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How to forgive myself?

7 posts in this topic

Hi everyone. 


I have been out for 2 years now (yay!). 


Sadly, I went on to develop Complex PTSD and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Although I have found a fabulous therapist that specialises in Eye Movement Desensitisation Reprocessing - a trauma therapy that is great for PTSD, this has allowed me to live symptom free from my PTSD most of the time - though I still struggle with the Complex aspect (Which involves poor self image, trouble with relationships and sensitivity to criticism - and emotional flashbacks, such as heartache and depression). 


Having written this all out and thinking about what my crazy ex did to me (which covered EVERY kind of abuse and left me very traumatised), one of the things I struggle very badly is being able to forgive myself - it has gotten better and I am really working on it, but I guess I feel I cannot talk to any of my friends because I feel scared they will judge me or see me differently - I think it's hard for anyone who hasn't been through abuse to know what it's like. 


So, when I was 19 - I didn't plan to do it, but when I was 19/20 I entered into an emotional affair - I never kissed the person or did anything else, but I had definite feelings and after my ex isolated me and broke me down, this person was really kind and I didn't have any family or close friends at all really, and I was just repeatedly drawn to him because he was kind. 


However, this is now something I feel so, so bad about - which in a strange way feels really warped because i know it's not the person I am and it seems odd that I would feel guilty towards someone who emotionally, physically and sexually abused me and harmed in so many ways. I guess i don't give a crap about him but as someone who makes such a point of always doing the right thing and who always tries to be kind, I feel so much guilt, shame and self-condemnation over my emotional affair. 


I also feel that it happened at a time when I didn't love my ex anymore, but I felt trapped and hurting - I'd tried to leave before, but he would manipulate and bully me when I tried to break off our relationship. I felt so trapped and stuck and the kindness from this person and what we shared helped me get out. 


Sadly, I went back to him after after that helped me feel strong enough to leave, because he said he'd change and I was really struggling. I wish I hadn't because the sexual abuse (including assault) and the threats to my life began afterwards and I then went on to develop PTSD. 


Anyway, I just still feel so tortured and sad about this and like i am a terrible person, and i try to fight myself that it's not the core of who I am - all my good friends always tell me that I'm so kind and I can't even remember the last unkind thing I said to anyone, I volunteer with the homeless and people in mental health - but I just can't shake the thoughts that I'm terrible person for having that affair. It just makes it really hard sometimes. 


And everyone around me always speaks so judgmentally of affairs and i totally get it, because I would to and I don't condone or agree with that behaviour, but I just can't help but feel i'm a bit of a turnips person for doing it. 


I guess it happened 5 years ago and i just want to get to a place where I'm like, "Yes, that was wrong but I'm not a completely terrible person for it." I need to stop beating myself up. 


It's something I did as a traumatised teenager and i want to be able to forgive myself now, or at least stop seeing myself as a terrible person because of it. 


I guess I am asking for some help to do that from you lovely ladies who maybe understands how it feels. 


And please if anyone has any criticisms of me to share, I really understand :), but please don't share them here. Because it's everything I tell myself everyday - I am racked with guilt and beat myself every day even though it was 5 years ago - so i'm really asking for anyone to please not add to it because I don't feel it will help. I'm just asking for some help, as someone who has made a mistake. 





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Oh  I don't think anyone is going to criticize you.  Personally I don't see it as anything but normal.

You were being abused and you connected with someone who was kind to you. That's normal! That's a part of you that was reaching out toward something healthy. 

And you were only friendsFRIENDS. You didn't do anything physical. Just by sharing feelings does not make it wrong.

Would it have been okay to be this way with someone of the same sex? Probably. 


Look at it like this:

You've taken a "vow" to be with someone and to only eat what he gives you.

However, unknown to you when you took the "vow," he would then hold you in a room with no food, no water, no comfortable furniture. 

You're starving. You're forced to lay on hard, concrete floor. You're uncomfortable. You're hungry.

You're hurt, because you promised your heart to someone who is not honoring that, who is not treating you with care and love as you deserve. You're starving.

Someone passes by and, through a window, reaches out to you with a muffin. 

You've promised to only eat what your vow-person has given you...........but you are starving.

Your body and your mind protect your survival. You take the muffin. You're starving. You eat it. It sustains you.

This person comes by with a muffin or a Kind bar every now and then, and you take it. And you eat it. And it sustains you

In fact, it almost certainly helps you eventually escape the cold, hard, lonely room and the person who hurts you.

It's normal. It's what humans do. 


A "vow" is only something in your head. You made a vow to someone who did not honor you.  THEY broke the bond. THEY broke the vow.THEY HURT YOU.

Escaping and surviving is not anything to be ashamed of. 

Also, you were young. It's normal at that age to not be tied to one person specifically - especially one who mistreats you.


If your therapist is not successfully helping you address this, perhaps you need a different one? Because what you "did" (and I hate even saying that you "did" anything, because in my opinion you did nothing wrong)...   is not something you should be beating yourself up over. 

And in my opinion there is nothing to forgive yourself about. 

So unfortunately, I can't offer assistance in forgiving yourself when I don't think you "did" anything 'wrong.'

You had a deep friendship with someone who was kind and cared about you. That's normal and human. Especially given that you were being abused.

You can love someone without it being an "affair" or being "wrong." And for gosh' sake - you were being abused. YOU WERE BEING BETRAYED.  YOU  were being harmed. 

