Spurred by someone I care about, this post is for all those who battle the unending guilt experienced during depression periods.
Guilt is a very real and debilitating but completely useless feeling. It stops us from moving forward by blocking rational thinking on options for and ability to act.
Why I say perpetuating? Here is a typical chain of thoughts I lived through that rendered me completely unable to think or act. (Remember, by definition, depression is, among other things, the inability to carry out everyday tasks.)
The kitchen needs cleaning up (stuff put away, dishes washed).
It can wait. - the mind is trying to find a way out of doing
I'm too tired to clean up the kitchen. - the mind is trying to rationalize why not to act
This is such a small thing but I can't bring myself to do it. - I'm just lazy... GUILT sets in
I should find something useful to do. - searching for a way to eliminate feeling lazy
I just can't get myself moving. - what's wrong with me? I'm useless (negative self-talk)
It is expected that I clean the kitchen. - I'm letting myself and my loved one down... more GUILT
I'll take a nap before I tackle the kitchen. - I'm wasting time... the GUILT builds
I've been procrastinating for an hour now. - How will I explain my laziness?
I cannot deal with the disappointment in myself. I can't solve it. I can't move. Everything hurts physically and I'm mentally exhausted so I close my eyes and give into nothingness. My whole world is numb... I can't think and I don't want to think but my GUILT cannot stop the downward thoughts. I'm lost to negativity without a glimmer of hope that some day I can feel better.
This and many similar episodes happened to me for months.
So, one day, I decided that I will clean up the kitchen first thing in the morning. I decided that I will complete the task no matter how I feel and how long it takes me. I also decided that once I finished, I will give myself time to savor my accomplishment and not push for any more to do that day.
So I did. I cleaned up the kitchen. It took an hour (for something that should have been 10 minutes.)
Upon completing this very small task, I:
- acknowledged my accomplishment (that I set a goal and achieved it)
- told myself that I'm capable (evidenced by the accomplishment)
- told myself that I do not need to feel guilt anymore
- rewarded myself with a treat and a half hour rest from any thinking or doing
- reiterated the process by which I achieved completing my goal
- listed all the positives I could come up with to solidify a feeling of accomplishment (I'm capable, I am in control of my life, my mind is strong, I am worthwhile, my life is moving forward, I am moving in the right direction, I feel better, ... an many others I cannot remember anymore).
At the end, this one thing gave me a pattern to follow for getting rid guilt driven inaction.
Though I still have times when guilt shows its ugly head in my days, I have the confidence that I can overcome it in due time.
I hope this helps you!