This is a tough one, especially for anyone out there struggling with mental illness.
Whether you’re just coming to grips with your issues, or in the throngs of recovery, I’m sure you, like myself, sometimes struggle with the guilt and shame of knowing you’ve hurt people in the past.
So many times we did these things unintentionally, and were often wholly unaware we were doing it. We were just living our lives the best we could; following our intrinsic programming, and reacting to various stimuli the only way we could at the time.
The truth is, we shouldn’t beat ourselves up for this kind of thing. One of my main mantras these days is “You don’t know what you don’t know, and thus you’re not responsible for what you did in a state of ignorance.” Basically, if you hurt someone emotionally in an anxious, depressed, jealous, etc. rage due to issues you were unaware of, then you shouldn’t kick yourself for acting inappropriately. You really didn’t know any better. You, for better or worse, were operating on your default setting, and to an extent, weren’t in control.
What we said and did while unaware of things we needed to work on is indeed unfortunate, but the truth is, whether we meant to or not, real damage was done, and we have to allow people their right to grieve and process things in their own way. Its completely up to them how they react. Maybe it means a relationship with a friend or family member will be strained or cut off temporarily, or even indefinitely. While this is a bitter pill to swallow, it does help us to come to terms with our thoughts and actions, and give us further motivation to behave differently in the future. Some people may come back around in the future, if we’re fortunate. I can attest to this from personal experience. Once you’ve demonstrated a sincere change, you may get another shot. Just be advised that this could take a long time, and the relationship will still take a lot of time and effort to rebuild. Sometimes said relationships even turn out to be stronger than they were before. Sometimes though, the damage is done, people you’ve wronged will not return, and you just have to let them go. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve done this ourselves with others many times. Its part of the human condition. Just always remember that everything we experience in life, good and bad, teaches us something valuable about the world and ourselves, and if we allow ourselves to learn from it, we’ll be much better off, and have a better shot at improving things in the future.
To end on a more positive note, the good news is this: Even though some relationships will meet an untimely demise, there will always be opportunities to forge new ones. These new friendships and relationships have the potential to be the best of our lives, so we owe it to ourselves to learn from our mistakes, and apply these lessons to the people that enter our lives going forward. Just because we had a bad run in the past does NOT mean we have to continue that way. The knowledge and experience is ours, and we’ve paid a hefty price for it. We owe it to ourselves, and the memory of those we’ve wronged to make the most of it, and treat everyone we come across in the future to the best version of ourselves.
Thanks as always for reading, and be sure to check out my main blog for more musings on life and relationships with mental illness.
Take care gang, and have a great rest of the week.