Blog, we think

6 ways to deal with guilt

rear view of a boy sitting on grassland

by Kim Rosenthal, MD – Wacky and Wonderful Mental Health Library (a place where healing meets humor and creativity)

“People are more than the worst thing
they have ever done in their lives.”
–Helen Prejean

The Wacky and Wonderful Mental Health Library is about joy and jokes and future, but guilt is still real, very real, and people struggle with it.  Life makes you do things you regret.  There’s no avoiding it.  This is a serious-heart article to help people deal with one of life’s most common heartaches: our dark pasts.

Guilt is about feeling bad, even disliking ourselves, over something we did or didn’t do in the past.  Guilt can be normal: the fact that we feel it proves that we have compassion for others.  At the same time, guilt can become so toxic and destructive that it overwhelms, and that’s when it’s time to stop and analyze the situation.  How do you deal with guilt?

Here are six ways to deal with guilt, shame, and failure.

1. Unwarranted guilt. Are you guilty about something that was beyond your control?  If so, you need to remind yourself of that.  Remind yourself over and over.  Keep yourself grounded in reality.  If you had no control over the situation, there’s no way it was your fault.  Stop feeling guilty.

2. Failure. Sometimes guilt is the result of failure.  Failure causes tremendous suffering, and that suffering can be destructive.  Often it leads people to abandon goals they might have achieved otherwise.  That’s a lot of lost potential.  A lot of heartbreak.

Failing to achieve a goal the first or second or third time doesn’t mean the goal’s unattainable.  Sometimes the trick is not giving up.  Don’t waste your time with guilt or shame. Instead, ask yourself: why did I fail?  What can I do differently?  Then try again. Learn from your mistakes.  They make you stronger.

Two great examples of failure turned into success include Einstein and Edison.

Einstein didn’t speak until he was four, causing his teachers and parents to think he was mentally handicapped, slow and anti-social. Later he failed many classes, was expelled from school, and was even denied admission to the Zurich Polytechnic School. Yet he changed the world as we know it.

Thomas Edison’s teachers described him as “too stupid to learn anything.” He was fired from his first two jobs for poor productivity. He then made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb before he succeeded.  What did he do differently to other inventors?  He never gave up.

3. Right the wrong. If you’ve hurt another person, compensate them.  None off us can go back and undo our mistakes, but we can try to ensure that those we damaged don’t pay for our misdemeanors.  Make amends. Right the wrong.  Don’t apologize with words.  Apologize with actions.  Start by trying to make it up to the person you’ve hurt.  Pay them the money you owe.  If you can’t afford to pay back the money you owe, pick up garbage, vacuum, and do other chores, even if they don’t notice.  If attempts to talk are either unsuccessful or potentially harmful to the other person, leave the person alone and make up for the wrong in different ways (below).

4. Letter. Write a letter to the person you hurt.  You can send that person the letter if you want, as long as it improves the situation.  Again, if contacting the person only makes things worse, go ahead and write the letter, then burn it, throw it away, share it with someone you trust, or do something with it that makes sense to you.  What should you write?  Try the following:

(1) State that you care about the other person and would like to make things right

(2) Describe the situation from the other person’s point of view.  Show him that you are trying to understand.

(3) If you need to say you’re sorry, apologize.  If you need to make peace, offer a solution, something that works for both the other person and you, an agreement in kindness.

If you do send the letter, remember that you might not be forgiven.  But you’ll have done the best you can, reaching out with good intentions, and can be at peace with that.  There are other ways to make up for guilt.

5. General good.  Consider volunteering or joining a humanitarian movement to make a difference in the lives of others.  If you can’t do it large scale, do one good thing a day and don’t tell anyone.  This isn’t about being recognized for good acts.  It’s about your making it up to society and yourself.  Only you can bear witness to that.

6. Change. If your guilt is related to addiction, criminal acts, anger problems, a negative response to a relationship, or other harmful patterns of behavior, the best way to overcome the guilt is to change your actions.  Pursue substance abuse treatment and quit drinking & using drugs.  Get on the legal straight and narrow.  Go to anger management classes.  Attend counseling or remove yourself from a bad relationship.  Whatever the challenge, make the change.  Promise yourself you can do better, and each time you fall, pick yourself up and start over again.  This can be a long journey, challenging and painful.  Be kind to yourself but insist you keep trying.

Remember, no matter what you do to make up for it, the person you hurt might not forgive you.  But you know you’re doing the best you can to make up for it.  Be at peace with that.

Sometimes guilt can linger no matter what you do, taking over your everyday life and causing problems in your relationships.  If the guilt is toxic and overwhelming, consider seeing a psychotherapist to make sense out of it.

