Dealing With Mental Illness Privilege Guilt

guilt
Credit to flickr.com user Derera Toujours. Used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

I am doing well.

Very well.

My mental illness–bipolar I, with pronounced manic, depressive, and mixed episodes–has been in remission for several years. My psychiatrist has found a cocktail of medications that actually works, and I only see him twice a year for refills. I no longer need my therapist. I am content, productive, and on top of the day-to-day demands of my life.

So why do I feel so guilty? And how do I deal with these feelings?

I think I’m dealing with guilt because I don’t feel I deserve to do so well when others are suffering with their mental illnesses. Medication rarely works as well as it has in my case, and for so long. My husband’s health insurance covers whatever I need. I am educated about my mental illness. I am white. I get to stay at home with my children, and I am happy with my choice, providing me an avenue of self-fulfillment not available to most parents today.

In short, I’m very privileged, and I recognize and own that. But it fosters guilt in me. I’ve written on this topic before, but clearly I need to revisit it if I’m feeling this way.

I also feel like an imposter. That, because I’m doing well and not suffering from my mental illness, I shouldn’t be writing a blog about the topic. I know that this is irrational, and that I still have something to offer the community, but I can’t help feeling this way.

One way to deal with these feelings is to put my money where my mouth is. I can and will donate to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), as well as other charities which concentrate on helping the mentally ill. I can volunteer my time to help people. And I can ultimately go back to school–when my children are older–with the intent to become a counselor, which was my plan from the beginning.

But… guilt isn’t a very good motivator. I don’t want to help people because I feel guilty, rather than an altruistic nature. So I’ve got to examine myself and figure out why I feel this way. I must learn to forgive myself for doing well, and acknowledge the privilege that got me here.

Wish me luck.

Do you ever suffer from guilt from doing well?

Show me some love!