G U I L T
1. : the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty
2. (a) : the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously
(b) : feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses/from a sense of inadequacy
3. : a feeling of culpability for offenses
I spent more than three decades of my life in either a constant state of guilt or working myself to death trying to make sure nothing I did would result in guilt. I’ve talked to you guys about how I felt about myself before. And how I spent most of my life under the impression that I was the hardest, most unfeeling person to ever inhabit the planet. That I was bad. I talked a bit about it here.
Because of who I was, or who I thought I was, I spent a great deal of my time in a perpetual state of psychological abuse. I was bad, mean, hateful, cold, insensitive, rude, unlikeable and definitely not worth loving. I was in the habit of constantly checking and re-checking everything I said or did to make sure it was of no offense to anyone. And when I found fault, which was quite often, the onslaught of verbal self-abuse began.
Now of course no one knew about my feelings because I knew it was wrong to feel the way I did. Not that my thoughts about myself were wrong, but that displaying them was. It was not for me to burden others with my issues. Firstly because it was no one’s business. Secondly because I have always handled myself without help from others. And thirdly, good people do not act in such a way. [I probably should have been a vintner as my ability to bottle things is quite astonishing, if I do say so myself]. I rarely pat myself on the back, but in this I must. I hid myself for over three decades from everyone. Everyone! No one knew of the internal wars I waged daily.
Guilt was the biting cold but at the same time, my security blanket. I couldn’t get away from it and I hated the way it enveloped me…
C O N S U M I N G
S U F F O C A T I N G
But if guilt wasn’t there, I was stressed and anxious because I didn’t know how to go about life without it. I was so sure I must be thinking or doing something wrong, but just hadn’t figured out what it was yet. But I would, I always did. And I couldn’t stand the way it made me feel:
But at the same time I needed those feelings. They were like home to me. If I wasn’t mentally berating myself, then I was obviously putting myself on a pedestal begging to be dragged down.
And no one tore me down better than
I am not a braggart but when it comes to psychological warfare waged against oneself, I’m stellar. I spent well over thirty years cutting myself to pieces on the inside, while smiling and laughing on the outside.
I don’t want you to get the impression that I was this sad, sorry little girl in need of sympathy and pity; in search of attention. Never! I didn’t want any attention, and most definitely not that kind. What I am trying to impress upon you is that guilt was a ‘normal’ feeling for me. That when I was without guilt or the promise of guilt I was…
C O N F U S E D
U N B A L A N C E D
Guilt was my penance for being wrong in every single way. For not measuring up to expectations. For not thriving. For not equalling or surpassing my peers. For not seeing things the way others saw them. For not feeling the things others felt. For not understanding the world around me the way everyone else did. And the very worst…
for looking like I did fit in, and for measuring up, and for thriving, and for equalling and surpassing my peers.
And in my mind’s eye I didn’t deserve any of those things. My conscience was never quite sure how I pulled off fitting in and succeeding, someone as wrong and undeserving as me. So it never let me forget. For thirty-odd years guilt was my mentor, my demon, my ally and my nemesis. Guilt, mainly the fear of it, held me close. I wasn’t allowed mistakes or weakness. I wasn’t allowed accident or fault.
I wasn’t allowed to feel human.
And I didn’t. The inside ‘Me’ watched the outside ‘Me’ like a hawk. Waiting for the slightest misstep so she could pounce. And pounce she did, whenever she had the chance. She wove a friendly and engaging exterior to hide the cold, metallic interior. Impervious. Nothing was getting through…
Well, except for guilt of course.
Autism As My Savior
You hear a lot of the negatives when it comes to autism, but you won’t hear it from me. My autism diagnosis was a god-send. Figuratively-speaking, it saved me. It took away the guilt I had been harboring in secret my entire life. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t instantaneous, but over the last 4.5 years, I have watched guilt slowly recede. I have felt my heart lighten. My breathing even. Guilt is not gone completely, of course, that would be impossible. But while it looms in the corners, waiting for its chance to spring, I understand I have power over it now. I am the one in control.
Learning I was autistic breathed new life into me. It made me feel alive. I find it so disheartening when I hear unenlightened organizations speak of autistic people as if we are shells. As if the person we were suppose to be was stolen away, and all that is left is a soulless body…
Isn’t It Ironic
The irony of my situation is that learning I was autistic gave me back my humanity. It gave me an understanding of who I truly am, not who I believed I was suppose to be. It allowed me to make mistakes and not suffer for them. It let me experience the world in my way without fear of reprimand. And it accepted my idiosyncratic ways without the humiliation of censure. My autistic-self allowed me to see myself for the first time since I was a very young child.
And it let me see that I am
G O O D