“The greatest accomplishment is not in never falling, but in rising again after you fall.” – Vince Lombardi

Wacky and Wonderful Mental Health Library: Call for Submissions

person holding blue clip board

By Kim Rosenthal, MD

Creatives wanted.

This is the beginning, and beginnings are often awkward, wobbly steps.  Each day there’s movement.  Most of the time it’s in the right direction.  We hope.

So we have this idea, something that’s been growing for some time.  A Wacky and Wonderful Mental Health Library (WW)… What?  Why?  (That’s what most people ask, anyway.)

person holding black card

Don’t let the name fool you.  We’re a place of healing.  We’re also a place of joy.  People with psychiatric problems need more strength and charisma to survive than the average person.  They must seek beauty in places the average person would never think of looking.  They must also, amidst life’s heartaches, find room for laughter.

The WW Library celebrates just that: the strength, resilience, inspiration, humor, and creativity that come along with mental illness.  We’re not making fun of psychiatric conditions.  We’re doing the very opposite. We’re plowing past stigma, opening up room for conversation, and showing the world that a mental health diagnosis can coincide with incredible success.  

But the author needs your help. We’re seeking inspiring, positive, humorous, or [insert  upbeat adjective here] words about mental illness.  Perhaps you have an interesting way to deal with tough situations?  Do you appreciate people’s negative coping skills in ways most wouldn’t (or shouldn’t)?  Would you like to share your observations about the benefits of Asperger’s?  How about a humor piece about being in the hospital, or an article about overcoming nightmares?  Whether you’re a consumer, family member, friend, or provider, if you’ve got something to share, please send it our way. (Yes, we’re talking to you!)  Check out the submission page. 

We’re particularly interested in art, comics, puzzles, quizzes, and all things unusual, but poetry and short stories also delight us.  Unfortunately we aren’t in a position to pay.  


P.S. Yes, there is only one editor (Rosenthal), and yes she refers to herself in the plural.  We’re working on it.

Wacky & Wonderful MH Library: the case of the manic medical student

Image result for bipolar artworkA fiction piece about the beauty and tragedy of mental illness. 

My mornings usually begin with a glimpse of the rising sun. These are special moments, and I greet the day as she first gazes across the deep earth. The world is alive. My friends complain these early morning wanderings might be better spent studying my books and learning my trade, that I might get higher grades if I stopped gloating at the sun like some idiot who wants to go blind. But they say this half-jestingly. They understand I am different.

Today I get up late. The psychiatric unit is on the second floor. There isn’t enough time to see my patients before morning report. But it doesn’t matter. It never does when I’m happy. Things work themselves out.

“Good morning, Doctor,” whispers a voice from the distance.

I smile and nod. I am not a doctor yet. But this time I am not the patient either. It’s a strange freedom. Fingertips of enlightened emotion brush my cheeks in a flipflappity manner. Christ, I’m even making up words.

The psychiatric ward is filled with a dozen people like me. Their faces shine with meaning. I understand them: how do I explain it, the colors? The very splendor of life and light and emotion that my books call a false impression of reality. What is mental illness? Why is reality defined by the norm, while my realities, with the swirls of bipolar sensation, are swept aside with the diagnosis of “disease?”

“Doctor, Mr. Fernandez is looking for you.”

“Absolutely,” I say, not bothering to correct. “My dear, dear nurse, I’ll be there as fast as a horse winning the races. He’s a character, Mr. Fernandez, a character fit for a novel of many pages…” It doesn’t stop there. I recite a few phrases from the Iliad and end the statement with a joke.

The nurse raises an eyebrow. “Lots of energy, ya think?”

I’ve said too much. In books this is called pressured speech. That makes sense. I am pressed, pressured, properly improper. I am theatrical. My ideas flap and fly across the film. My mind is filled with a thousand pages of ideas and philosophies and early morning wanderings with tea and a wondering plea of glee. I discuss my stories with the likes of Aristotle and Descartes. I share an understanding with the gods (like most young and idealistic people), and someday my efforts shall improve the world. Sorry for the mouthful. It had to be said.

Anyway, I am almost a doctor.

Mr. Fernandez is a tall man. “The worms are still inside me.”

“Sometimes the only difference between the doctor and patient is a name tag.” It’s a random statement. It seems right.

“Yeah.” He isn’t impressed, but my mind is aflame. I see symbolism. I see meaning. I am struggling to keep my words under control.

“My brain went weird,” he says. “They tell me it’s a disease.”

“Is it really a disease?”

“I rack my brain thinking about it.”

