Shame & blame
Dealing with guilt can be difficult. The weight of past events can be so tremendous that it is hard to get from under it. This is especially true when battling depression. They say hindsight is always 20/20, but that isn’t true; depression can warp our perceptions of the past, making it harder to let go of the burden of even moments of long ago.
Dealing with guilt is never easy.
It’s perfectly normal and healthy to feel guilty, though. In some ways, it can be admirable. When we have wrong someone, guilt can lead us to find a way to right that wrong. Did you break your friend’s phone? Helping them put the money together to buy another one is a good thing.
Teens dealing with guilt issues.
The problem arises when guilt becomes excessive, frequent, or associated with something that isn’t our fault. Maybe you’re fixating on some stupid (small) thing you said or did years ago that the person you feel you affected may not even remember. But then, maybe it isn’t a little thing. Maybe it was something life-changing. How do you deal with that?
Before we get there, though, we should talk about why we should deal with it. Guilt (the feeling that ‘I did something bad’) can lead to shame. the feeling that ‘I am bad’, and that can have serious implications on our lives. Of course, the hopelessness it causes can make our depression worse, and make it harder to really live a healthy life.
It may lead us to make decisions that will not only hurt us, but those around us. We may end up believing, for example, that we don’t deserve to be happy, and healthy. But the fact is, you do deserve it.
Dealing with guilt, shame and depression as a teenager can become burdensome.
Actually, that is one way we can battle feelings of guilt: Acknowledging that it is unhealthy to hold on to it, and that your depression may be magnifying the intensity of the situation. This is the first step, and it is an important one.
You also need to learn to forgive yourself. Accept what happened in the past. Accept your own humanity, your imperfection. Plan not to do it again, and leave the mistakes behind you where they belong.
If you’re thinking that’s easier said than done, that is definitely true, but it is worth it. And you can do it. One way to forgive yourself for something you’re holding on to is to write it down on paper. Don’t use “it” or “the thing that happened”; write out clearly what it is, and be sure to include words like “not my fault,” “I am letting it go,” or “I forgive myself.” And then rip the paper to shreds and toss it away. It is a simple action that has a powerful effect.
Learn to forgive yourself, stop the blame.
When the feelings of guilt creep up on you, take a moment and consciously think about how you feel. Breathe slowly. Remind yourself (even aloud) that your past does not define you. Also, remember that there is no shame in seeking help from a trusted mental health professional.
They can help set you on a path to make a habit of forgiving yourself and letting go of unhealthy guilt.
One day, you will be able to close the door on that chapter of your life, and move forward to a happier, healthier life.