Lyra

Does anyone else struggle with feeling horrible guilt all the time for stupid, random crap?

14 posts in this topic

When I was little, my parents raised me with the Baptist-style mentality. They weren't too batshit nuts -- I got to go to normal school, read Harry Potter, listen to rock music, go to school dances and do other normal things -- but the religion had that vibe of "God loves us, and it was a huge altruistic act of Him because we're so deeply flawed we don't deserve it, blah blah." I remember when I was like 7, being taught an analogy about burnt cake, and how people are like a cake that got burnt and deserve to be thrown away because we're a gone-wrong creation because God stepped in and saved us. That kind of shit. My parents genuinely thought they were teaching me the right thing, and were amazing in other ways (like encouraging me to do well in school and have ambition). But still, I always had this constant sense of anxiety and guilt, from early childhood until I was a teenager and started realizing I didn't believe anyway. 

 

This sense of guilt was even before I figured out that I prefer other women, or that I didn't believe the bullcrap. It went beyond the more commonly-described feelings of shame surrounding issues like sexuality and disbelief. I remember being like 9 or 10 years old and constantly being worried that I was having too much fun with my friends and being not "wise and discerning" enough (as if having fun with friends is a bad thing?), and I was always scared that my faith wasn't strong/genuine enough and I would go to hell. I remember one time, I was watching the movie "Hercules," which is a G-rated animated Disney kid's film based on the Greek gods, and I was so paranoid about what if I was evil for watching it because it depicted other gods and was sinful. Stuff like that was a constant issue for me.

 

Now that I'm almost 25 and have been religion-free, I find that I still struggle with anxiety, over-thinking, irrational magnification of issues, and constant guilt. Here are some recent examples:

 

1.  Recently, my aunt got mad and blew up at me (understandably so) because when I was staying at her place, I was careless and accidentally put too big of a load in the dryer and caused it to get messed up, despite having been warned about it. I've had extreme guilt about that for the past 3 weeks, and have been feeling like a terrible person and worried that she's going to legitimately hate me forever as a human being. I know it's fucking batshit insane and out of proportion, but that's how I feel right now.

 

2. I moved into a new place about 3-4 weeks ago, and have been making really awesome progress on my new apartment (scored high-quality antique wood furniture from thrift stores for cheap, got lots of art and plants, really coming along on making my place feel like home) but still have some areas that are messy and not unpacked properly. I've been feeling horrible, like I'm living in squalor and there's something wrong with me for it. As if I'm a homeless crack addict with their bags of trash strewn everywhere or something, which is far from the case. 

 

3. I smoke VERY occasional weed -- like maybe a couple of puffs every few weeks on special days or something. When I get a teeny, tiny amount (what most people could blow through in a weekend) it sits in my bookshelf drawer and lasts me for months. I'm not anywhere near being a daily/chronic user (although I don't judge people who are). But sometimes when I smoke, I get this internal sense of disapproval like I'm "using drugs" as if I was a heroin/meth addict or something, and then I start to  think I'm a horrible person at large.

 

Ultimately, it's not just about those issues. Those are just the examples that have been eating at my mind lately. At different points in time, it's been different things. Like if I'm at a party and make a joke that could have been offensive or come off the wrong way to someone, but i didn't realize it until after the fact, I'll feel like shit about myself for days/weeks whereas most people would just brush it off in the moment. Or I'll rehash random memories of doing something wrong or inappropriate -- even if it was done YEARS ago or when I was a kid -- I'll randomly think of it again and again and feel guilty.

 

Does anyone else struggle with this kind of stuff? I realize that it's mostly a secret and internal battle, but sometimes I do really wonder if everyone hates me. Which, going by the facts, obviously isn't the case.

 

 

 

 

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Yes, very familiar. I'm not a doctor, but it sounds like you're describing generalized anxiety: constant worrying about things that have or haven't happened, and the worries are blown out of proportion and you know it, but can't stop. 

 

I warmly recommend you talk to a secular professional about this, preferably one who understands what such religious upbringing with its focus on worthlessness does to a child. There's help, no reason to continue living like this with all this worry ruining the chances to fully enjoy your accomplishments and beautiful things in life.

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Oh, totally. I tend to get loaded with feelings of guilt and regret over even the smallest of things. Would you say these feelings are compulsive? My OCD was largely triggered by these feelings.

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I've been moved into my place for nearly 6 months now and I still have stuff packed in boxes on my floor, closets, and on my computer desk. I just figured if I need something, I'll get it out. I'm not much of an interior decorator, and most of the other stuff is just stuff that will have to be repacked when it comes time to move again. People may think it's tacky, but it's my place, I pay the rent, and if they don't like it - they can show themselves the door and not let it hit their ass on the way out.

I echo yunea's sentiment - it sounds like GAD probably and maybe as rjn noted: OCD perhaps? Those two can be vicious when they work in unison with each other, attacking you from both sides. I tend to overthink as well, and deal with extreme high and low depression. For me, it stems from the fact that I spend a good deal of my time alone, having no real connection with friends or a significant other anymore. My local friends have all moved on, married with families now - I'm just here trying to improve myself.

