Cannot Live With The Guilt

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

I’m 24 years old and I just got our of an over year long relationship a month and a half ago. About 6 months ago, when I was away in uni, I broke up with my boyfriend when I was drunk and angry. That day I continued to drink and drank for 40 hours straight and in that time I ended up going out with someone else. I went out with this person for two weeks and did everything. I kept in touch with my ex and when I came down for a holiday I decided to get back with him. I always blamed it on the fact that he was insecure. I always thought that he should be happy that I chose him eventually. We broke up recently and stopped talking about a month ago. In this time he met another girl who he is very close to but not intimately involved with. We met two days back and while we were talking he jokingly said he did something with her. And it struck me as to how much pain I would have put him through because I couldn’t even imagine them kissing. After this incident, I have looked back and realized I have not been the nicest person, have had the most disregard for people’s feelings. I cannot bring myself to look in the mirror or think that I am myself. Because I don’t want to live with who I am. I have resorted to self injury over the past two nights. Eaten one meal a day, drank at least 3 pints of beer a day. Smoked 3 packs of cigarettes. I am honestly losing it because I can’t think straight I feel like I’m blinking more than usual. I am losing hope in thinking positive. I know I can’t undo what I did and I can’t undo who I am now because I’m 24. And I have only let everyone down. My ex says he has forgiven me but I can’t forgive myself and I can’t live with my past.

A. You had a strong emotional reaction when you learned that your ex may have had physical contact with another woman. You experienced this reaction when you realized that your behavior may have hurt your ex.

You acknowledged your mistake but took it a step further. You apparently decided that you needed to be punished for your behavior. You stopped eating, drank to the point of intoxication, and engaged in self-injurious behavior. You paid a painful price for your mistakes through self-punishment. I think you have punished yourself enough.

It is important to keep in mind that everyone makes mistakes. What is important is that you recognize and are sorry for your error in judgment. Not everyone is willing or able to admit their mistakes. Some people repeat the same mistakes over and over and never learn how to make better choices. There are also some individuals who, even when they make mistakes, are not compelled to correct their behavior. They may not want to change or they may not know how to change. From what I can tell, you want to change and this is very encouraging.

Think about it from another perspective: If a friend or a loved one made a similar mistake, would you suggest they take the same approach to the problem that you have? Would you suggest they engage in self-punishment as a way to make up for their mistake? I highly doubt you would offer that advice to your friend or a family member. I am not suggesting that you are deliberately doing this to yourself but merely pointing out that behaving this way is wrong.

You recognized your mistake, took ownership of it, and realized the pain that it may have caused your ex. You cannot change the past but you can try to make better choices in the future. Just like every other human being, you will make continue to make mistakes. We all will, because that is the nature of humanity, but I doubt you will make that specific mistake again. Learning from past mistakes and trying to correct your behavior to prevent future poor choices is all anyone can expect from you. This is the standard you should apply to yourself and to others.

You have suffered enough. Your ex has forgiven you and it is time that you forgive yourself.

I hope this helps in some way. Thanks for your question.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 10 Jul 2010

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2010). Cannot Live With The Guilt. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 24, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/07/10/cannot-live-with-the-guilt/