The Blame Game in Depression
It seems that there is a lot of blame to go around when one suffers from depression and it can come from a variety of sources. I think it is a very human reaction to a very baffling mood disorder. People grasp at straws to find a way to explain the unexplainable. And logic dictates that when things are going wrong then there must be someone or something which caused it.
Blame can come from family members or friends who do not understand what their depressed loved one is going through. Phrases such as “Buck up” or “Snap out of it” come from a place of blame where the other person is saying, in essence, “You could stop being depressed at any time if you simply had the willpower.” It is also a way to express frustration and anger at the depressed person because they don’t know what else to say or do. It is a very vulnerable position for the person who suffers from depression to be in because such blaming statements just add to feelings of worthlessness and despair. One might take such blame to heart and agree. “You’re right. I am a loser for not being able to feel better.” The blame from others sets up a negative feedback loop where we then agree to blame ourselves.
Then there is the blame that sufferers of depression attribute to external causes. For example one might blame their bad genes or other family members who have mood disorders. One might have paranoia of becoming just like mom or dad was or is. Yet wishing for a different set of parents or DNA will not change who you are today. You simply cannot go back to the womb and start over.
Along with nature, others will blame their environment. Perhaps you were not nurtured enough, neglected, and even abused. Here is an instance where I can understand blame as I have felt it myself. Anyone who has suffered a childhood trauma can feel that pain and rage of what someone else has taken from you. I cry for the little girl I was and how she lost her innocence and childhood. One can never get that time back. I have carried blame in my heart for decades. I can tell you from firsthand experience how very difficult it is to let that go.
And probably the most entrenched and insidious type of blame which comes with depression is blaming oneself. It is both harmful but also enticing. Any bad event in life is “all my fault.” One begins to believe they are cursed or a bad luck magnet. Our specialness is gained through thinking that we have this seemingly omnipotent power to cause disaster and heartache. This belief system often begins in childhood when things happen we do not understand. My father died when I was four. All my fault. I wasn’t good enough or loveable enough for him to live. My mother’s mental illness. All my fault. I could not save her from insanity. Do I realize that my beliefs are illogical? Sure. But tell that to my inner five year old child who still believes these things.
We who suffer from depression also blame ourselves for being depressed. I always feel a special sort of despair when I know I am falling into my well as I call it. I think to myself, “How could this be? I was just here.” I know I am depressed when the negative self incriminating thoughts begin to multiply. Descriptors such as “worthless” and “no good to anyone” invade my consciousness. I do believe that nobody has the capability of hurting us more than we do to ourselves. We wouldn’t wish this type of thinking on our worst enemies. I tend to think of it as an emotional cancer. My mood feeds on my spirit and body until I am a black hole of nothingness.
So why does this happen? Why is there so much blame involved when it comes to depression? One theory I have is one which I have already lightly touched upon. It is my belief that when confronted by the chaos inherent in life, we human beings have a need to assign a reason for it. We like to know why bad things happen. And so we attribute causes and blame to explain what we do not understand. If we are responsible for everything then we feel we are omnipotent in a way. But to believe that sometimes things happen without rhyme or reason is a lot harder to swallow. We don’t want to believe that bad things can happen with no warning. It is easier to feel that we have done something wrong to deserve it.
The world can be a frightening and unpredictable place. Blame is a desperate plea for order in an otherwise chaotic universe.
So what is the alternative to blame? What can stop the negative spiral?
Good old fashioned logic can sometimes help. Logic is the cornerstone of cognitive psychology where one is taught to challenge self injurious thoughts. It is also the application of wisdom to understand that we are quite often powerless in this world. We simply do not have the omnipotent power to be responsible for everything. And in thinking we are responsible for everything we quite often fail to take the responsibility we should take for those things which actually are under our control. We are too busy bashing ourselves to look around to attend to people and things we have neglected during our bouts of self loathing.
Forgiveness can also help. And I am not talking about forgetting. I am talking about relinquishing the power that anger and blame can have on us to take away our centeredness and peace of mind. Why give that power away when we could use that time and energy to help ourselves towards wellness?
When you get caught up in the blame game I think it is essential to ask yourself, “Is this hurting me or others?” And “What could I be doing instead of blaming myself or others?” It means setting a priority of your mental health over the self indulgence of blame.
Easier said than done I know. Growth, healing, and mental wellness can be a long and difficult journey. Nobody said this would be easy.
Now it is your turn to have your say. Have you been blamed for your depression? Have you, in turn, blamed others for your mood disorder? In what ways do you blame yourself for being depressed? How do you deal with blame in your life? As always we want to hear your story. Your insights and experiences are very valuable to us and the My Depression Connection community.