Ha! Welcome, oh lively Lilypad, welcome to the world of mental disease! I bite my tongue and listen.

Mr. Fernandez isn’t embarrassed by his oddities. Nor does he see them as odd. He describes an entourage of voices that plays at his ears and lunges at his brain with a frightening power. “And there’s a demon. Lives behind the fridge. It’s there all the time. I don’t know why my brain would make me see things like that. I’m not sick. I got worms, and I see things from other dimensions. So what?”

Dimensions, dimensions, the gaze of a million dimensions.

Okay. I’m a medical student. I should redirect him. I should talk medications. Thorazine, Thioridazine, Trileptal, Trazodone… I should talk the usual talk-talk of a doctor-doctor. I need to do these things: this is a sick man, and I am his student-doctor. But in that moment we’re comrades, each trying to make sense of our own realities. What tragedy! What a magnificent gift! We share a silent handshake.

There’s an announcement overhead. Medications are available, and I get in line.

“Here are your pills, Doctor,” the nurse says.

I don’t correct her. Instead I take the pills and offer a theatrical bow. It’s what I do. Life is grand. Everyone needs to know this. Among these people reality makes sense.

A seaforth, silly, soppy sense.

Hopefully tomorrow I’ll be a doctor again.



“Which of my feelings are me?  Which of the me’s is  me?
The wild, impulsive, chaotic, energetic, and crazy one?
Or the shy, withdrawn, desperate, suicidal, doomed, and tired one?
Probably a bit of both, hopefully much that is neither.”

-Kay Redfield Jamison


Image result for bipolar artwork

Interested in submitting a story, picture, poem, humor piece, comic, or brief article to the Weird & Wacky Library of Mental Health?  We’re looking for inspiring, positive, resilient, humorous, or [insert  upbeat adjective here] pieces about mental illness and anything related.  Here are the guidelines:

1- Try to limit your work to 500 words
2- No obscenities, triggers (self-harm, trauma), nastiness, offensiveness, or excessive negativity.  A certain amount of tragedy and struggle is normal and certainly accepted, but make sure the piece has a positive outcome.
3-Send work to in the body of the email (no attachments please!).  Label the email as “Submission.” Alternatively, you can send your work through the contact form.  There’s no fee to submit. All submissions will be considered.
4-Rosenthal reserves the right to adjust work as needed (to clarify things or make shorter, etc) but will consult you before publishing it online
5-Further instructions coming soon.



Wacky & Wonderful Mental Health Library: Replacing drugs with the good stuff

Girl surrounded by flowers, intense gaze

You’re reached the Wacky And Wonderful Mental Health Library.  This site is about mental illness, but it’s also about loving life despite the struggle: that means education and helpful articles PLUS playfulness, imagination, art, and a weird and wacky sense of humor (i.e. please humor the author, laugh at her jokes, etc).

Must admit this is a work in progress.  Coming eventually: the WW Workbook for Recovery, plus WW booklets and lots of articles.  Stay tuned.


The worksheet below is for people in recovery from substance abuse.

Giving up drugs often creates an enormous hole in people’s lives.  Suddenly there’s something missing, something that took up most of your time, and now you don’t know what to do with yourself.  Sound familiar?  The following is a simple worksheet about filling that hole with something worthwhile.

Note: this is NOT a worksheet from the Weird and Wacky Workbook for Recovery, but it’s done in a similar style.


Two worksheets that talk about replacing drugs with healthy passions and pasttimes

Thanks for reading.  If you finished exploring the WW Library website and need more, consider visiting our sister website,

Wacky and Wonderful Mental Health Library: Please don’t glamorize drugs

woman carry rock addiction

The following is an excerpt from psychiatrist Kim Rosenthal’s Wacky and Wonderful Recovery Workbook (WW).   WW is written for people in recovery, especially those who feel something is missing from their lives.  Here relapse prevention and coping skills meets art, cartoons, personality tests, puzzles, creativity, role play, and search for meaning.

war stories page 1war stories page 2

The Weird & Wacky plan to avoid relapse

brain maze PSYCHEDELIC 6Need rescue from cravings?  This two-page worksheet is aimed at helping people in recovery get through the hard times.

The handout is from the WACKY AND WONDERFUL RECOVERY WORKBOOK.  Since this website is to promote the book, we’ve gotta say it: the workbook features multiple resources for urge management apart from the worksheet below.  That includes:

  • An emergency “deal with cravings” card
  • Worksheet on handling triggers
  • A five-page toolkit to help avoid relapse
  • A six-page toolkit to deal with relapse should it happen
  • An appendix section listing hundreds of calming, fun, and survival ideas
  • Jokes and cartoons that keep things… interesting

You’ll find the two-page worksheet below.  Consider magnifying your screen to see it clearly.

relapse prevention jpeg

Return to List of everything


When someone needs help

man s hand in shallow focus and grayscale photography

Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is! – Anne Frank

Someone who is very important to me is struggling with addiction.  It’s a horrible situation, but I see so much potential and accomplishment in the kid — if only he could get out of his own way.  I’m not a religious person, but if you pray, please pray for him.  Thanks.