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11 hours ago, Lyra said:

3. I smoke VERY occasional weed -- like maybe a couple of puffs every few weeks on special days or something. When I get a teeny, tiny amount (what most people could blow through in a weekend) it sits in my bookshelf drawer and lasts me for months. I'm not anywhere near being a daily/chronic user (although I don't judge people who are). But sometimes when I smoke, I get this internal sense of disapproval like I'm "using drugs" as if I was a heroin/meth addict or something, and then I start to  think I'm a horrible person at large.

Hi, Lyra!

 

I totally understand where you are coming from.  I have been a non-believer for about three and a half years now, but I still deal with unnecessary guilt about things that I have no reason to feel guilty about.  I really think it's all symptomatic of the brainwashing process that we as believers were subtly put through for years on end.  Unfortunately, the after effects of it all don't just go away overnight.  I've found myself having long mental conversations with myself in an effort to rationalize my behavior.  It's definitely not fun to deal with.

 

On a more positive note, it does get better with time.  I used to feel absolutely horrible every time I would give in to the urge to watch porn.  I'm proud to say that I've finally reached the point where I don't deal with that level of guilt anymore.  I have a girlfriend who enjoys watching it with me from time to time, and that really helps a lot.  It's not like we watch it all of the time, but occasionally we like to use it to spice things up in the bedroom.  I guess the point I'm making is that it really helps to have someone in your life who can help you work through your issues.

 

As far as weed is concerned, you don't need to feel guilty about that at all.  I recently took a trip to Colorado, and spent the entire week trying out different edibles.  It was such a stress reliever.  Afterwards, I felt more clear-headed and focused than I had in quite a long time.  I would say that it is the best cure for stress and anxiety disorders that there is.  I would also go so far as to say that a lot of us who are ex-christians could really benefit from it.  

 

I think that deconversion can leave a person dealing with symptoms that are very similar to PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), and marijuana is one of the best treatments there is for it.

 

Anyway, there is nothing wrong with you Lyra.  You are definitely not alone. :)

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7 hours ago, yunea said:

Yes, very familiar. I'm not a doctor, but it sounds like you're describing generalized anxiety: constant worrying about things that have or haven't happened, and the worries are blown out of proportion and you know it, but can't stop. 

 

I warmly recommend you talk to a secular professional about this, preferably one who understands what such religious upbringing with its focus on worthlessness does to a child. There's help, no reason to continue living like this with all this worry ruining the chances to fully enjoy your accomplishments and beautiful things in life.

I just thought this was worth reading again.

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Thank you so much for your responses. I'm feeling much better now. I do totally realize that I probably have anxiety, and agree that therapy would help. 

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4 minutes ago, Lyra said:

Thank you so much for your responses. I'm feeling much better now. I do totally realize that I probably have anxiety, and agree that therapy would help. 

Hopefully you'll figure something out :) Good luck!

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Lyra (love that name btw), I agree with all the responses here.  You're not alone.  The thing I try to remember is that everything is on a continuum, including anxiety.  Some people live on the very low, chilled out end of the continuum but there are times in life when they'll jump to the other end - or even snap.  Other people live with a constant sense of anxiety about one thing or another, and they're often labeled with 'general anxiety disorder' (GAD) which typically goes hand-in-hand with depression, but there are still moments (even if very brief) when when people with GAD find the time or space to be more relaxed and care-free. And sure a drink or a little pot can help with this.  (Nothing wrong with that as long as it doesn't turn into something destructive.) I try to remember two things when I'm anxious or depressed. First, these are not choices.  Nobody asks to be anxious or depressed.  For me, once I accepted that fact, I stopped beating myself up for these unwanted feelings when they happen. Sometimes, when you're over-analyzing a situation, if you step outside yourself for a moment, and say to yourself, 'yep, that's my anxiety kicking in,' it helps to lessen the anxiety right there in the moment.  And second, I just accept that this is who I am and there may actually be benefits to these personality traits.  Its my belief that anxious/depressed people often have other traits that go hand-in-hand.  Tortured souls (so to speak) often create beautiful works of art, literature, music, etc.  They can empathize and sympathize with the plight of others and feel compelled to make the world a better place. If no one struggled with anxiety, the planet would not necessarily be better off.  Anxious people tend to be over-thinkers.  And over-thinkers tend to be people who deeply analyze things.  And let's face it, as ex-Cs most of us deeply analyzed our beliefs in order to leave our faith behind.  I prefer to celebrate the fact that my analytical mind freed me of my beliefs and I just accept that anxiety sometimes goes along with that. 

Glad to hear you are feeling better already!

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Hey Lyra, I know you came to a conclusion and feel better but I just wanted to add to this.

