Perpetual Guilt: Understanding Why I Feel Bad Over Everything
This site has always been a space to talk about daily mental health issues. Ones that everyone can, and does, face up to at some point. There’s a difference between mental health and mental illness. This space is more about mental health, and how it can deteriorate if you’re not diligent and disciplined with it.
The most effective way to talk about mental health issues in this regard is talk about my own experiences. This is why I generally don’t address things that I haven’t experienced first-hand, because I don’t think it’s my place. We shouldn’t speak on things we don’t know about.
Today, we’ll talk about guilt and shame, because these two feelings are ones that have been with me for as long as I can remember. Their source is unknown as of yet, but I do know that feeling guilty as much as I do is maladaptive, and so it’s something I try to work on daily.
I feel guilt for just about everything I do, or don’t do – I feel guilty for going out, I feel guilty for staying in. I feel guilty for not hanging out with my friends, but I also feel guilty for not working enough. There is guilt for drinking even though it’s fun. I feel guilty for doing things other people don’t give a second thought to. If I date two people at once I feel guilty. I feel guilty for not ringing people to check in. I feel guilty for not being how other people are.
Essentially, I feel guilty for existing, and that can be very difficult to deal with at times.
Sometimes, it feels like other people seamlessly glide through things that trip me up. Even when I do something I definitely want to do, I feel guilty afterwards. It’s hard to say exactly why that is. Part of me thinks it’s because I have a sense of morality that’s altogether too rigid, and that this subconsciously makes me feel guilty for doing ‘immoral’ things, such as drinking with my friends.
It can be ignored for the most part, but sometimes it’s an overwhelming guilt and this makes me feel like I’m a bad person, which then makes me believe that everyone thinks I’m a bad person. You can see where the spiral leads. All of a sudden you have this contempt for yourself all because you had 5 cans the night before and feel like you should have been doing something more wholesome.
But like every other emotion, this guilt is not who I am. The way it makes me feel is not who I am. It is just the way I feel in the present and it will pass. There are times when all you want is for someone to ‘fix’ these emotions and make them go away, but that’s not how it works. The emotions will always come – the part we can control is how much we let them affect us.
And it’s not all bad, sometimes the guilt is appropriate. Feeling bad about myself for behaving badly is a good thing, because it tells me I need to change something. That’s needed, otherwise you have no remorse for anything and you really become a prick then.
When the guilt is inappropriate though, when it comes from doing things nobody else ever feels guilty for, this is when we need to check ourselves. Why is that guilt coming? Does it make sense? These are the questions we need to ask.
If it has some purpose, this feeling of guilt, then we can grow from it. If it has no purpose and exists only to torment us, then we need to give ourselves a break. Life is hard enough without feeling guilty about living it. This is something I’m still learning, and that’s grand.
It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is.