Mental illness and guilt go hand and hand in my experience. Whenever the black dog rears its ugly, scraggy head along comes the accompanying guilt, and it’s about as welcome as a wasps nest at a summer barbecue.
But why do feel so guilty just for being unwell? More so, why do we feel so guilty just for prioritising self-care over other activities? Why do we beat ourselves up for, just for once, putting our own well-being and happiness before that of everybody else?
Take my day today as an example. Besides taking my partner to work this morning the early things I’ve done today have been to write a couple of blog posts, eat an enormous lunch and binge watch 3 consecutive episodes of 13 Reasons Why.
On paper it looks like I’ve been sat on my arse all day being incredibly lazy. But in reality I’ve actually spent my daytime hours practising self-care. Take the writing of the blog posts for starters. I could quite easily have got my laptop and sat in bed to write them. But in fact I actually packed my laptop up and drove down to the local library, which by doing so required me to get out of bed, take a shower, do all of my ablutions and make an effort with what I was wearing. I then went and sat in a public place, amongst other people in a relaxing environment. Ideal conditions for squeezing all of those thoughts out of my mind and onto a document, and a good way to take care of my own mental well-being.
When I got home from the library I flung the back doors open, (Never underestimate the importance of fresh air) and proceeded to cook myself a decent meal. It’s all too easy when you’re feeling exhausted from your illness and the daily cocktail of meds to take the easy route when it comes to food and head for McDonalds or sling a pizza in the oven. But I looked after myself by preparing meat and various vegetables for my main meal of the day, all of which will do wonders for both my physical and mental well-being.
Then I spent the following three hours lounging on the sofa watching 13 Reasons Why. Now you could look at that as me just being lazy. Though I personally would look at it as “Escapism” rather than sheer laziness.
The thing with mental illness is that it makes your mind incredibly active 99.9% of the time. So it’s nice sometimes to just switch off and get lost in another world where your own problems don’t matter. Reading a book would’ve had the same effect, as would playing a video game. I chose today to binge watch a TV series. So should I feel guilty for doing so?
No. Not at all.
Nobody should ever feel guilty for looking after themselves and their own well-being. Yes, it’s good to think about other people but you are just as, if not more important.
Sometimes it’s good to be selfish.
Don’t ever feel guilty for putting yourself first.