 

I don't know if it will help you, but it really helped me once I was told there's a kind of OCD that specifically ties into religious upbringing. It's called scrupulosity and I only recently found out about it, but since I have I've been reexamining a lot of aspects of my OCD and GAD. It has a lot to do with the constant guilt we're forced to feel and brought up with, and you're already on the right track with being faith critical and acknowledging that it is something that affects your day to day life. I just thought it might be helpful for whenever you do go to a therapist to maybe have a starting block!

 

I hope you can get the help you need!

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One thing I found helped me was to keep busy.  Anxiety, worry and depression really are worse when you sit and dwell on it, so if you can keep your brain active and busy it can reduce the amount of time you focus on the negative.  Doesn't really matter what the activity is as long as it takes your concentration.  Learn a language, do a martial art, learn to dance, write a book, even playing video games can be immersive and keep your attention on the task at hand.  Just find your joy and do whatever it is that makes you happy.

It won't eliminate the problem, but the more positive activities you have and the more fun, joy and happiness you have in your life the less time you leave for the negative.

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I'm glad you posted this. When I saw the Baptist part I thought you meant guilt about reading Harry Potter or something like that, but no, you are in fact someone who appears to feel the way I do about minor nonsense.

 

A couple of years ago, in college, I needed a place to live during the semester after I had to leave my apartment (that's another story), and a couple I didn't know invited me to stay with them until I returned home. They were very generous - I had a nice guest room and a bathroom, and they took me out to dinner. But I wasn't told not to use the closet in the bedroom; it wasn't cleaned out, but since no one mentioned it, I stored laundry in the closet. The wife was pretty upset; she didn't shout or scold, but made clear that the closet was off-limits, because some artifacts of her son's were there. (I've just now thought of this, but it's a little strange that some terribly-important items were lying on a closet floor.) Anyway, I felt terrible and was extremely embarrassed. In hindsight, I should have asked first, but since it wasn't brought up when I moved into the guest room and should have been if the items were so meaningful, it wasn't rational to blame myself much.

 

What you're describing is very familiar. I have the same tendency to overthink comments I've made, and wonder if whoever I said it to took offense, and feel guilty and embarrassed about possibly having inadvertently insulted someone, or said or done something stupid.

 

Have you ever noticed that other people do it too? Think of things that people you know have done that made you cringe. Most likely these people weren't particularly graceless or insensitive, just happened to be a little awkward at the moment. Chances are good that they don't punch themselves in the face about it for weeks. They just say, "Whoops," apologize if necessary, and move on. And even if they do tend to say or do somewhat offensive things more than others, so what? People are different. Doesn't make them bad or stupid. Besides, the less-refined ones are also less likely to beat themselves up about it, so why should you do that to yourself?

 

They're also not likely to be thinking about whatever it was you did that you think is so awful. We often see our own flaws much better than others do, because we see them up close, particularly if we tend to be self-critical. And if they do keep thinking about how dumb you are for slipping up like every other human being, they need to find something to do with their time.

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On 2017-04-20 at 3:47 AM, Lyra said:

Thank you so much for your responses. I'm feeling much better now. I do totally realize that I probably have anxiety, and agree that therapy would help. 

 

Is there anything you can do on your own to improve your mental wellbeing? I don't want to put you down or ruin your hope or anything, but the waiting times for therapy can be very long, and while I don't doubt for a second that some therapeutic methods can be fruitful, they're not some magic solution or quick-fix. How's your confidence doing?

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Hey y'all, thank you for responding. Sorry it took me so long to write back.

 

Faithfulless, what you said was especially spot-on. I write novels and also volunteer on an anti-abuse hotline because I identify with that drive to make an impact on the world. I guess it's common for that to go hand-in-hand with anxiety.

 

I hung out with my aunt last weekend. It was fun and cool and she didn't say a word about the dryer, probably because she doesn't give a shit about that conflict anymore.

 

My parents mailed me a children's Bible coloring book for my 25th birthday. Isn't that strange? I have no problem with gifts that aren't the best fit, and I was able to say thank you and be polite (like i would if it was a sweater I didn't like or something). But even being Christian, who sends a kid's coloring book to a 25 y-o-?? I haven't lived with them since 17 when I finished high school, and I've been financially independent since I landed my first job at graduation time. Definitely not a kid by any stretch. I like art, but a children's Bible coloring book? Does anyone else find that supremely weird? I'm not sure what to think it means.

 

Also, during a phone conversation with my dad, he asked if I'd found a church yet in my new city. I said "I'm going to a Unitarian church that I like a lot and have made great friends at," which is true (I'm not religious but I do believe in spirituality and a higher-power, just not Biblegod), and he just said "Find a good Baptist church" as if he didn't give a shit about what I'd just said. This kind of thing drives me fucking NUTS. I wish they would just accept that it's my life, and stop trying to force their religion down my throats.

 

Those examples aren't relevant to the anxiety, in that they don't make me feel anxious. They just make me feel annoyed. I'm very emotionally distant from my parents because of this type of stuff - I feel like they aren't genuinely interested in knowing me as a person, and instead just want to mold me into what they think I should be. I do have other family and friends who I feel like I can be myself around, though. 

 

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