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When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Odds are, if you have depression, you see somebody you don’t like. You may even hate the person you see. There’s also a good chance you see a scapegoat to blame for many of your problems.
Do you feel compassion? Do you feel love? There’s a good chance you don’t. Depression makes it very difficult to feel much of anything, especially when you are in the thick of it. Except for blame, for some reason, that can shine through the numbness.
But blaming ourselves and others for our problems only leads to more depression. Thankfully, therapy taught me the difference, and now I want to share that with you so you can try and alleviate depression and improve your situation. I want to help you shift your vantage point from one of blame to one of responsibility.
Like many people, my childhood was difficult. My mother raised me alone while also suffering from depression. So, for my whole life, I’ve dealt with this illness in one form or another. Sometimes it was manageable, but often it wasn’t. And, when things were dark, I never saw myself as worthy of anything but blame and contempt.
As many of us do, I put on my happy face. I wore a mask for the world while dying on the inside because my brain eventually convinced me that everyone would be better off without me. This cycle happened several times throughout my life.
My last night of wanting to commit suicide was in the winter of 2004, and it is one of the best things that ever happened to me. I have, not once, had a suicidal urge since. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for that experience now.
All that night, my will to leave this planet was fighting with that little tiny bit of survival instinct that was somehow left inside. I made it to the morning, where I promptly called a local outpatient therapy program for depression and PTSD. I found it online while trying to ride out my crisis.
The program thankfully started that day. It was intense with several group therapy sessions plus one individual meeting every week. I forced myself to participate. I had this overcoming will to get better and, to do that, I knew I had to be brutally honest with myself and with my therapists. This attitude opened me up to receive one of the best things I ever learned.
We blame ourselves a lot when we suffer from depression. But we also blame other people. Blame is just thrown around like confetti. It feels right. It feels justified, even when it’s destructive. With mental illness, blame becomes a security blanket and just another way our brain distorts things.
You must know that blame is the wrong direction to go, it’s unproductive, judgmental and always negative.
As I continued therapy, I realized it only fuels the fires of depression. Once I finally woke up and learned about blame’s adverse effects, I dropped the ‘security’ blanket that was suffocating me.
We need to stop blaming other people, and we especially need to stop blaming ourselves. It teaches you nothing and leaves you paralyzed in self-doubt and worthlessness.
First, to break our dependence on blame, we must own up to our actions, and the way we respond to things because that is how we learn and grow.
You can’t control what happens to you, but you do have control over how you respond, blaming others often leads us to forget our responsibility.
But taking responsibility is not that same as blame.
When we take responsibility, we do it with objectivity, and we forgive ourselves. We come from a place of being proactive and ready to change our lives positively. Taking responsibility is uplifting whereas blame is negative and self-harming.
Taking responsibility shows us how we can do things differently and change our course. There is always something we can learn from any situation. If somebody did something wrong to you, think about how you got there. Does your low self-worth attract those people? Do your defensive reactions create unintended drama?
Obviously, I’m not talking about taking responsibility for the horrible actions of others. But we’re trying hard to find ways to better ourselves and work through our struggles. That means we have to mine for gold despite the difficulties in our lives.
It is powerful to know that you can change your reactions, to recognize that you do have some control despite your illness. You have the power to change the people you let into your life. You can also alter how you see yourself. Sure, it won’t be easy at first but just recognizing that some sort of change is even doable, can give you strength.
Like with most things, the more you do it, the better you get at it (and the more you learn about yourself in the process). It is an empowering snowball effect that changes your life. It won’t necessarily eliminate your depression, but it does wonders to help manage your psyche and find the strength you already have deep within you.
Through this process, you start to discover hope. Hope is a marvelous thing, especially for those who suffer from depression. Anyone struggling with this illness knows that feeling of hopelessness all too well. When we build ourselves up by taking responsibility, by taking control, we allow ourselves to get closer to that hope. And hope is the difference between feeling like it will never get better and knowing that it will. And, in many cases, hope is the difference between defeat and survival.
Blame will always take you further away from hope because it perpetuates the feeling that the world is against you. The more you let that happen, your hope (and self-worth) spirals out of your grasp, and you fall further down the hole.
But, once you know the power of responsibility, that blame security blanket doesn’t feel so secure to you anymore. You re-discover your ability to see things clearly and move forward despite the pain.
By taking responsibility and avoiding blame, you take control of your life and see the world from a place of hope rather than blame (and shame). You deserve to live with hope and optimism. We all do.