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Bueler

How do you deal with guilt?

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I'm having a really bad time with depression, and in particular I'm feeling guilty about all sorts of things. I'm remembering how I acted toward people and regretting not working hard enough for a previous boss, not treating a coworker with enough respect, turning a whole class against this kid I hated in middle school.

I feel guilty that my parents have helped me out with money, I feel guilty I didn't finish school with a degree. I just feel really awful and guilty about all sorts of things, and they're making me think I'm not a good person.

I know I've learned a lot, and I wouldn't repeat a lot of the things I feel guilty about, but when I think about them, I see myself through the other person's eyes, and I think I'm not a good person. Does that make sense? It's like I can't allow myself to see past these limited situations into the positive I've done (I don't think about positive at all!) All I can do is ruminate and feel bad.

And of course that makes me anxious and worry and all kinds of stuff. I suppose I could make amends with some people, but others I can't. How can I ever find closure? How do I get rid of (or tolerate) these horrible thoughts? Maybe it's OCD? I don't know...

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This is how I deal with guilt:

1. Realize that whatever I'm feeling guilty about is done, and what's done is done. It's in the past. You cannot change it.

2. BUT you can learn from it and not make that mistake in the future. So you need to realize that you are a better person because you've learned from the experience.

3. If it involves someone else, do what you can to make amends. But don't go overboard out of guilt.

4. Leave it at that and stop beating yourself up about it. Try not to dwell on it and ruminate about it. As I've said, you can't change anything that is in the past so constantly focusing on it is futile and self-destructive.

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It could well be a part of ocd, and that is something to take up with your pdoc. About seeing yourself through other people's eyes, be your own best advocate and not your chief prosecutor. Odds are you are not seeing it the way that they see it in reality. Guilt is something to take up with your tdoc, but as I've said, mention it to your pdoc as well.

Edited by jt07

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Hey Bueler. First of all this is going to be a long response because I sooooo relate.

I actually signed onto CB just now because I'm feeling so guilty I don't know what to do.

Have you felt guilty your whole life?

I have felt guilty since I was a kid but this is the first time in my life I'm actually sorry for the right reasons. I always felt a general guilt and now it's very specific. Like you said I see myself through the eyes of other human beings and it hurts like a mother fucker. Lately someone will mention a name and it will be the name of this friend or that friend that I fucked over one way or another and suddenly I'm lost in deep sadness. There are a few people in this world who could justifiably beat the living shit out of me.

I'm up right now with my heart in my throat just praying to every God I can think of for forgiveness.

In the past forgiveness wasn't a real part of my life. I thought I was a forgiving person because if a friend slept with my boyfriend or something I would just put all that hate on MYSELF and screw up my own life. But now for the first time I can be upset with another human, mourn, and then forgive. I can truly see are all capable of horrible things and that doesn't make us horrible people, IF we truly have compassion, if we are truly sorry.

I am still in guilt purgatory and it is HORRIBLE. I understand. I hope I'm not stuck here forever and I'm just balancing out my wrongs.

We might not be able to relate to some of the extreme unkind things people do to each other, but most of us know how deep and real it is to be truly sorry.

I've actually written friends from middle school and apologized and it genuinely helped. Even if you don't have the guts to press SEND on the letter (sorry Lauren. fucking sorry. sick to my stomach sorry) it still helps for some reason.

I hope you can find some relief from guilt. I hope I can find some relief.

I haven't figured out what all of this means. There is something so much bigger going on (for me). I'm figuring this out and someday I'm gonna understand.

Right now I'm going to make playlist for guilt. Starting with Wilco...

"Kid you've paid your dues. Dues and dues."

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Depression is super awesome because it feeds on and magnifies your guilt. I have been a guilt-based person my entire life, so I can totally relate to everything you mentioned. Once you get *out* of a depression it becomes a bit easier to categorize guilt into, “I have zero reason to feel guilty about this, it had nothing to do with me”, and “You know, I did that, and I was a shit for it. Maybe there is something I can do about it now.” Like others mentioned, making amends when you feel better works- and it has worked wonders for me. If I’ve been a shit to someone I have taken the time to address it (even years later), and let them know that it’s bothered me ever since, and that I’m sorry that I did that to them, and I hope that they are well in life. The daily guilt, however, will eat at you like parasite. No good comes of this horrific guilt we feel. Furthermore, no one sees us the same way we see ourselves. If your parents gave you money, that was their choice. Perhaps in the future you can make arrangements to pay them back. Feeling that horrible guilt about the fact that you currently can’t pay them back won’t put money in their hands and it won’t help your depression. The not finishing school? I know that all too well. I’m less than one year away from finishing my degree and at times the guilt nearly chokes me because I fear I won’t be able to make it happen. Then it becomes a waterfall of who I will fail- my children, my mother, my friends, etc. You can imagine how I begin to panic, right?

