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Self-responsibility is an important step in recovery. What does it mean to be responsible for yourself? One of the first steps is to just accept yourself just the way you are. Sometimes we’re not very happy with our lives, but we cannot make them any better if we don’t first accept ourselves and our lives the way they are. 

When we begin to accept ourselves, it’s important to understand that we must stop blaming others, chemical imbalances in our brains, genes, or conditions and circumstances that are out of our control.. It’s easy to blame our mental health problems on something or somebody else. The hard part is accepting and taking responsibility for our lives. You might be thinking, “Well, does that mean I begin to blame myself if nothing or nobody else is at fault?” No, that’s not what this means at all. It’s just that if you are going to improve and get better, the blame game must end. This just puts us in a better frame of mind to begin to make changes within ourselves. It helps us begin to take back control of our lives. 

We have all heard of the universal spiritual principle “know thyself.” When I began to accept myself and stop blaming, then I was able to begin knowing myself. This also is very healing to our inner self. One thing I did was I took a personal inventory of myself over time so I could see areas where I needed to improve and heal. This helped me take responsibility for my own healing and recovery. This is how we begin to gain insight into our condition.

Another important value of spiritual healing is learning to love ourselves. I was going through a very dark, difficult time and the voices I was hearing at the time were telling me to kill myself. I was feeling suicidal and I had children who needed me. I talked with my therapist and she told me that the difficulties were only temporary and that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. This made me think so I talked with my mother. As we talked, she reminded me that I had children who loved me. I remember saying that I didn’t understand how they could love me because I was unlovable. She then said, “The problem you are having is that you don’t love yourself. I love you and your sisters love you and so do your children, but you need to love you too.” 

As I focused on loving myself, I found that my inner world was healing. Love is considered to be the greatest of the three virtues – faith, hope and love. Love is the greatest universal principle because it is everlasting and never ending and it is the power of our spiritual healing within us because God is love. God is divine and God’s kingdom is within us where we are filled with His divine presence who is loving us no matter what we do or not do.

Loving myself brought me to a new knowledge that is also important and that is to understand that a diagnosis of mental illness is just like any other illness. When we see it as an extraordinary illness to other illnesses, this view keeps us helpless to be able to do anything about it. As we change our thinking about it and give it the same importance as a cold, the flu, a sore throat, or a toothache, then we are not powerless to help ourselves. Even people with other chronic illnesses that may be life threatening, such as heart disease or cancer, have to keep their illness in perspective so that they can still live as satisfying and productive a life as possible. It’s about taking the extraordinary and making it ordinary, such as getting to the point where you see it as an interruption in your life rather than robbing you of your life. 

Using this insight as an example, how does one take responsibility for mental health problems without blame and begin to view it as any other illness? Well, when I get a cold or sore throat, I begin feeling achy, my throat is scratchy, my nose begins to run. What circumstances or conditions contributed to it? I may have been around a friend or loved one who had a sore throat. I may have been where it was drafty. I may have overworked myself and let myself run down. 

Even someone with heart disease needs to take responsibility for the illness as well. They must look at their lifestyle and how it contributed to their heart disease. They may have to ask what circumstances and conditions contributed to it? Being a workaholic and taking work home every night, exhausting him/herself. Eating rich and fatty foods. Not exercising. Not managing his/her reaction to stress and ignoring the warning signs. 

Any number of things may have contributed to it, and this gives you an awareness of how you may have developed mental health problems. When you gain insight as to the cause then you can take steps toward prevention. Are relapses triggered by your reaction to stress? When you miss a night of sleep, does it cause a manic high? Do you isolate yourself from friends and not answer the telephone when they call? Do you feel guilty thinking that you caused a disaster that you read about in the newspaper? When this happens, do you hear voices blaming yourself and telling you to hurt yourself? 

There are things that we can do to gain back self-control. As we take responsibility for our lives, we become self-reliant and competent. Recovery is learned through a process of perspiration, inspiration, hard work, relapse, setbacks, and gains. For instance, in order to manage my reaction to stress, I can take a class on how to handle stress through meditation, relaxation, yoga, tai chi or I can see a therapist. When I miss a night of sleep, I can do something about it as well. I can make sure everything I need for the next day is ready to go in the morning, such as breakfast, lunch in the refrigerator, and even selecting clothes to wear the next day. I can take a bath and play quiet music in the background. I can read something inspirational. I don’t need to stimulate my mind further by watching television or listening to loud music. Rather than being isolated, I can call a friend and talk on the phone. I can meet a friend for a cup of coffee or I can invite a friend over.  

When I think that I caused a disaster that I read about and make me feel guilty, then I need to do a reality check. I may need to sit down with paper and pencil and read through the article again. Did it happen in New York City, and I live in Chicago? “I didn’t cause a disaster when I wasn’t in the city at the time the disaster happened.” I might write out this statement in large letters so that I can read it whenever I feel guilty about the disaster. I can also read it aloud to myself when I hear voices. I can divert my attention from the voices by listening to music. I can work a crossword puzzle or call a friend on the phone. I can also get some peer support or talk this through with my therapist as well.  

What’s really important is that we realize there are techniques, strategies, and skills that we can learn from others and/or develop ourselves. By applying them, we gain experience and eventually can increase our recovery and reduce relapse. This is called prevention. Full recovery takes time. While we are learning, we may still relapse. This is only a setback and is not permanent. Relapses are only temporary. It’s important that we continue doing the work of spiritual healing and recovery, and not give up on ourselves. It helps to have a strong, natural support system as well to provide mutual support during this period. In time, we’ll find ourselves back in the place we were prior to the relapse. We need to remember that recovery takes time. It takes faith (belief that we can do it) and it works by applying techniques, strategies, and developing skills that get us where we want to be. And it takes support.

The following are the steps outlined in this post:


  1.     Self-responsibility is necessary in recovery.


  1.     Begin by accepting yourself the way you are and where you are in your life.


  1.     Stop the blame game.


  1.     Begin to use the principle “know thyself’ by taking a personal inventory of yourself.


  1.     Change your belief about mental illness by treating it as an ordinary illness that is common to anyone 

       in society.

  1.     Take back self-control by learning and applying techniques, strategies, and skills.
  2.     Learning to love yourself is a universal spiritual healing principle.

Remember, recovery is possible when we begin to take responsibility for ourselves and our lives in a very loving way that transforms us from being sick to becoming healed and recovering our lives..

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