If you were being held hostage in that room, would you really feel guilty and beat yourself up forever for taking that muffin? What you desperately needed in order to survive? Or would you feel guilty and like you betrayed your kidnapper  .... because you survived? Because you were human? Because you were normal?

You know what? Maybe this is a residual trauma bond effect....  I don't think you did anything "wrong" at all. 

That might just be my opinion, but I'm stickin' to it... ;)

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I agree with Quaddie.

Your ability to respond to kindness from another person at the moment in which you were severely deprived of love, respect, and humanity from the person who was supposed to offer this to you, is, in my opinion, a healthy thing. Healthy.

Healthy because you realized when this person offered love and kindness to you that you were in a bad situation.

Healthy because it means that your ability to love and feel was not lost by the abuse.

Healthy because you connected with someone and something that could truly help you see your worth.

Healthy because it helped you remove yourself from the situation you were in and offered you contrast.

I personally feel like people who offer us light in a dark place are, in a sense, meant to be there, to help us move past the imprisonment we feel. 

Your conscience might stir up guilt over this, and I understand that you feel as if you've made a mistake--but have compassion on yourself. You were being abused. You needed help. That help came in the form of a person with whom you had a connection. Abuse puts us through so much and I feel like if there is any time in which we can offer ourselves SO MUCH compassion, it's when we are there. Not only that, but PTSD shuts down the hippocampus in our brain, which is the part that governs decision-making, logic, clarity, etc. Instead all the energy is placed into the amygdala, or the front part of brain focused on survival. And that is all that is really functioning, even over-functioning in our brains with PTSD. The rest shuts down so as to protect us from traumatic memories, thoughts, feelings. In this sense (sorry to get all science-y--I'm learning about the brain in school right now) you were in survival mode, someone came around that helped you survive, and you took that help. It was the most reasonable solution to the torture you were in.

We have so much to forgive in ourselves when our brains are shutdown from trauma. 


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I won't say "I understand exactly how you feel!" because your experience is unique to you, but I do recognize the struggle to forgive oneself. I have moments too, where I understand that I did things that were wrong (or simply imperfect, mistakes), and I feel ashamed of them. I sometimes get stuck in this cycle of despair over "what kind of person I am" because I admit I've done these things that are shameful to me - even if they are understandable, justifiable, they still make me feel gross.  

I think the idea of "forgiveness" is a tricky thing - whether forgiving others, or ourselves. There are a lot of ideas and feelings that go along with it: a lot of baggage. I don't know about you, but when I think of "forgiveness" I imagine this near-mystical experience where suddenly all the pain goes away and the thing that tormented you doesn't matter any more. That it shouldn't hurt at all to think of the past, after forgiveness is achieved. It's like instant magic: that's what it's supposed to feel like. So when I say "I forgive myself" and yet it still hurts, I think I have failed, that I am unable to "get over it". And I imagine this to be a very big problem that again shows something about "who I am".  And then I beat myself up for that.

But I think perhaps "forgiveness" is more like...a staircase. You gotta take steps to get to the top. So something I try to work on is "compassionate acceptance", I guess you could call it. When I think of something that I regret or am ashamed of, I go "Yep, that was a thing that I did. I feel really bad about it. It's been a while, but I still feel bad, and that's ok. I regret what I did and the hurt I caused, I recognize that as a mistake/unwise choice I made, and going forward I intend no further hurt." I kind of have to....forgive myself for not being able to forgive myself just yet! To sit with that uncomfortable feeling and tell myself it's ok to be struggling with this right now, that I'm working through the process.  And slowly, it gets easier, until one day you find that you've reached that magic place of forgiveness where it doesn't hurt any more and you can hold both the acknowledgment of regret as well as the acceptance that you are not a bad person. And you didn't even notice it happening, because you let yourself be not-ok for the time it took to go through the process.    

So, I don't know if that will be helpful for you at all. But it seems to help me ease up on beating myself up!

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I agree with Quaddie and WB. This kind person entered your life to help you. The universe was nudging you in the right direction because you weren't getting on track by yourself. 

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Not to long ago I had a serious problem with something I had done so many years ago. It got so bad I became clinically depressed. I have obsessive compulsive disorder so I thought that was the cause of it. I prayed a lot, ask others for their opinions, ask my counselor and thought about it a lot. I believe due to prayer I was put on some medications that are helping me deal with it. I also am a Christian, so I ask God to forgive me and bless anyone that I may have hurt and now when I think about it, I tell myself, I am not hashing this over again in my mind. I am forgiven by God and it was a sin just like the other sins I did. I decided to quit trying to amend for that sin. I have let it go and ask God to take care of it. I am a Christian so this is how I dealt with it, and I think the medication also helped. If you are not a Christian or don't believe that way, I would suggest that you tell yourself that no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. If you think about it, your husband already broke the marriage vows by treating you abusive. I also had an affair, it wasn't just emotional. I'm not proud of it, but I do realize I was searching for love and a way out of my situation. I have ask for forgiveness from God and I have also forgiven myself. We all make mistakes, no one is perfect and you also have a right to choose how you believe about life. I hope you will choose to forgive yourself for not living up to what you thought you should have done. What he did to you in my opinion was a lot worse than what you did. Hugs and I don't think you are a bad person. 

I think a bad person is one that hurts others and continues to hurt others and doesn't regret it or learn from their past. Just my opinion...

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That person was a gift providing the support and friendship that you needed at a very difficult time. You were wise to accept the gift. There is no reason for guilt.

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