The DBSA Young Adult Council (YAC) develops unique resources to support other young adults living with depression and bipolar. They use their own lived experience to help inform the way that DBSA provides hope, help, support, and education. In this piece, YAC member Megan R. shares seven steps she uses to forgive herself.

By: Megan R., DBSA YAC member
Featuring quotes from other YAC members

1. Sit in the pain

Accept that what happened, happened. There is no way out of this or an option to go back to what was. There is no backward—only forward, even if it may not feel like it.

I didn’t want my episode to become the lasting image of who I am to the people that have left my life. –Lauren, DBSA YAC Vice Chair

2. Find your rescue team

Does it feel like you are in the middle of the ocean with no raft or boats in sight? There ARE people who will swim out to rescue you. Find your closest, non-judgemental folks and tell them the truth of the situation within your comfort limits. Allow them to console you.

I find it helpful to start the conversation by letting the other person know what I want to get out of it. Sometimes, I just want to be heard. Other times, I might want help finding solutions. Being upfront helps them know how best to support me. –Olivia, DBSA YAC Chair

3. Seek professional help

Join a support group, an outpatient program, or work with an individual therapist. This is needed to make leeway towards stability and knowledge on how to lessen damage in potential future episodes. The aftermath of an episode can be rough, and having an observational point of view could help walk us through it.

4. Take accountability and learn

Step by step, understand why this happened. What was going on before the episode? Were there factors in or out of your control? Take the emotion out of it and list just the facts. Observe your behaviors and how to reframe them. Apologize, but don’t over-apologize. Radically accept that you may not receive forgiveness. Keep your dignity while having the knowledge that you did something you are not proud of.

I knew the things I did were not at my baseline, and it made me want to overcompensate with new people to let them know moments like that aren’t really me. –Lauren, DBSA YAC Vice Chair

5. Avoid vulnerability factors

When we are in pain and feel shameful, we want to get out of it. We may tend to look for distractions: substances, unsafe encounters, and people that don’t make us feel comfortable. Don’t feel guilty for stepping back from a friendship, moving back home if you feel safe to do so, or ordering a soda instead of a drink. This step is very important. Imagine your body has a huge bruise, and you need to avoid hurting it again. We stay away from things that may agitate it until it heals.

6. Make the choice

After you’ve taken accountability, it’s time to release self-hate. This is the hardest step. We can spend weeks, months, or even years in a shame spiral that led us nowhere. Imagine you are an athlete and you did not have your best race. If you keep repeating spiteful words before your next race, it’s inevitable that you will have the same outcome. Reframe; “I am a bad person” to; “I am a human being who has made a mistake.” Read about others that have made mistakes and come back from them. Ask your loved ones about a time they have disappointed themselves. You will be surprised at how much we all screw up.

I had a fear that this is just who I am and forever will be, and it made me extremely scared of the future. –Lauren, DBSA YAC Vice Chair

7. Let go

This episode is in your past. You have taken accountability and made steps toward stability. This is your superpower. Many are stuck in the spiral of shame, so use your warrior-like senses to help lead them to a place of self-forgiveness. Accept that you may screw up again, and each time you do, remind yourself of one important word: “human.”

Read Megan’s personal essay, Forgiveness Through Illness

See more resources from DBSA’s Young Adult Council