Humans are flawed. We may say things we don’t mean when we’re angry or scared, and whether we intend to or not, we hurt the people around us. Sometimes, things we say or the way we act can have a lot to do with coping with mental illness, trauma, or other events in our lives that have clung to us emotionally or continue to impact the way we live.
Again, humans are flawed, and it’s okay. It’s okay to have a bad day. It’s okay to make a mistake and then make amends and own up to it. Mental health and trauma can have a profound impact on our lives, and we should always listen to people’s experiences and validate what they’ve felt or gone through.
One thing we absolutely can’t do, though, is use mental illness or trauma to justify patterns of hurtful or problematic behavior. Mental illness does not give someone a free pass to maintain a habit of hurting others. It also does not give someone permission to create a toxic environment for friends, family, or spouses.
You cannot demand sensitivity from everyone in your life for mental health or trauma when you are totally unwilling to return that same sensitivity. Trauma and mental illness are not your fault, and you should never blame yourself for experiencing either of them, but healing and making sure you do not subject the people you love to toxicity is entirely your responsibility.
If someone is treating people in their life poorly on a regular basis and chalking it up to mental illness or past trauma, they’re implying that people who experience mental illness or are processing trauma are prone to being horrible to the people around them. Mainstream media already associates mental illness with violence, chaos, and instability. It’s created a deeply harmful stigma that discourages people from talking openly about mental health and seeking help. Someone who knowingly uses mental illness and trauma as a cover for hurting others contribute to this stigma. We cannot allow someone to create an association between mental illness and callousness, reinforcing a stigma that continues to be so harmful for millions.
Mental illness and trauma do not automatically render someone immune to accountability. They are not a safety net someone can deploy when they’re confronted with explaining why they are consistently hurtful or insensitive to the people around them. They are real, concrete things that people work hard to live with or heal from every single day, and treating them like excuses for toxicity is a grave insult to those people.
If you find yourself hurting those around you and realize that you’re using mental illness or trauma as an explanation, this is a wake up call. What’s happening to you or what once happened to you is not your fault, but it is your responsibility to ensure you do not subject the people close to you to pain or toxicity. It is your responsibility to seek help, make amends, and change your behavior pattern. Your actions have consequences and mental illness and trauma should not be used to wipe the slate clean and dodge accountability.