Random yes/no question: please answer

Every now and then the Weird and Wacky Workbook for Recovery comes up with a random question.  Here is this week’s allotment.

Do you like random “yes/no” questions?  Please choose from options below.*

(a) True.  I mean absolutely yes.
(b) Nope.
(c) Frankly, I’d prefer you ask my permission before using a yes/no question.
(d) Anyway, what do you get out of asking these questions?  You can’t hear my answer.  What’s the point?
(e) And what does this question have to do with your website, the Weird and Wacky Workbook for Addiction?
(f) In fact, I hate multiple choice questions.  They bring back bad memories.  That’s it.  I’m not reading any more.  Nope.  Nothing else.
(g) Yep, I’m gone.
(h) Please act like I’m not here.
(h) Okay.  I’m still here.  And yes, I (secretly) do like yes/no questions.  Thanks for asking.  Please don’t tell anyone.

*The website’s and book’s author, psychiatrist Dr. Rosenthal, apologizes.  This post has nothing to do with the book, and we’re sorry for the confusion.  It appears the website is authoring these extra articles.  At this time, it seeks to be recognized as a separate and living entity, but no worries, it represents no fluff or gruff to the public.  We don’t think there’s any reason for concer…

Here’s another random question.  Do you think websites are capable of eating psychiatrists?

(a) Yes
(b) Absolutely
(c) No doubt
(d) Yum

Thanks for visiting.  Stay tuned for our upcoming post, “What does it mean to represent no fluff or gruff to the public?”  The post will feature our next yes/no question: should websites have psychiatrists?  




How to make friends

“You cuss too much. You have questionable morals. You’re everything I ever wanted in a friend.” – From a greeting card by Skel Design

new doc 2017-12-15 11.54.22_1Sometimes there’s a wall between you and the rest of the world.  It’s hard to meet people, never mind find friends.  People emerging from addiction are no exception.  Isolation can be painful.  But finding hang-out buddies and best friends doesn’t have to be reserved for the lucky.  Here are some tips on how to meet people and make friends.

Start with long lost buddies.

Past friends. Most of us have friends we haven’t talked to in years.  Look up that elementary school peer, college roommate, or aunt you haven’t talked to for years.  Think of all the people you’ve known.  Text them out of the blue: “What up?”  If it’s more formal, tell them someone you saw reminded you of them.  Ask them to meet up for old time’s sake.  Even if you find you have nothing in common, that “having nothing in common” might spark a new kinship.

Familiarity breeds friendship.

Pick a place that appeals to you, and visit it often.  Don’t obsess all day long, but go there a few times a week.  You don’t have to talk to anyone, not in the beginning, but once you’ve spent enough time at this place you’ll start to recognize the “locals,” and they’ll start recognizing you.

Are the owners of the tiny street café friendly?  Do other coffee-lovers grin approvingly as you buy a super-sized triple-shot vanilla and pumpkin spice latte with skim milk?  What about the museum?  Is there another patron who frequents the Dali room every Monday night like you do?  What about the library?  Are there other students who, like you, prefer to study at 3 in the AM?  If so, greet them and smile.  Next time, ask about the weather or comment on how good the coffee is/good the painting is/hard the exam is.

Apart from cafes, museums, and libraries, other places to consider frequenting include:

  • Restaurantsnew doc 2017-12-12 07.56.17_2
  • Bookstoresnew doc 2017-12-12 07.56.17_1
  • Sunday school
  • Churches, synagogues, or temples
  • Community pools
  • Gyms
  • Pet stores or zoos
  • Saunas
  • Casino
  • Senior citizen centers (if you’re a senior citizen)
  • Student centers (if you’re a student)

Consider visiting different places: a bookstore on Saturdays, the café on Sundays.  Remember, you don’t have to talk to anyone until you feel comfortable. Just get to know the faces and personalities. In time hi-bye conversations turn into talks about the weather or sports (or coffee and exams), which turn into deeper connections.  Go at your own pace.

Join a club, any club.

