I don’t talk about it a lot, but when I was much younger I was in a relationship with an older guy for more than five years. He wasn’t a bad guy, but it was a very bad relationship for me that left me feeling trapped and has contributed to many of the issues I still have today.
At a time in my life when that should have been carefree and fun, I was miserable.
I cried myself to sleep way too often.
I tried to disassociate myself from the situation and numb my feelings by developing maladaptive coping behaviors I (unfortunately) still rely on today.
So why did I stay when a couple months in I knew that something was off?
It’s complicated, but aside from the fact that I was young and not 1/100th as strong as I am now, the main reason I stayed was the guilt. Everyone around me was jealous of such a “great catch,” and I was convinced that something was wrong with me for not feeling the same way towards him as he did about me. I didn’t trust my own feelings and came to view them as less valid than those of anyone else.
So as miserable as I was, I stayed.
Needless to say, that breakup was a huge breakthrough—I moved on immediately—and I’ve grown leaps and bounds through the years. And while I still have a long way to go, I’ve learned to manage emotions much better and have certainly built up a strong sense of self.
But sometimes guilt still crops up, be it a subtle ache or a stab in the chest.
It’s rarely guilt over actions. Experience has taught me that feeling guilty in those situations gets me nowhere fast (or perhaps more appropriately, it sends me backwards.)
It’s usually guilt over emotion, at sometimes not feeling things that I think I should feel — which is entirely as screwed up as it sounds. You don’t need my examples, as everyone has those things they feel they “should” be feeling or doing if only to make someone else happy or satisfy some societal norm.
But lately I’m learning to let go—of the past, of the “shoulds,” of the guilt.
Because if I’ve learned nothing else through the years, it’s that a) hitting the garbage disposal instead of the light switch at 2am will cause me to crap my pants and b) guilt serves no purpose.
It fills my mind up with doubt instead of acceptance of things as they naturally are, and when I make decisions just to make someone else happy or because I feel I “should”, it usually just leaves me miserable.
While I know I’m not one of those people that can completely let go — I’ll always be a “thinker” and entirely too sensitive — I remind myself that while I can change my behavior when needed, I can’t change what I feel at my core.
Which, apparently, is the need to include the phrase “crap my pants” in this blog post.
But my point is that years ago I vowed never to feel trapped again. While at the time I meant it in terms of a relationship with someone else, I’ve come to realize that it applies to the relationship with myself more than anything.
Guilt is a self-induced trap.
We all have the choice to let go.
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