the look of guilt upon her face
was plain as if the scarlet A
forever found a home and place
where guilt can’t hide itself away
©2013 by Monty Wheeler
I still struggle with guilt. Out of all the healing and acceptance I have done over the past few years, there are times when I find myself looking in the mirror and saying: Who do you think you are taking care of yourself? Who do you think you are, snuggling in blankets, enjoying yourself watching a movie at 2pm, while you play with your markers.
Who do you think you are, playing your favorite word game, when there is a pile of dishes just screaming to be washed. Who do you think you are, petting and talking to your dog, while the rest of the world is busting their buns, off to the grind, working hard to pay the bills? Are you kidding me? You should be doing the same? Get out there! Pound that pavement. Find that job!
Then I wonder, after a long physical illness and recovering, would I actually speak to myself that way. The answer is no? Even I get tricked by the «lack of physical illness» (which cannot be seen) and shy away from my from my psychotherapist and Dr’s diagnosis: PTSD, with chronic depression, accompanied by a history of family agoraphobia and panic. Isolated and easily overwhelmed. Prognosis good, time off: 12 to 18 months minimum.
WOW! I’ve been off 2 years already.
If I stick to the Merriam-Webster definition above. I am assuming my mental illness is caused by me, and recovering and caring for myself is wrong. Yep, I have committed a crime, and I should be punished? I do not think so. Unhealthy guilt is taking place here. Probably caused by a lot of old stuff, old mental tapes, and the stigma still attached to depression.
According to Dr. John M. Grohol, in his article, 5 Tips for Dealing with Guilt, «guilt prompts us to re-examine our behavior so that we don’t end up making the same mistake twice.» This is true for heathy guilt, the kind of guilt we felt as a child after hitting our sibling in the head with a Tonka truck. He continues to write: «The problem arises when our behavior isn’t something that needs re-examining, nor is it something that needs to be changed.» Thus, feeling guilty for trying to get better by resting, reading, and taking time for oneself.
“It has always seemed that a fear of judgment is the mark of guilt and the burden of insecurity.”
― Criss Jami
The guilt I am feeling for staying home and recovering is unhealthy guilt. There is nothing I can learn from it, because I didn’t do anything wrong. All I can do is to breathe into the feeling of guilt and seek to understand where it is coming from, to help the nasty feeling to move on and out.
We are a society where work, success, and accomplishments are valued in its highest form. Sitting on our butts, and doing nothing is frowned upon.When an illness is not seen, other’s may judge, however, I think the hardest of judges is ourselves. I, for one, need to give myself a dose of compassion. I am working hard at not letting this get to me. I remind myself of all the hard work I am doing to get better. How strong a mother I am to my children, and what I am doing, whether writing, reading or creating art, is for MY health, and that my friends, is something I have to fall in love with.
I am getting there slowly, yet surely, and working on guilt free.
“Today and onwards, I stand proud, for the bridges I’ve climbed, for the battles I’ve won, and for the examples I’ve set, but most importantly, for the person I have become. I like who I am now, finally, at peace with me…”
― Heather James, Things A Mother Should Know: For The World’s Most Important Mum