I was born, baptized, and raise Catholic. Guilt is a given.
From the moment I was born I had already sinned. It’s not my fault. I didn’t do it by choice. I was being punished for something that happened so many generations ago, for Adam and Eve’s mistake. Then I was taught the Ten Commandments, the six commandments of the Church, and a whole slew of other do’s and don’ts. If you do this you’re going to Hell. If you don’t do that, you’re going to Hell. I was unworthy.
As I grew up, I visited with many of my extended family members. I saw how some twisted the word of God to suit their needs. I saw the strict adherence to His word and any deviation caused many an argument. Every decision I made in life came under scrutinization. I tried to do everything right, but failed. Fingers pointed. Some even shunned me for my questions, beliefs, and practices. Eventually, discouragement set in, and I steered clear of hard choices.
No wonder I feel like everything I do is wrong. Every choice I made, and continue to make in my life, big or small, is weighed against some measure of guilt.
Everything I did, I did to please. If I could direct the decision making to anyone else, the blame would never fall on me. It could very well be the reason why many of my relationships failed, why I never really “took a chance,” and why I continue to work where I work.
Pleasing everyone is my comfort zone.
I was young when I married my husband, not very self-confident. I let him make all the decisions. I thought if I let him chose and he didn’t like the outcome, it wouldn’t be my fault. Now, I’m pretty sure this was incredibly hard on him. I also did not like confrontation because that meant I was not pleasing him. (I did this with friends, family, and boy friends alike). Not pleasing meant guilt.
When things went wrong, or my husband was mad at something, in my mind, it was my fault. Because I couldn’t make things right, it was my fault. Because it happened in the first place, whatever it was, it was my fault. I took all the responsibility of everything in my loved ones lives, be it in my control or not, all on myself. And because I couldn’t fix things, I failed. Failing meant guilt.
Over the years, my husband built me up. My self-confidence grew. He was my rock, my strength, and he gave me the courage to stand up for myself. But, there were still certain things I just couldn’t do. I still wanted to please everyone. And when that didn’t happen, my guilt flowed free.
Telling my husband “no” was THE hardest thing to do. So I didn’t. It got us into a lot of trouble, financially. So much debt with absolutely nothing to show for it. Before he was diagnosed, I just thought he didn’t understand financial responsibility. When we first got married, he deployed to Korea for several months and I was responsible for paying all the bills. When he came home, he just let me continue. It was easier to have one person in charge of the money, especially since he was always working incredibly long hours, in the field, or deployed. After he was diagnosed, though, I still find fault in how I handled it but I know it’s not entirely my fault. If I had shown him what he was doing to our finances earlier, maybe he would have sought help before we got too deep. Maybe if I said no more often, we would not be in this predicament.
See, that…I still find the guilt.
We’ve managed to pay off most of that debt. It took many, many years. And now that he’s been diagnosed and receiving treatment, we now know the reasons why it happened and are learning to recognize the signs before they get out of hand. I’m very thankful for this, that he’s learning to control it, that he’s willing. Sure there are days he slips, but now, instead of me clamming up and just dealing with the issue inside, we talk about it. I’m still afraid to tell him no; but he’s helping me talk about it, helping me learn to say it. And I’m learning to let go of the guilt…a little.
But finances were only a small portion of my guilt.
Everyone was right. I was always wrong. If I was a better daughter. If I was a better friend. If I was a better wife. If I was a better mother. If I was a better listener. If I was smarter. If I had more time. If I hadn’t said that. If I hadn’t done that. If I hadn’t burned dinner. If I hadn’t moved his keys. If I cleaned more often. If only I left his stuff alone. If I tried harder to wake him up. If I had only let him sleep longer. If. If. If. If I had done everything right, none of “this” would have happened.
If I was perfect.
But I’m not. No one can be perfect. I am learning to accept this. It’s a constant struggle. I do believe my husband’s treatment is also helping me, though. Because he’s opening up to me, because we are communicating better than we ever have over the last twenty-four years, I’m learning to realize I am not Super Woman, no matter how much I want to be. I cannot please everyone. And just because I did something wrong, doesn’t mean that I am a failure. Failing only happens when we don’t learn from our mistakes.
Those times when my husband is angry, it’s not always my fault. I have to take a step back and breathe, let him process his anger. Patience is so not my virtue, but I am learning. Eventually, he will talk and we can work through it together. It’s the waiting that’s killer now. Guilt still floats around in my brain; but I’ve learned to look at it from a different perspective. I have to assess the situation. Is it a result of something I did or said, or was he just having one of those types of days.
There are those times when anger takes over as well. Anger at the situation. Angry at his pain. Angry at his medication and how it makes him look and feel. Angry that he’s not helping. Angry that we don’t have a life. Angry that I have to do it all. It’s not pretty and I feel guilty for those thoughts that run through my head. I understand it’s not his fault. It’s not my fault. It just is. But I still get angry and those awful thoughts that you just can’t help always make me feel guilty. Like I’m a bad person. That it’s my fault for everything. And the cycle of guilt continues.
Now I think back at how guilty I felt, how I always took the blame, and everything was my fault and I can see exactly how selfish that sounds. It’s not always about me. It’s not always something I’ve done or said. It just is. We will get through this. There are better times to come. These are the thoughts I use against the guilt that rises up. It’s not me and he just needs to process it so he doesn’t say or do something he will regret.
These are the feelings of guilt that I’ve had some level of success keeping at bay. However, there’s a new level of guilt that I have yet to even begin to overcome. The guilt of taking care of me.
My heart and my head have never played nice. I’ve always struggled with what I KNOW and what I FEEL. I know that in order to be the best possible caregiver, I need to take care of myself first. If I’m not healthy and strong, how can I be able to be 100% there for my husband? My brain knows this.
He worries about me. Dwells on his own guilt feelings for being the way he is and causing our lives to be the way they are. It’s not his fault. I keep telling him. It’s the fault of all those who caused his accidents over the years. So, expressing my pain, my emotional health, my physical health openly to my husband is very difficult. If whatever I say causes more undo worry and guilt for him, I feel guilty for saying it. It’s my fault. I made the situation worse. How can I be the strong one if I’m complaining about my faults.
See, guilt, again.
I spoke about our lack of friendship, companionship, and understanding in my previous post. I also spoke about how I was persistent in my search for the same. I found an online group which provides an easy outlet for me. But it’s not the same. It’s the lack of physical contact that hurts, but one I’ve been used to for so very long. Now, I’ve also found a local group of ladies, from The Hearts of Valor, dealing with the same issues. I was invited out to dinner one night last month. I so wanted to call and cancel. I came very, very close. It’s what I do. I was scared about meeting new people. I was guilty for leaving him alone, in pain, while I’m off getting out of the house, meeting new people, having fun. Oh, the guilt of having fun without him, while he’s laid up in bed because of the pain.
Yeah, that guilt. The worst one of all and the hardest to overcome.
Even this blog has caused some feelings of guilt, for saying things out loud, for everyone to read. It’s like saying them has made them real, made them something tangible. I can no longer hide from these feelings. I have to learn how to accept that they are a part of me, that everyone feels them. It’s time to process them and get through the negative in order to experience and cherish the good ones.
Without the hardships, the joys wouldn’t be very joyful.
If you’ve experienced the same feelings of guilt, you’re not alone. If you have suggestions on how to better overcome this, please feel free to share. I am open to any and all suggestions.