Who knows why some people get illnesses–like cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and other illness–and others don’t? Scientists and doctors try to find links to why people get ill. They have theories, but no absolute answers. We ourselves question why. We ask, why me? What have I done wrong? I try to stay healthy, I exercise, I try to eat right, and so on. How could this happen to me? People with mental illness have similar thoughts. Sometimes they feel they brought their own illness on themselves. They blame themselves for having an illness they have no control over.
When I was suffering from my illness, I lay awake in bed at night staring up at the ceiling and trying to figure out what I did to cause my illness. Did I put the awful thoughts in my mind? Did I do something that caused my mental illness? Maybe I’m making myself sick. Maybe my sadness isn’t real. Maybe my illness was a figment of my imagination and I was just using it for attention, but if that was the case, why couldn’t I stop it?
I’d twist around in bed trying to figure out how I was causing my illness. There were plenty of others walking around with smiles on their faces and laughing like they didn’t have a care in the world. How come they could be happy and all I felt was sadness? Did I do something to make God punish me? Did I lie about something, did I cheat someone, did I break one of God’s commandments, or maybe I wasn’t a good person?
I screamed into the silent night, “What did I do wrong? God, please tell me what I did to cause my illness and I’ll make it right.”
There never was an answer. I just lay in bed fighting my racing thoughts and anguish. My insides twisted into knots and sleep became impossible. If I wasn’t to blame for my misery, who was? In my distorted thoughts I could find no one to hold responsible for my inner pain but myself. I even thought maybe I deserved to suffer. I wasn’t a good Christian. I hated God. I stopped going to church. I questioned his existence. I thought maybe God was like Santa, make believe. I made God mad, therefore causing him to give me an awful illness.
There I had the proof I was to blame for my mental illness. I came up with my own evidence to convict myself. My sentence was a life of inner anguish, deep sadness, emotional episodes, getting sick to my stomach, sleepless nights and inner pain so deep nothing seemed to ease it but hurting myself. I didn’t even get a trial or a chance to prove my innocence. I was automatically thrown down into a dark endless hole.
It wasn’t until I started going to therapy that I found out I was all wrong. My therapist told me I had an illness that could have been caused by many factors, such as the harassment I received in school, by inheritance or a chemical imbalance in my brain. She told me I didn’t cause my illness and no one could really know why I had it while others didn’t. Just like no one knew why one person had cancer and another didn’t. Maybe we’ll never know why. It’s just one of those things. She told me by no means was I to blame for my illness and my illness was real, not something I made up.
In time I started going to church, and with the help of a friend, I asked God back into my life. I realized God was never punishing me and even though I turned my back on him he was always there. He waited patiently for me to come back to him and he kept me going when I didn’t think I could. He kept me alive when I tried to take my life. He was never mad at me for questioning his existence, and even though I did, he stayed beside me.
Once I reached recovery, he helped me use my illness to write this blog, to write for a website, to write inspirational quotes for a web page, and to write my memoir to help others. I turned my back on him and he forgave me. He has opened doors for me. I use my experiences to help and reach others suffering with similar problems. I didn’t suffer for no reason. Now I have a purpose. I suffered to inspire, help, and teach others. Despite what I have done, God was there for me and still is.
If you’re blaming yourself for your mental illness, stop. You’re not to blame. You didn’t do anything wrong. Once you accept that there are natural and environmental causes that are out of your hands for your sickness, then you can move forward. Let yourself off the hook. Accept your illness as something you didn’t cause and move towards recovery. No one is to blame for your illness, but you can be the one to overcome it by fighting to climb out of the hole and standing in the light.
Now that I know I’m not to blame for my illness, I can stand in God’s light and the gleaming light of recovery with joy.