I say a lot that I am too hard on myself. But, that doesn’t mean that I ever stop being. Until recently, I’d never really spoken about how I experience the feeling of guilt. But, on World Mental Health Day (in October) I was inspired by everyone sharing their stories, and decided to share a side to me that I usually try to hide: my relationship with guilt.
Now, I do not know whether or not this is a product of my anxiety. If I’m honest, I think it probably could very-well be, but I am not 100% certain. What I do know, however, is that I experience guilt very intensely.
If I think back to when this first occurred, I cannot remember ever not feeling this way. In primary school, I once broke a pencil. I was so ashamed that I decided to tell my mum I felt ill the next day, because I didn’t want to go to school and have to face up to my actions. My plan was foiled, however, when my mum made me go to school anyway, and my teacher told her what had happened the day before with the pencil. I was absolutely humiliated, and I felt so guilty for lying. I was around 5 when this event happened, but I still remember it vividly.
More recently I told someone something that I shouldn’t have. At the time, I thought this person actually knew the situation, and I didn’t realise until afterwards that they didn’t. This greatly upset someone, and this honestly makes me feel sick. I cried over this so many times, and I still feel sick whenever I think about it now. Even though I know that that person has forgiven me for this incident, I cannot help but feel incredibly guilty and want to hang my head in shame whenever I see them.
Another example is from our trip to Crete earlier this year. Getting on the coach, we sat in a seat on the coach and didn’t realise that someone had been sat there for the journey before. They caused a scene, I moved and cried, and I know that the way they behaved was wrong. But, I still can’t help but be angry at myself and feel an immense amount of shame for not being telepathic and knowing that they were sat there.
I cannot forgive myself. I feel like this is a theme that comes up time and time again in these posts, so I might as well just address it straight on. I struggle with forgiving myself, but I have no issue at all with forgiving others.
I think the main reason for this is that I feel responsible for how I (unintentionally) hurt another person. Even though they’ve probably forgotten about these incidents by now, I can’t help but experience regret in wishing that I could go back and rectify these issues; go back and never break that pencil, or tell that person that thing.
And it’s not even that I just have these experiences as memories that I have stored deep down in my brain. They come to me often, sometimes daily/weekly/monthly, and I feel absolutely sick to my stomach. They’ve been the cause of countless anxiety attacks, and i don’t think that that’s going to be something that stops any time soon.
Before I spoke up about this on twitter, I didn’t realise that anyone else thought this way. I thought that it was just my weird brain being irrational, and I always just accepted that that’s the way I am. But, I actually found quite a few people with similar experiences. So I guess I just want to say that you are definitely never alone in experiencing mental health issues. No matter how weird they may seem, I can almost guarantee you that someone else has felt that way at least once.
Finally, I’d just like to start a little discussion. Feel free to leave your opinions in the comments, as I feel like this will definitely be a hot debate. Do you think that it’s right to ever intentionally make someone feel guilt for their actions?
From my point of view, I would say no. That is not to say that I have not done this before, as I definitely have and they are some of the things that I regret. But, with the immense amount of guilt that I feel for so many little things, I try not to make other people feel guilty for things. Simply because, well, if I did, I would probably feel guilty for making them feel guilty and then we would just start a never ending circle of guilt…