Forgiving Yourself For Your Past Mistakes

I know how easy it is to fall into a spiral of beating yourself up.

One minute you’re thinking about something completely innocuous and then that will somehow trigger a memory of something you did or said that you regret, and before you know it you’re overanalyzing and replaying this situation that you can’t change even if you wanted to.

Sometimes this spiral goes on for a long time.

Sometimes it can wreck your mood and your self-esteem for the entire rest of the day.

It’s probably something you never even meant to do either, like saying something that seemed fine at the time, but, looking back on it now, 10 years later, you realize that it could have been completely misconstrued into something horrible.

That’s when the regret kicks in and it’s not fair because you didn’t even know you were making that mistake.

I fall into this trap at least several times a week when my mind is wandering and I lose my grip on things for a little while until I finally come to my senses and talk myself down.

For example, today I was happily minding my own business eating a cookie having just sat down in my recliner and I got to thinking about how I used to make cookies like this years ago.

I remembered one night specifically where I made a bunch of cookies and brought them to a dinner that my friends were having for everyone, people loved them and they all had at least one or two.

Eventually we all sat down to dinner and I was made aware that it was a vegan menu that night with several of the attendants pretty staunchly adherent to that lifestyle.

At the time I didn’t think twice about the cookies but then today, thinking about this cookie that I was eating, I pictured the butter, the eggs and the milk chocolate pieces and how those are decidedly NOT vegan.

Suffice it to say my mind went running and the guilt just completely sunk my stomach. I was fixated on the regret until finally I was able to pull myself out of the spiral by telling myself that it was ok to make mistakes and that I was just dumb when I was younger.

I also reiterated to myself that, having moved to the other side of the country, I would likely never see these people again in my entire life.

The point of all this is to illustrate that we all make dumb mistakes sometimes.

Many times we don’t even realize it until years later when we’re sitting in our recliner eating a dumb cookie.

It’s important not to beat yourself up for your past mistakes regardless of how mortifying they were.

Take a moment to treat yourself like a kid and say, “Hey Mike, it’s alright buddy, you didn’t know what you were doing and everything turned out okay didn’t it? Also that was years ago and there’s a good chance nobody remembers what happened.”

Basically, just be kind to yourself.

We all screw up and it’s perfectly ok to do that. We are human after all.

Whatever happened is long gone and probably didn’t matter all that much anyway.

You’re good. don’t worry.

The Tenuous Balance of Stability

Not only does it take work to find stability, but also to maintain it once you’ve found your footing.

Sometimes what’s required is a strict regimen of being faithful to your meds as well as your personal work or therapy.

You’ll find that it’s incredibly easy to slip up on one or another of these things and the result is an inevitable falling back into psychosis.

You may think, somewhere along the way that you feel better and you may even forget that you have a mental illness.

As a result you may become more lax on taking care of yourself and taking your meds but then, in a matter of time, things will start to get strange again.

I’ve been in that position a number of times and in my experience it’s not something I like doing.

In addition every six months, or every year or so you may find that your meds don’t seem to be working as well as they were, it could be a result of increased stress in your life or something else but there may be a very real possibility that you need an adjustment.

That’s ok, and it happens with me and pretty much anyone else who has to deal with this stuff.

Sadly, it’s a lifelong illness and though right now there’s no cure I still have hope for the future.

The point of all this is to say that maintaining your stability can be a challenge.

I can remember a few years back when everything seemed to be going well. I thought I was doing everything right but for one reason or another I got my wires crossed with the pills I was supposed to be taking,

I started taking less of just one of the 6 pills I take, thinking it wouldn’t make a difference. It was ok for a week or two but then I started to experience more paranoia.

I thought everyone was looking at me and judging me and I sort of fell into the delusion that I was being followed.

Things were bright too though, my thoughts were sparkling and I was able to form connections between things that I had all but missed when I was fully medicated.

It was exciting but it also scared the hell out of me.

I want to be in control of myself and I want to keep myself grounded so I called my doctor. Thankfully we got it sorted out and I was back on my way to relative stability.

Suffice it to say that I know what it’s like to lose your footing and while it may not bother some people to the degree that it bothers me, I think stability is important to maintain, no matter how difficult it is to do so.

If you’re experiencing abnormal symptoms or a relapse into delusional thinking, paranoia, and psychosis, I think it’s important to check in with your doctor and be honest about what’s happening.

They can help.

Also, no matter what happens with you in dealing with this illness, please remember that you’re not alone.

The Light Switch of Stress

I think something that isn’t that widely recognized is the effect of stress on symptoms of schizophrenia and mental illness.

It can be an almost immediate exacerbation, hence, why I refer to it as a light switch.

Stress has the amazing potential to worsen symptoms rapidly for people like me and there’s not a whole lot we can do about it in the moment besides meditate and/or practice breathing techniques.

Alternatively, there are always meds for anxiety and I count myself grateful for that option frequently.

How does stress exacerbate symptoms though?

One way is that it can activate anxiety which is followed pretty closely by eventual paranoia and delusional thinking.

It’ll be like something stressful will happen in our lives, maybe a friend or loved one will say something we perceive to be negative and that seed will lodge itself into our brain.

We’ll cultivate it by thinking endlessly on what they meant causing anxiety until we jump to a conclusion that serves neither us nor them (paranoia/delusions).

It’s almost frightening how something seemingly so small can have such a big impact.

We may lose sleep over it, we may ruminate on it and we may start to let that little word take control of how we see ourselves as a person.

These are all triggers to paranoia, delusions and a host of other mental illness symptoms.

Stress, essentially, seems to be just as bad for mental illness as it for heart health or diabetes.

There are things that help with stress in the moment that you can utilize though.

First, you can talk it out with someone objective to the situation. They’ll usually be able to reassure you that what you think is happening really doesn’t matter all that much. They can lessen the impact of what was said and free you up to move on to other things (that are probably more rooted in reality).

Another thing you can do if it’s still bothering you is put on some music, lay down and take a break by closing your eyes.

If you feel like it, you can meditate and focus on your breath, or you can think it through objectively by asking yourself what someone who isn’t involved would think.

Many times too, the music just acts a sort of salve for the pain of the thought. It can loosen it up so you’re able to dislodge it and let it go.

Finally, you can step back from yourself and notice that your thoughts are just thoughts. That is, they are just images or words that float across your mind like clouds.

You’ll notice that you’re grasping this particular one so hard and intently.

You can let it go though, you can say, “this is just a thought” and you’ll realize that it’s really no different from any of the other thoughts in your head, including the ones you don’t really pay any attention to.

Then you can just release it and it’ll float away too.

Suffice it to say that stress is not something that you would do well to pursue if you have a major mental illness.

Perhaps I’ve helped though, I don’t know.

These are things that work for me and there’s a good shot they’ll probably work for you too.

I want you to remember though, that you’re not the only one dealing with this stuff.

You definitely not alone.

You will get through it and you will feel better.

I know this.