There is no sugar coating it... dealing with complex PTSD is a difficult mental illness to manage, so is Bipolar, and others associated with psychotic episodes or mania being a common symptom. Often times I find myself feeling disillusioned by our society especially when I watch on the news, read in articles, or hear through word of mouth of people with mental illnesses experiencing a mental health crisis and being reported as psychotic and violent. Many of us sit back and question, 'why did that person do that?’ after the catastrophic event is all said and done. Although 'why?' is a good question to ponder, I encourage people to also consider the probable amount of emotional and mental turmoil the individual might have been experiencing before the catastrophic event occurred. As someone who is currently managing a mental illness that has the potential of being associated with acts of violence, I can state that most likely, had the person received the proper treatment before committing such acts, they wouldn't have even been in the situation to "go off" in such horrific ways in the first place (in many cases, not all of course). So, who's fault is it? The person who committed the ‘psychotic’ act while undergoing a mental health crisis or is it... the people (society) who 'sat back' and watched and/ or shamed the individual who suffered from untreated mental health issues?
Mind you, this is an uncomfortable topic to discuss as I am someone who has experienced psychotic episodes where I did in fact become violent. I say that it is uncomfortable because I do take responsibility for my actions because well, I did do it... it wasn't like someone was holding a gun to my head ordering me to be full of rage and anger and/or act completely irrationally. But, at the same time, I was seriously, I mean... SERIOUSLY mentally ill and clouded with nothing but the demons from my past lounging around in my mind, all day, every day. The last thing I want to come off as is insincere and unapologetic for my actions here...
When I first went to college I was coming out of an abusive home and turned to substance abuse and later, my boyfriend at the time to fill my deep voids. During this time period, I was the furthest thing away from healthy that I had been in my entire life. These were my darkest days, hence, I reflect back on this time period often to understand myself to a higher degree and in turn, help others on a deeper emotional level...
I had untreated PTSD, anxiety and major depression. If there was anything at all that reminded me of the abuse from my childhood, I would go into a manic state where it was as if I went into a blackout and acted without even thinking of the consequences. These episodes were especially triggered by my ex as he was near to my heart in which I feared for the life of me getting broken. When I was on a psychotic break, I was very kind, compassionate, happy, and outgoing (the real me)... but as soon as I was triggered again, I flipped into a whole different person- I became a monster (there literally was no other word to describe myself). As soon as I acted and realized what I did, I grew extremely guilty and hated myself that much more. The more guilt and shame consumed me, the more I grew depressed resulting in a viscous cycle going in and out of manic episodes.
I even remember I would mindlessly go out and cheat and throw my true self out the window, once again, manically...
Take a couple random guys who say all the right things to you when you feel down about yourself and add it to your already clouded and unattainable judgment and what do you get...? Irrational behaviors that resulted in me ultimately harming myself, but also my partner on a deep emotional level (betrayal). Did I mean it? Did I even have any feelings towards these guys at all? Absolutely not. My emotions ruled me and I had little to no concept of managing my emotions nor my behaviors.
Since the biggest manic and psychotic episode I have had my second year of college (my suicide attempt/ violent attack) I have received professional help in treatment. As we may know professional help is extremely expensive if you don’t have the proper insurance, and it’s imperative that you find a counselor you can connect with. Finding counseling isn’t easy so therefore, I have done a lot of self-taught cognitive behavioral therapy. Since treatment (almost five years ago now), I have underwent a few ‘minor’ (not as dramatic as before) manic episodes like shopping sprees or substance use binges. I turned to self destructive behaviors rather than wreaking havoc in others lives. The manic episodes I have experienced since treatment were because I wasn't taking care of my soul, mind, and body properly along with not using the "toolbox" I developed in treatment. One thing is for sure, my environment (who I surrounded myself with) played a huge roll in my decision making. For that, I take full responsibility as I knew better than to act rashly. Before treatment, I believe I was aware that the things I was doing were wrong as I had been in trouble for the same actions before, however, like I said earlier in the post, my judgment was very clouded- it was as if I was mindlessly reenacting my childhood whenever I was suddenly triggered. It's unfortunate really because it's like I was so far gone, I became narcissistic (I didn’t want to be- I just wasn’t all that aware of the damage being done from my behavior).
I am grateful to be in the space that I am today. The more I have healed over time, the more I have seen my part in things. Although it bothers me terribly that at one point of my life I did act narcissistically, I can also see that without identifying how far gone I was nor taking responsibility for my actions moving forward from these dark days, I would not be able to entirely heal and grow into the person I was truly meant to become.
I have learned that some things could have been prevented, but they weren't. I could have gotten true help and support long before my big episode, but I didn't. For this, I had no other choice but to eventually look into the mirror and own everything that I did. At the same time, I have also learned that although I did some pretty god awful, gut wrenching things, I can't keep sentencing myself to a lifetime prison. I made mistakes. I learned. I am now growing proud of the woman I am becoming. I do not want to give up my pride and confidence for who I am today to any mindless failures and mistakes leading me into a dangerous cycle induced by shame and guilt ever again.
In order to fully heal from our past, we must take responsibility for what we have done, accept what has happened, and learn to be kind and forgiving to ourselves, in turn, we can learn to be kind, compassionate, and forgiving of others. It’s easy to sink in the stigma that society throws at people regarding mental illnesses- ‘we are bad people’. No, we are not bad people. We were and maybe some of us still are, hurting people in need of help. There is a difference.
So, I guess, all in all, I don’t believe that any individual who acts completely irrationally while undergoing untreated mental health conditions is at fault for their actions, nor is society to blame. However, there are lessons to be learned here for both parties to carry out to those who are struggling with mental health conditions. There are no fingers to be pointed, but, we can learn from other people’s stories to prevent these catastrophic events from happening in the future. I firmly believe that we as a whole need to start listening to each other and understand the needs of one another rather than write people off as ‘bad’ or ‘too far gone’. Help is always to available and there is never anything too shameful or too minor to receiving the proper care and treatment for the deep rooted issues behind mania and psychotic episodes.
What do you think about this topic? Should someone who is experiencing a mental health crisis take fault for anything they do even if they may not be aware of the negative impact they are making?