Be part of a club.  Pick an interest, and join a group of like-minded people.  This interest can range from hobbies or sports to getting help for a challenge you’re dealing with.  For many people, this means 12-step meetings, but there are other clubs.  Check online or your community paper for information about local groups, meetings, events, and workshops.  Many communities have groups that meet regularly or have guest speakers  lecturing about different subjects.  Here are some ideas:

  • Hiking, book, knitting, art, stamp-collecting, or movie groups
  • Sports groups, like rowing, sailing, or soccer clubs
  • Depression or anxiety support groups
  • Cancer-survivor, diabetes, or chronic pain support groups
  • Alzheimer caregiver support groups
  • Ping pong, bowling, or card-playing leagues
  • Writer’s or artist’s workshops
  • Symphony or rock bands
  • Lectures about politics, philosophy, reaching your dreams, or making money
  • Weight-watchers
  • Theater or musicals

Sign up and go!  The more you show up, the quicker you’ll get to know people.  You don’t have to talk to anyone until you feel comfortable, but little by little you’ll make friends.

Take classes.

Friendship 101School for adults is an excellent way to meet people in a structured environment, where there’s no pressure to carry on a conversation unless you want to.

Local college.  Ask your local college for a list of their community classes.  Usually these are low-priced and available to everyone.  Some colleges also offer OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute).  These classes are officially for people over 55, but they do accept younger folks when there’s availability.  Community classes vary widely in subject, ranging from Getting to Know Shakespeare to Russian, GED, and English as a Second Language.   Some schools offer career enrichment courses like construction technology, Notary Public, or  continuing education for nurses.

Community stuff.  No college or university nearby?  Don’t forget community resources!  Look into arts and crafts, music, and other specialty stores to see what classes they’re offering. Often you’ll find gems like cooking lessons  and jewelry-making instruction.  Consider local specialty schools too, where you can find lessons in dancing, yoga, tai chi, karate, the instrument of your choice, and probably much more.

Become a volunteer.

Want to meet kind-hearted people with a cause?  Volunteering gives you a chance to spread compassion while reaching out to others for friendship.  Places that often need volunteers include:

  • Hospitals and emergency rooms
  • Nursing homes
  • Humane Society
  • Museums and historical sites
  • Soup kitchens
  • Shelters for the homeless
  • Red Cross
  • Salvation Army
  • Tutoring students at schools and university
  • Local organizations with special causes, like helping illegal immigrants, victims of domestic violence, children with cancer, or people with illiteracy
  • International organizations like the Peace Corp or Doctors Without Borders

Alternatively, call a business where you’d like to spend time and offer to help out for free.

Surf the web.

Frankly, going online is a great way to avoid being alone.

new doc 2017-12-15 is a social networking site that helps get people together.  There’s something here for everyone, from stuff for business-owners, writers, and vegetarians to support groups for Star Trek lovers, soccer enthusiasts, and people with bipolar disorder.  Just plug in your location and your interest, then peruse the groups that come up.  Meetups usually meet in person once a month, but members of each club can keep in touch online.

Online forums are conversation threads touching just about anything.  This resource allows you to engage with others in a controlled, semi-anonymous manner, where you don’t have to worry about the “complexities of real conversation” while establishing connection with others.  Forums let you answer at your own pace and consider your words carefully before submitting them to the world.  They’re a good way of befriending interesting people who live far away, people you’d never meet locally.

Online support groups are a type of forum; they’re a wonderful resource for people to get extra support for a problem they’re having, without having to give away their personal information or make their problem public.

Friendship sites are a third option.  They’re like dating sites but used primarily to help people find friends.  Interactions include chats, small social groups, and big group get-together’s.  Information can be exchanged, like favorite songs, business information, exercise records, or most recent drawings.  Friendship websites vary according to desired age group, gender, sexual orientation, interests, etc.  Some help couples find friends.  Others are geared towards young career women.  Still others are only for people trying to get in shape.  Examples include Girlfriend Social, Social Jane, Active, My Social Passport, Couples List, and Cupple.  Most are free.

Be smart when using these options.  Don’t offer personal information to strangers.  If you decide to get together with someone you’ve only known online, meet in a safe, public place.


So you’ve figured out a way to meet thousands of potentially interesting people?  The next step is to talk to them.  Be open-minded.  Be kind.  Be interested.  And make sure to keep in touch.

Friendship is so weird… you just pick a human you’ve met and you’re like “yep, I like this one” and you just do stuff with them. – Bill Murray


Booklet for hire

* Handouts range from educational reviews and homework to guided journaling, artwork, and essay-writing.  Each booklet is illustrated, humored, and makes some random references to the meaning of life.  On a good day there’s enough substance to change the world as we know it.  But we’re happy with meaning of life.  You had us at meaning of life.