Guilt


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.

Guilt

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.

But…

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. 

LadyJai

Related Articles you may like:
Unworthy
Overwhelmed
Selfish
Anger
Fear
Anxiety, Depression, & Secondary PTSD
Grief – Or Mourning Your Loss
Changing Perspective
You Are Not Alone

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.  

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11 thoughts on “Guilt

  1. melaniegobledvm

    Guilt is a difficult thing. I think there are times it is reasonable and helps us grow, but so often it is stone that weighs us down. I have had a similar experience with feeling the need to fix everything and not being able to do so crippling me. I have improved, but it is still a struggle. Just remember, when Christ died on the cross, He did so for all of our sins before they were even committed. You are healed!

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  2. Madelyn Griffith-Haynie, MCC, SCAC

    BEAUTIFULLY expressed – and incredibly brave of you to be so vulnerable. Do NOT stop! Your voice is a unique expression of the song that you, specifically, came in to sing.

    To paraphrase an oft heard phrase, “Feel the guilt and do it anyway!”

    (Your husband sounds like a great guy, btw – I’m glad you have each other).

    More later – MUST stop, turn off this blasted computer and put myself to B.E.D. I’ll be back (both blogs, btw)
    xx,
    mgh
    Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMore dot com
    – ADD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder –
    “It takes a village to transform a world!”

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    1. LadyJai Post author

      So glad you visited. Thank you for your comment and yes, I feel vulnerable, BUT I also want to help others so this is good therapy for all! 😀

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  3. Debi O'Neille, writing against the wind,

    I can relate to everything you’ve said. I understand the difficulty in saying no to not only my husband, but to anyone. That sure can make life a burden at times. Naturally I then chastise myself for my inability to say no, and again for the guilt I feel because of my inabilities. Sometimes it feels like it never ends. But here’s a little trick of common sense I’ve used on myself, and a lot of times it helps. First, I remind myself that I cannot control what somebody else does, I can only control my reaction to what they do. And I do have to work on my reactions, which sometimes means at least saying “something” when I don’t have the courage to say no. In a similar situation to your financial stresses, I’ve come out and said, “I’m not sure we can afford that, and yet I know it would make you really happy. But do you suppose we could wait until we get this and that bill paid, and then save for it and make it our next splurge?”
    But the biggest thing that helps me whenever I am down on myself for making a mistake and then for carrying the guilt of that mistake with me for too long is I remind myself that God made me – and HE doesn’t make mistakes – so I can’t be all bad.
    Best,
    Deb@ http://debioneille.blogspot.com

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    1. LadyJai Post author

      Thank you so much for your comment. I’ve learned to be more open with him about our finances. I’ve been telling him no, more. And I am asking him if he really NEEDS it verses WANTS it. You know? Explain to me the reasons why you think we need this item. What can we benefit for having it. Can we wait. Is it something that we need? Or do we already have something that does the same thing? Etc. Etc. Etc. So yeah, we have learned to work through these now. He’s learned to recognize the signs of his manic tendencies. And the communication aspect of it really does help. I still struggle with the guilt of saying no. But I tell him and he understands, reassures me that it’s ok, and thanks me for helping him not get us back into debt.

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  4. Cristina

    My dear, are you a practicing Catholic? If yes, why not receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Whenever I feel guilty about anything, anything at all, I make a B-line for confession. I come to find, that what I feel guilty about, what I am concerned with – is ok. It’s normal. To feel guilty about being guilty – we’re our own worst critics aren’t we? The last time I went to confession, I laid it all out there, and the priest said “yeah, me too. It happens to all of us”. o_O yep. Sometimes when you can share and know that you’re not alone in the guilt, in the pain, in the whatever-heart-issue you have going on, it lightens the load for all of you.

    You know what? Even if you aren’t practicing now, go anyway. This way, you get all of this off of your heart. Your heavy heart. And I’ll be here when you get back and we can be squeaky clean together.

    🙂

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    1. LadyJai Post author

      No, I’m not a practicing Catholic, Cristina. And to find a place that I feel comfortable in has been rather difficult. And just going to Confession to a stranger, well, that is quite difficult for me as well. At the very least, though, this blog has provided me an outlet. Thank you for taking the time to read and suggest. I have found that I’m not alone (even wrote about that one too) which does help. Learning to admit the feelings I have and accepting them and understanding that everyone has them just means I’m human! I hope one day to find a pastor or priest I feel comfortable enough to confide in. I haven’t had one in 24 years. The military pastors were easy to approach and readily available. Civilian ones are hard. There’s so many (especially in our area) and so many denominations. It’s not the close knit group that I’m used to in the military environment. 😦

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