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Is It Guilt Or Shame? My Depression Doesn’t Care

Some days – not often anymore – I wake up feeling overwhelming guilt and gloom. I have done something wrong. I hit my rewind button and I can find nothing that warrants these feelings. But they are there. No matter how many times I repeat my mantra “Feelings aren’t facts. Feelings aren’t facts. Feelings aren’t facts.” I feel awful.

Saturday I had one of these mornings. The guilt and anxiety swelled as I looked at the wonderful day: Sunny, 70 degrees. I had nothing to be ashamed of. I had done nothing wrong. All my bills are paid. Work is great. I have a story on the front page. My daughter is blossoming in college and has found a great part time job. I have wonderful friends. Seriously, my biggest problem is that my dog, Dog, has fleas.

I felt awful. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I couldn’t figure it out: “What is wrong with me? Did I have bad dreams? What did I eat before I went to bed? Why do I feel this way”

A very wise woman once taught me the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is the feeling that comes from having done something wrong. It is regret and remorse. Shame is a belief that you are inherently bad. You may have done nothing wrong but in your core you know you are a bad person.

So, I sifted through the events and words I had spoken and written in the last few days. I could find nothing. I had done nothing wrong. There were no amends to make – except to my dog, Dog, for those damn fleas. It was shame. I was feeling shame. Again.

It is important – very, very important – for me to distinguish between guilt and shame. I am not a bad person. I have done bad things but I am not a bad person. I am good. Shame is not real. Shame is a myth. If I do not parse these feelings – shame and guilt – I am holding the hand that holds me down. I am staring depression in the face.

A few hours after I got up I decided to start my day over again. You can do that, you know. Any time at all – whether it’s 10 am or 4 pm – you can start your day over. I got on my bike and rode to the gym. I met my girlfriend, who had put together a kick-ass playlist for our spin class. She had saved a bike next to her’s. She could see my funk. “Come on. You’re going to like this.” She knows me.

We danced on the pedals and sweat our butts off. I thanked her. I rode my bike home. I started my day over again and took Dog to the vet.

Is It Guilt Or Shame? My Depression Doesn’t Care


Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.


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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2011). Is It Guilt Or Shame? My Depression Doesn’t Care. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 21, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/depression/2011/03/is-it-guilt-or-shame-my-depression-doesnt-care/

 

Last updated: 27 Mar 2011
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