Since I started to write about my life experiences and journey with mental illness, I have had a variety of responses to my experiences from friends and family. That’s not surprising. Often I reminded them of things that had happened in the past, people who had been in our lives, and often too, they have also gained a different perspective to our shared histories.
“I wish there was something I/we could have done”
“I wonder if I/we could have helped”
“Perhaps I/we could have protected you”
Sometimes their responses were affirming for me, but other times I admit I wished I hadn’t written it in the first place, because now it seemed that some were holding guilt for something past (whether or not it might be warranted). It’s hard, because it wasn’t something I was seeking. For most of the bad things that happened along the way, I wasn’t consciously blaming others, although I know that, mostly, unconsciously there was a conversation going on in my head of “if only“.
“If only it could have been different”
“If only someone had been there”
“If only someone had protected me”
But ‘if only‘ didn’t happen. Or perhaps if ‘if only‘ had happened then I wouldn’t have been writing about it.
For that conversation in my head, I have had to travel a journey of forgiveness and letting go. Sometimes it has been easier than others, and I admit I am far from completely through that journey. Sometimes I think I’ve got there, but then it hits back and I know I have more work to do.
Perhaps the bigger battle though, has been the statement that I see now that I have spent most of my life telling myself…
“You should have protected me”
I should have protected me. Right or wrong, that’s what I’ve been saying. I should have made sure the harm I came to, or the experiences I went through, didn’t hurt me. I should have protected me.
What strikes me is that even as a child I expected myself to be the one doing the protecting. That seems like an awfully big ask for a child.
I realise I continue in my life today saying I should have protected me. If I look at the events in my life of the past year or so, I have struggled more so with somehow letting myself down, than with what anyone else might have done to me.
As I have written recently, I felt let down by my gut instinct (see Gut Instinct). My gut instinct appeared to have not warned me of danger. I felt so sure of what I was doing, certain I was on the right path… only to crash and find I was ‘wrong’.
I put that in inverted commas because I felt wrong. I was certain I had got it wrong, but I’m starting to accept that while my gut instinct didn’t lead where I thought it was going, it wasn’t necessarily wrong. And that is a huge thing for me to be able to start to say (actually a friend said something similar to me a while ago and I couldn’t possibly see what she meant).
Right now I have little idea how it can be can be ‘not wrong’, but I’m willing to let it be a possibility.
While I have had another outstandingly, horrible week, I’m learning in the process of pain. I’m learning to forgive myself. To remember that I am human too. I am allowed to make mistakes, and I don’t have to punish myself for a lifetime ever after. I admit I know very little about self-forgiveness because I’ve never given myself that chance. I’ve been so hard on myself that self-forgiveness was never an option for me.
Today, I realise that I can forgive myself. I can allow myself to be human. Just as I allow others to be human, it counts for me too. I think I’ve turned a corner.
“Therefore, you really need your inner protector to stick up for you: to put your weaknesses and misdeeds in perspective, to highlight your many good qualities surrounding your lapses, to encourage you to keep getting back on the high road even if you’ve gone down the low one, and – frankly – to tell that inner critic to Shut Up.”
– Rick Hanson, Wildmind