Guilt? NOT Guilty!

Dec 15, 2022

It's been a horrific kind of year. My son's mental and physical health deteriorating more by the month. Offers of all kinds of supports are declined. Kindness is misunderstood and condemned, the confrontations definitely condemned. It can feel sometimes that we are condemned to this misery, though I know we're not.

Homeless in the cold with only the clothes on his back and refusing shelter, unable to contain the rage that life has been so cruel, my son seethes that I haven’t helped him, that I’ve actually made things worse. What?! But, I can find how that makes sense, how it’s even true in some ways, and especially from my son's perspective, especially after an involuntary petition that stopped some of the madness but started other complications. It's been really hard to watch him walk away from the shelter to "sleep outside". They'd even help find aftercare for him. He says "no'. He expects to stay at my house, but it is too volatile. I say "no", and it is hard and heartbreaking. The worry and guilt begins to rage deep within.

His life does seem worse. He’s right, I agree with that. But for the times I might believe I’m the cause of it, the guilt washes over me like sludge. It’s triggered by thoughts like I "made things harder for him", "he’ll never forgive me", "I shouldn’t have done the petition", "Somehow I should be able to calm him down", "I should do better, know better", and on and on and on. The mind is at play. It doesn't mean it's true though!

Is it absolutely true that we are guilty, should feel guilty, that we are guilty of trying, of doing the best we can quickly making choices while in the middle of chaos, offering concrete resources we think can help, offering to take to a meeting, to coordinate sober living or treatment. Is it true we're guilty of trying to limit the destruction, trying to do something to keep ourselves safe ourselves?

No. No. And No. Not guilty! Here’s why:​

  • Mental illness and use of drugs (some that incite psychoses) do what they do. It's brain science and unless you are a miracle performing god, you are not the one who can fix that. Not guilty! What you CAN do is educate yourself, get tools, and gain skills to navigate the challenges (and the heartache). If there is to be any expectation, let it be that it will be hard and you’re going to have to learn new things. As much as you don’t have power over your child, they may not have power over psychosis and the science of addiction either.
  • We all are doing the best we can with what we’ve got at any given moment. Every one has thoughts and beliefs and we act on them, sometimes it's based on assumptions and expectations, it goes sideways. It is the human condition, and we are all human. Not guilty! of being human, you don't have a choice about it! The moments can get dark and ugly and we’re still going to be doing our best. Things happen fast, we can all get triggered. This is hard! We are going to be imperfect. You will not always know what to do, what to say, and how to do it. Accept and give compassion to these imperfections AND know that fresh ideas and supports can find you, and you can seek them out too. You can also do your own healing work, learn and grow from it, apologize and make amends (to yourself and others).
  • There are limited resources, the system restricts care sometimes, timing is not ideal, and things can change dramatically and quickly. You may find yourself scrambling or hitting roadblocks. Not guilty! You will want a tool box of resources and supports to help or guide you through it. No one does this alone, at least not in a way that can contribute to easing the struggle and streamlining solutions.
  • Sometimes there is little you can do to help someone when they, for whatever the reason, are not ready, willing, or able to receive help. Not guilty! That doesn’t mean you can’t be helpful. Always, you are behind the scenes with your energy, compassion, learning, skill building, peace practice, and considering what influence and impact is possible when you’re taking care of what is within your power.

Your healing, your inner peace, your clarity, your self-care, your support systems, your doing all you can, even waiting are ways that inspiration can find you. I'll just say it: It's required if you are going to influence possibility. This is your business. This is where your influence and power lies and where you create possibility.

Guilt is not the best motivator even though some think it is. Guilt tells a story that if you feel guilty enough, you might do better. But that’s not true. Guilt suggests unforgiveness and blame. It will make the cycle of stress, pain and struggle continue, and it will block what you want the most – to show up with peace and loving action for your child, and for yourself.

I don’t know if my son will make it through this next round. What I do know is he won’t make it unless I make it, at least from a place of peace, understanding, forgiveness, compassion, love. He won’t escape my fear, worry, guilt, weariness, any of what lays within me unless I take care of it.

So, please take the very best care of you that is within your power. Reach out for ideas if you’re not sure how to do that. Make it your business. The guide "How to Get Clear on Next Steps" can help you identify how to empower your clarity and choices.

As you make it into deeper healing and learning how to navigate these difficult times, you bring your child with you, always in your heart.

Love wins here!

For Peace and Possibility,

Joanne Richards