Every time I go through a difficult period of depression this question plagues my mind; am I a burden?
Many of us who live with mental illness struggle with feelings of guilt. It seems to be intrinsically linked to how we perceive ourselves and it stalks our daily lives. Often I feel like I am worthless, and a burden to the people who care for me. Recently I have been severely depressed and these thoughts have emerged to the forefront of my mind.
Family and friends will say to me, “There is nothing to feel guilty for.” “You can’t help feeling ill.” I know these things, but it doesn’t take away the negative thoughts. Like I’ve already said, it is a part of my depression. There is a voice, always, telling me I’m not good enough, that I’m undeserving of love and happiness. It is almost impossible to ignore this internal voice when it follows you everywhere. Guilt is synonymous with mental ill health. We are constantly judging ourselves for being wrapped up in our own life and thoughts, and for taking up other people’s time and energy.
I don’t want to feel guilty for being ill. I don’t enjoy feeling this way. I don’t encourage feelings of guilt or want sympathy.
The pressure that is put on us by society to appear well, to not talk about negative feelings or suicidal thoughts impacts our judgement. We hide how we truly feel from the people closest to us, in the fear that we are burdening them with too great a responsibility. Our illnesses cause us to self destruct and to not seek help and support. It causes us to damage our relationships; sometimes irreparably. Mental illness is not on our side and it isn’t our friend. Yet we feed and nurture our relationship to it by staying silent.
Then there are the times when we do open ourselves up and we are told “Actually yes, this is too much for me to deal with.” Or worse yet, we are met with silence or ignored. When we are surrounded by genuine caring individuals, that voice in our heads reminds us of those difficult times; when we felt lost and alone, and we convince ourselves it will happen all over again. So again we stay silent.
Although the internal voice is still there, telling me I’m not worthy of help and I’m dragging people down with me, I’m no longer silent. I tell people that I’m mentally ill right now and yes, I’m struggling with the idea of telling people exactly what is going through my mind. Most of the time I’m met with love and support. However, people close to me do struggle with my mental illness, and they tell me so. I have learnt that this isn’t the end of the world. I have to acknowledge that it isn’t easy for them. Seeing me so poorly all they want is for me to tell them about some magical cure I know about which will fix everything forever. They want me so desperately to give them the answer only because they care about me. It isn’t because I’m a burden. My role is to tell them there isn’t one; but listening to me and offering practical support truly does help.
I would hate for the people I care about to never be honest with me, to live their lives tiptoeing around my feelings. So now we have these difficult conversations and we do get upset and we do cry, but we accept how each of us is feeling. We move forward together and learn how to cope with mental illness a bit better each time.