Guilt Happens

Guilt Happens

I doubt there is a single person on our planet who has not experienced guilt at one time or another.  Many people beat themselves up daily with the burden of guilt for both real and imagined events or interactions.  Through the experience I describe in my new book Shattered: Tragedy on the Mountain—living with traumatic brain injury and bipolar madness I describe the constant guilt I carried around because of my husband’s mental illness due to his accident in the mountains of Colorado.

I actually thought I deserved the guilt because no matter what I did I could not make him better.  I would never have treated my best friend or my worst enemy with the disrespect I treated my self with during this time in my life when I just kept heaping the guilt on and unnecessarily trying to carry it.  If I had been able to find some perspective, I would have been able to see that what I was doing in response to his mental illness was the best I could at that moment, and that was not only good enough but in some cases it was extraordinary.

As the years rolled by after the accident I began to gain the perspective I lacked for the first ten years and when I did it was as if someone had rolled the blinders off of my eyes.  It was then that I learned:

  • Guilt is a useless and destructive emotion.

  • Guilt should be treated as if it were poison because it is.

  • Guilt is a very human response to pain and is a common reaction to the powerlessness that pain fosters.

I have since forbidden guilt to cross my personal threshold and I no longer beat myself up with it.  If you are feeling guilty for whatever reason I challenge you to consider giving yourself a break and letting yourself off the hook. Find a more positive and less destructive way to deal with your pain.  Just try it!