Haunted by Her Past

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

First I’ll start by saying that I’m a 21 year old female who has seen the errors of her ways and has changed for the better. The real problem dates back to when I was 13 or 14 years old, even though the real issues have been around for as long as I can remember. I did a horrible, unforgivable, disgusting thing when I was 13/14 (I can’t really bring myself to say it because it is so sickening). I forgot about it for a while. When I was about 16, the memory of what I did hit me and I felt horrible. At first I had thought that it was a false memory and I constantly told myself that I couldn’t have done it. Soon after I came to the realization that I did do it and there was nothing I could do to change it. I became depressed. Whenever I was alone I would cry when I thought about what I did. I even considered committing suicide. I kept my feelings to myself because I didn’t want my family to worry.

A few years after that, I told my mom that I needed therapy. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her what I did. Anxiety about going to a therapist and being judged started to sink in, so I ended up not going. I tried to suppress the memory but now the depression is back and I’m starting to cry when I’m alone again. I’ve thought about telling my family what I’ve done but I can’t bring myself to do it. If my family decided to abandoned me there would be no reason for me to live. I know that I don’t deserve their love but the selfish part of me wants to keep this charade going and pretend as if everything’s fine so that I can keep them.

I feel awful about this and the guilt is continuing to eat me from the inside out. I want to seek help but I don’t think it would do much good. If I can’t tell my family or friends what I’ve done how will I be able to tell a therapist or psychiatrist? My situation is constantly getting worse. I rarely leave my house. Since I’m too afraid to “get it over with” I do the closest thing I can do to it. I shut myself away and refuse to be a part of the outside world. I can’t even connect with my own family and friends (but really it’s always been this way). I’m tired of lying like I’m okay. I’m tired of putting up a front when I’m dying inside. I don’t know what to do. Please help me.

A: Thank you so much for writing. That’s an important first step. You have punished yourself for whatever you did for years now. It’s time to find forgiveness and peace.

Please consider that at 13 or 14, your judgment wasn’t the best. As you said, you have changed for the better. The person you are now isn’t the girl you were then. You are now in a position of strength to deal with whatever your younger self did.

Therapists don’t judge. Our job is to help our clients find new ways to understand themselves and to make the changes they want to make in their lives. Talking to a therapist is different than talking to family and friends. We follow a strict code of confidentiality. That’s why talking to a therapist can be a relief. You can get something off your chest knowing that everything you say stays in that office.

I do strongly suggest you follow your own good instincts and make an appointment with a therapist. If you could handle this by yourself, you would have done so long ago. To help you get by your resistance to talking about your problem, I suggest you write down everything you’ve been bottling up inside. Take that paper plus this letter and response to your first session and ask the therapist to read them. She or he will know how to help you begin to talk about it.

At 21, you have most of life ahead of you. It’s unfair to yourself and to those who love you to be so wracked with guilt that you can’t be all that you could be. With the support and guidance of a good therapist, you’ll find ways to put the past behind you and to embrace life again.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 4 Jun 2012

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2012). Haunted by Her Past. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2012/06/04/haunted-by-her-past/