Tag Archives: guilt

Don’t Just Disappear

She exists in two worlds—the reality that we all know and the reality that her mind creates.

Some days she’ll look me straight in the eyes and tell me about how she’s exhausted from running here or there for a husband who has been gone for years.

Looking at Gram in her wheelchair—where I know she’s been all day, all week, all year—I can see the confusion-filled cloud of dementia that hangs over so many that live in the home.

But lately she’s slipped past the frustrated stage into one of simple contentment most days. Sometimes she’s with us and sometimes she’s lost in that world of her own, but the fear of those two worlds colliding seems to have lessened a bit.

I’ve written about the relationship between my mom, my grandma and me here dozens of times, but this past year it’s been really hard. While there are moments of tenderness and heart-breaking hilarity, continuing to visit and watch mental and physical deterioration—and being powerless to change any of it—isn’t easy to do.

It’s no longer the way that it was.

She doesn’t understand watching baseball anymore, so our biggest shared interest is gone. And at times I don’t want to clean up the room or stop in and find that she’s still sleeping, blinds closed and room dark in the middle of a sunny summer day.

But recently an aide commented to me, “It nice that you still come and visit so much. So many families just disappear.”

As hard as it is, I admit I know exactly how those people feel. Most times I just don’t want to go.

Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s knowing that she is safe and in capable hands without me doing the work. Maybe it’s the difficulty in seeing a person you love with your heart and not just your eyes fade into the gathering darkness.

It’s hard when she’s not the person that she used to be, and in a way she exists in two worlds for me—the reality that we all know and the reality my mind creates, the way I want to remember she was.

But if being on the outside is rough, being on the inside must be harder, even if her recognition of this has passed, too. We all have times that we feel alone or fear that somehow we’ll be forgotten simply because we’ve changed in a way that others find hard to accept.

But while it’s not always fun and it’s not always easy, it’s also not all about me.

So I go to make sure she’s comfortable, to selfishly lessen my guilt, to connect her two worlds when I can and make sure she knows that I’m there—wherever her “there” is on that day.

I go because this is our reality now.

I go because deep down she’s still the same Gram.

I go because love doesn’t just disappear, and because she hasn’t either, neither will I.

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Because You’re Human

When give a dose of twisted reality, much like the tragedy in Boston, we’re also given a dose of perspective. Things are completely out of our control. There are monsters that walk among us who are filled with rage and hate. Bad things happen to good people.

It’s enough to make anyone want to crawl in a hole and escape.

But this post isn’t about Boston, Texas or Newtown or the myriad of tragic events that unfortunately, we’ve had to endure. There are others that can speak much more eloquently on those topics, as thankfully, I’m personally removed.

What I’m not personally removed from is depression, something that I’ve written about a million times before, and something that quite frankly, I’m tired of writing about. I like to keep it light, if only for my own sanity.

But events like Boston bring something to the forefront of my mind, something that I’ve heard others who suffer from depression bring up all the time—the guilt.

Ahh…the guilt. That useless emotion.

I have a job, a roof over my head, family and friends who love me and who are still safe. How dare I be depressed when on paper, things look go good? Other people have “real” reasons to be depressed, so what the hell is my problem?

These are the thoughts that go through my head. The guilt—combined with frustration—are what lead me to physically wear myself down to a literal shell of who I once was.

I won’t go into my details again, but when it hits, I can’t imagine how things might change. My motivation becomes basically reduced to: food, exercise, sleep and hopefully coming up with something to write. Anything on top of that isn’t something I have any interest in.

I just don’t want to think anymore.

I simply want relief, and part of me thought (and maybe still thinks) that if I kept physically pushing myself, eventually something would literally give and then I would have a “real” reason, a valid excuse.

Because if I have an excuse, then I won’t have the guilt and there’s something else I can blame for the way that I feel.

In their own way, I hear this from friends who deal with depression themselves. That the guilt is what keeps them tamped down, that they don’t “deserve” to feel anything less than the inspirational quotes and posters that plaster the globe expect everybody to feel.

But you know what?

Sometimes things are completely out of our control. There are mental monsters like that fill our minds with negative thoughts we don’t ask for. Depression happens to good people.

It’s not your fault.

So even though I cringe as I publish this— “serious” equates to insecurity for me—I wrote it because I know I’m not alone, because everyone has shit that they deal with—big, small, internal, external. 

What you deal with is your shit and what I deal with is mine. That’s both comforting and disconcerting, as it means even though we’re not alone, we’re also not unique or the exception to some rule. Everyone has pain.

The only guilt you should feel is if you don’t honor the fact that your feelings are valid and real.

This doesn’t mean you wallow. This doesn’t mean you throw up your hands, say “screw it” and crawl in a hole and escape. This means you fight. This means you endure. This means your guilt is replaced with acceptance and you take the next step forward and deal with your reality now, whatever that reality may be.

You’re human.

That’s all the “excuse” that you need.

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Verdict: Not Guilty

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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