This post was originally published on September 3, 2018 on my previous mental health blog.
Never feel guilty for taking care of your mental health. I felt compelled to write a blog post about this particular topic after an incident during Labor Day weekend.
On Saturday, September 1, 2018, I was playing Diablo 3 when I could feel my mood changing. I could feel it switching from relatively okay to pure irritation within minutes. There wasn’t any specific trigger this time. All I knew was that I was itching to pick a fight.
While I continued to play my video game, I attempted to do so, but my husband knew what I was doing and didn’t respond or react to my attempts. Instead, he said, “It feels like you’re trying to pick a fight.” This was actually pretty unusual for him. He would usually choose to react negatively, I would respond out of anger, and an argument would ensue.
After he pointed out my behavior, I realized what was happening. I stopped talking and focused on my game to try and calm myself down. It didn’t help, though. I really wanted to try and avoid an argument, so I decided to turn off the game. I handed him the television and PS4 controllers and left the room so that I could get some alone time.
I went to our bedroom, turned off the lights, and sat on the bed while I browsed Twitter. It felt like a peaceful “time out” and I could tell that it was starting to help me calm down. I was starting to feel proud of myself, too, for making the decision to leave the room before my behavior escalated.
I thought that leaving the room was a much better choice instead of staying and starting an argument. It’s a reasonable assumption, right?
About ten or fifteen minutes after I went into our bedroom, my husband came into the room, laid down beside me, and asked “You weren’t going to say goodnight?” I told him that I didn’t say goodnight because I wasn’t going to bed, and that I only came to our room for some alone time for a little while.
He stood up and started to walk out of the room, but not before he made the comment,
“Let me know when the stick that is up your butt is gone.
It’s pretty far up there.”
I was still trying to calm down from a little earlier, so it took a lot of self-restraint to hold back a response. I was successful, though… If you even want to refer to it as a success.
It was almost like he took some sort of offense to my leaving the room when, in reality, it had nothing to do with him. He knew that. He knew I was upset and irritable, but he still chose to say what he said.
Lack of education contributes to the stigma
A big contributor of the stigma around mental illnesses is the lack of education. There are still too many people who don’t know much about mental illnesses, and that is really unfortunate considering one in four people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.
My husband is one of those people.
His words ended up sending me into a depressive episode. Instead of a “time out,” I stayed in bed and cried all night because of how much his words hurt me.
I stayed in bed the next day, too, without eating or drinking anything. I only got up to use the bathroom and to take a forced shower. I even had thoughts of hurting myself and suicidal thoughts.
Over his thoughtless and meaningless comment? Absolutely.
The next day, he walked in the room and asked me if I was going to stay in bed all day. I said “Probably,” because I was still working through my depressive episode. He asked me why, and I said “I don’t know. I guess the stick is still up my butt.”
I tried to refrain from even bringing up his comment from the day before, but it just slipped.
He laughed and asked, “What are you so mad about? I feel like I can’t talk to you anymore.” He also made a comment about how I was being a “butt” before he left the room, but I can’t remember what his exact comment was.
I’m assuming he was trying to tell me that he feels like he always has to walk on eggshells around me, but for some reason, he always chooses to say things in the most hurtful way that he can.
Instead of being encouraged and supported by my spouse, he made me feel guilty for doing what I felt like I needed to do for my mental health. He thinks I start arguments on purpose. Like so many other people, he thinks that my behavior is just “me being me” and not a result of my mental illnesses.
Education is key
The only way to overcome a situation like this is to educate people.
If they know about your mental illness, it is partially their responsibility as your loved one to educate themselves. However, not everyone knows how to find the resources to do so. The best thing you can do is offer them your help in educating them about your mental illness.
If they are going to continue to be a part of your life, they should care enough about you to want to learn more about your reality. If they don’t make that effort, you may need to re-evaluate the relationship to see if there’s another way that it can be salvaged before irreparable damage has been done.
Try not to fall for the guilt trip
Never let anyone make you feel guilty for taking care of your mental health. This was extremely hard for me to do, but over time I started to feel better about my decision to leave the room instead of staying and potentially starting a meaningless argument.
If you feel like you need to isolate yourself and go into another room, do it. If you feel like you need to ask friends or family to leave your home, do it. If you feel like cancelling plans with someone, do it. If you feel like you need to mute or block someone on social media, do it.
They may take it personally, like my husband did, but we can’t carry their burden on our shoulders. Our friends and loved ones should be understanding if we need to take care of our mental health.
I’m always an email or message away if you need to talk to someone.