Tag Archives: personal responsibility

Your Mental Illness, Your Responsibility (Part Four): Are Behaviors a Choice?

CompassionateLove Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness   (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

photo-24768393-old-man-raising-his-eye-browWhen we have a mental illness, we still have to own the effects our symptoms and behaviors have on others. If we hurt someone because we were not able to manage well during an episode, our self-proclaimed “I couldn’t help it” does not relieve their pain. For example, while isolation and withdrawal are two common symptoms of major depression, to later say, “I was depressed and that is why I stopped speaking to you” is, in my opinion, disregard for their experience.

That friend or relative paid a dear price for our illness. We owe it to them to acknowledge that. This does not mean begging forgiveness for being ill.

Beyond courtesy, we can ask two questions. Could we have done anything differently? Did we know better in the moment? Not every choice we make while ill is a clear-headed one! We may not have the tools or knowledge to make preferable decisions, or perhaps our illness robs us of reason. However, if the answer to one of these questions is yes, that is a behavior to address.

We learn over time not only how to manage our disease (prevention of relapse), but also how to manage our symptoms. For some, one episode is treated and seems to not reappear.  Others regularly deal with their chronic condition. Recurring episodes, sometimes unpredictable, disrupt our lives, plans, relationships, work, and peace of mind. In this context, changing how we treat others in the process can be a growing experience.

Connie faced her first hospitalization for suicidal thoughts. In her pain, she failed to call home and let everyone know where she was. Her family told her how scary it was for them. A few years later, Connie struggled again and went to the ER. This time, she made herself call home despite every inch of her preferring to hide in bed.

It is important to remember that when we are in episodes of mental illness we are ill and will not function at our best. We are very good at beating ourselves up for that, aren’t we? The “shoulds” berate our hearts.

I’ve learned that talking this out with God and listening for his answer (usually post-episode) may occasionally reveal a sin of my heart – beyond illness – that fed poor choices. This could be something like selfishness or conceit. If this is the case, then asking forgiveness from him, and repenting (changing that attitude) is my next step. No prayer is more daring and rewarding than addressing a sin-sick heart. It is there, in sorrow for the hurt my sin caused God, other people, and myself, that Christ is most near. He lovingly reminds me of the price he already paid on the cross for my guilt, and sets me free of self-condemnation.

Our responsibility is to do what we can, and own the messes we leave behind. This is not carrying guilt for illness. We do not have to grovel for people who want to lay blame on us for their every problem or choice. We never have to apologize for our mental illness. I am saying it is best to validate the experiences of others, and accept it when we have caused harm intentionally or not intentionally.

It’s called making amends. It’s fair, and a compassionately loving thing to do.

photo-24748219-downcast-manToday’s Helpful Word

Psalm 145:18
“The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth.”

-King David struggled with depression and also sin.

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

 

 

Taking Personal Responsibility Despite Addiction

Compassionate Love Blog: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  (c)2016  Nancy Virden, Always the Fight Ministry

I’ve heard a lot of excuses for bad behavior.

I was depressed when I hurt you, so you are being intolerant by leaving me.

You shouldn’t have come to my apartment, then I wouldn’t have had to rape you.

My boss is mean and fired me just because I took too long to eat lunch. 

Porn is not adultery, it’s an addiction. That’s different. 

The latest in “my addiction made me do it” is the story of Andrew Caperson, a Wall Street executive who cheated his family, friends, and trusting investors out of $115 million. He says he is ashamed and acknowledges he hurt people. However, according to The Washington Post, he also says he did it to feed a gambling addiction. “The people I harmed are the people I care about most,” he said. *

Oh, I cringe at that statement.

To give you some idea of Caperson’s financial background, there is a building at Harvard named after his family. By gambling, he blew his $20 million inheritance. Almost any observer could rightfully say he had enough money. So why did he gamble for more?

I do not know Caperson or his exact quotes, as my entire knowledge of the man is from the Washington Post article. Nonetheless, his is an oft-repeated sad-sack tale of good intentions turned sour. I struggle with the idea that one can systematically ruin the lives of people he claims to  “care about most.”

After a fix has lost its original appeal, addiction is a desperate, painful, dark place to live. Addiction may be a reason for poor behavior, but never an excuse. That is not harsh, it is reality. An opportunity to speak with addicts and another opportunity to speak with severely depressed people may be coming up soon. The pain of these sufferers is not foreign to me. I know the desperation and what it is like to not know one’s options.  I care deeply about people in addiction or emotional crisis.

However, my past poor behavior that hurt people is one hundred percent my responsibility. I will never say “depression made me do it” because that invalidates the hurt person’s feelings of injustice, and denies my ability to choose. In my deepest pain, I knew right from wrong. Cognitively, severe depression left me unreasonable. Impulses were harder to fight. Inhibitions were skewed. I still take full responsibility for my decisions.

Ultimately, caring is tender. It is not self-focused and does not rationalize causing another person’s pain.  Any of us may have warm feelings for our parent, child, neighbor, or co-worker, nonetheless caring is not just feelings.  We may worry for these same people and hope they are safe and happy. Still, caring is not just wondering and hoping. We can show remorse for harm we caused those we claim to care about most, however repeated actions usually expose our true heart.

In the eyes of the law, ignorance is no cause for escaping punishment. There is a reason for that. How quick are we to rationalize our questionable decisions? Emotions can rule the day or a moment when we want something bad enough. Crime does not become a “mistake” because it was ongoing and out of control. Addiction is a terrible disease, but for an addict to knowingly or ignorantly cause harm, it is not an excuse. Harm occurred, and the addict must take responsiblity, make amends, and pay restitution when possible.

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COMMENTS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME (see tab below)

NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*A Wall Street Golden Boy Blames Gambling Addiction for $100M Fraud.  Article by Renae Merle – The Washington Post – Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Great Adventure of Moving Your Hairbrush


Compassionate Love: Displaying compassion for those who struggle with mental illness  
(c)2014 Nancy Virden

Ah, admit it. You’ve done it.

You’re tired, your hands are full, you are preoccupied, you just don’t care… any of these reasons and more may be why you kick an item across the floor instead of picking it up immediately.

Today I did that with a delivered package. One second it was outside my door and the next it was inside.  Kick.

I once had a hairbrush that stayed on the floor in a corner where it dropped. Later, seeing it there annoyed me, and a swift kick sent it into a wall near the bathroom. At least that was progress!

Someone said to me, “Nothing changes if nothing changes.” This annoying hairbrush was not going to carry itself to where it belonged! I had to decide what I wanted – a brush on the sink, or a brush on the floor?

Oh, if only the pains and sorrows of situations that do not seem to improve were so easy to fix!  We would all be happy, know it, and clap our hands to show it. In reality, we often need more insight and stamina.

A shortened Serenity Prayer is quoted at 12-step meetings around the world. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

One variation goes like this: God, grant me the serenity to accept the persons I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it is me.”

That hairbrush finally landed where it belongs. I had to make that happen. In the same way,  if more dire circumstances need confronting, resentments forgiven, or relationships mended, I am the one who will have to decide if I want change or to leave the mess as it is. 

What is robbing you of peace? What do you want? You can leave your “hairbrush” where it disrupts your mental health or you can begin to take measures to move it.

Go ahead, give it a kick.

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NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.

*picture from qualitystockphotos