Guilt is an emotion that can weigh anyone down, but when suffering with depression and anxiety I can tell you that it is a persistent feeling that gnaws away at your insides like when a lion is eating his prey. Guilt is defined as being both a cognitive and emotional state wherein our conscience mind believes that we have done something wrong, true or not, compromising one’s morals and enduring a significant amount of remorse. However, sometimes feeling guilt can be a good thing as it may help to protect us or keep us from making mindless or foolish mistakes unless it becomes excessive and infringes on unhealthy territory, keeping us from functioning a normal life.
Feeling guilty about something is a natural and human emotion that affects everyone at some point in their life, some more than others. Occasionally we feel guilty because we ate that last piece of cake even though we had been dieting all week, or we chose to skip the gym that morning because we were too tired and just wanted to stay in our pajamas all day curled up on the couch watching Netflix instead. Sometimes we find ourselves feeling guilty because we have been too busy working on a project at work and have neglected our loved ones or maybe we bought yet another pair of shoes we had been eyeing at the mall for weeks spending too much money unnecessarily.
These types of guilty feelings usually vanish within a few hours of its onset, leaving little to no damage or repercussions behind, but when it comes to depressive and anxious minds, guilt becomes so overwhelming and uncontrollable. For me guilt has become a normal part of any given day, continually allowing my subconscious mind to blow things out of proportion, causing daily bouts of self-blame, self-doubt, low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness. Guilt has caused me to be extremely indecisive, insecure and constantly laying blame on me with no justification or rationality. It carries a heavy weight around with you, leaving you unable to reason or problem solve properly like an individual with a healthy mind.
I have been working a lot lately with the help of therapy trying to figure out ways to lessen the overpowering and forceful feelings of guilt by first trying to reprogram my brain into understanding that first and foremost, I did not choose to become depressed and anxious just like someone would not choose to have cancer or diabetes. For many people suffering from depression, guilt can be very manipulative and darn right stubborn. It further antagonizes and exasperates an already fragile mind when trying to shift the persistence of negative thoughts into more positive ones, or mastering our boundaries when it may risk disappointing others, or learning sometimes that the word “no” is actually a complete sentence which demands no further justification.
Guilt has become for me like a gift that keeps on giving, a very toxic and unrelenting one as I continue each and every day to find a way to understand how I got here, who I am, who I want to be and where I go from here. The one thing I do know for sure is that the only way I’m going to find these answers is by squashing the guilt, one layer at a time, like peeling the skin off an onion. It is only recently that I am learning through therapy how to peel those layers away and that in order to do so I need to choose ME. So for now, as selfish as it may seem to some, and as guilty as I may feel…I CHOOSE ME.