My pdoc told me today that just as often as I need to focus on the little things that I *have* accomplished (getting out of bed, kids off to school, talking with people outside in the real world, etc.), I ALSO need to be aware that there is a big picture. When these “horrible” thoughts of guilt well up I want to freeze and then never move again. So, how to tolerate them? Magic tricks, maybe. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m beginning to learn. The only other option is to live like this- guilty, afraid, and frozen. I hate clichés so much, “It is what it is” (gag), “make lemons out of lemonade” (can I punch someone?). However, opposite action DOES work for me, and it’s something you may want to try. For example, the other day I had an opportunity to meet with someone who I hadn’t seen in a few years, and I had dicked her over big time financially. I was drinking a lot at the time and totally unaccountable. If she agreed to see me I would be able to observe her business for a class I’m taking. I was guilt-ridden and terrified, so I used Opposite Action. I did the exact opposite thing I WANTED to do. I called her. I asked her if I could meet with her and observe her business. She was so thrilled to hear from me, and ultimately offered me a part time position at her business. I’m still so guilt-based I don’t think I “deserve” it, but if I were to list my qualifications I know I’m at least qualified.

Would you consider jotting down a list of every single thing you are guilty about, who you believe you have hurt? I’m only giving you one example of what has worked for me, because that’s really the only awesome example I have. J I’m not some recovered madwoman. I just saw your post and thought, “Oh, I do that, too!” I also give society a lot less credit for being compassionate and resilient. Often we think far worse of ourselves and remember the past in a much more negative way than others remember about us. Yesterday a dear friend had to remind me that I'm only the wretched beast about 2% of the time, while I perceive that I'm that way 75-80% of the time. It's a perception thing. I’m sorry you are feeling this way and hope you begin feeling better soon.

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I feel guilty for things I've done in the past, some not so bad, some pretty bad, and some I really shouldn't feel guilty about.

I've learned to say to myself that Im not the same person I was 10, 20, 30 years ago, and that it's not valid for me to feel guilty because I did something at age 10. I mean, things in life change, and you are always learning new ways to live life properly, so your way of living in this world will change as you grow.

I hope that made sense...

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I feel a lot of guilt for things I've done in the past, but now all I can do is move on and try to not let it bother me. I just ask myself for forgiveness and sometimes it really works after awhile. I figure when what I felt guilty about happened, it was because I wasnt in the right state of mind at the time, and I was in a bad place then.

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I guess my complaint at the moment isn't as much dealing with those things as it is that I seem to be having a flood of painful memories. I don't normally remember all this stuff, but I'm on a roll. I saw someone in a parking lot today and thought, OMG that looks like so and so, and last time I saw so and so I was rude and mean for no reason. He must hate me, or at least he should... it would be SO AWKWARD if I ran into him.

I don't know why all the influx of thoughts like these...

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I guess my complaint at the moment isn't as much dealing with those things as it is that I seem to be having a flood of painful memories. I don't normally remember all this stuff, but I'm on a roll. I saw someone in a parking lot today and thought, OMG that looks like so and so, and last time I saw so and so I was rude and mean for no reason. He must hate me, or at least he should... it would be SO AWKWARD if I ran into him.

I don't know why all the influx of thoughts like these...

I don't know if this is anywhere near how you are feeling, but to me it sounds like a form of PTSD. Just a thought.

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melissa, that's an interesting theory or framework to view it through... I'll obsess about it in the morning when I'm more awake. :)

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I disagree that it sounds like PTSD.

Having unwanted thoughts, unpleasant feelings, and such is a normal human experience because our brains are good at making associations.

Unless, of course, you had seen the person you were reminded of be eaten by a pack of wolves... then it would cross over into PTSD territory.

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I try to make amends if the guilt is justified. If it is not justified, I just sit with it for a bit. I also imagine my guilt floating away on a stream, and it helps somewhat.

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I think this is something that could be treated with CBT and mindfulness. We all have guilt and regret, but like someone else mentioned, it can be magnified by depression. When you can observe the guilty thought or emotion without getting caught up in it, the frequency of thoughts will likely decrease. That the thoughts upset you so much tends to set you up for more of the same thoughts, it's cycle.

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Guilt is a symptom of being crazy; it ranges from vanilla guilt to the kind of guilt you get with anxiety disorders. I feel guilty about almost everything. It really sux that it fluctuates in conjunction with my intrusive thoughts and hallucinations.

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