t true either, but that idea makes us blame ourselves further. Like, if we just tried harder we wouldn’t be sick, thus the mental illness is our fault.
Fighting Back When You Feel Like Bipolar Disorder, Depression, etc. Is Your Fault
The really, really important thing is to not buy into any of the thoughts and ideas that are driven by stigma and prejudice. Mental illness is not your fault. Bipolar disorder is not your fault. Depression is not your fault. Schizophrenia is not your fault. Say that as often as you need to. Write it on a sticky note and put it in your mirror. Sing it to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” every morning. Do whatever it takes to remind yourself that you are not deficient. You did nothing wrong. You do not deserve to be judged for something that you didn’t ask for and isn’t your fault. You were unlucky. That is all.