How to get past overwhelming feelings of guilt and anxiety?
December 8, 2013 7:03 AM Subscribe
As long as I can remember, I have experienced extreme guilt, embarrassment, and anxiety about simply relaxing and living life for myself. I have an anxiety disorder, so these feelings are to be expected somewhat, but they’re incredibly uncomfortable and affect my daily life. Snowstorm inside.
posted by sarahgrace to Human Relations (21 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Most of my feelings of guilt seem to be based in wanting to make my parents proud. I’m 21 years old (almost 22) and I feel as though I should have more goals that are rooted in self-fulfillment as opposed to letting myself be guided by the wishes of others. This anxiety and guilt has lead to me graduating college a year later than planned because I was concerned that my dream major (nursing) was disappointing to my parents and was embarrassed to even bring the option up. Even now, my father encourages me to change my mind and go to law school (which I don’t understand as I’ve never displayed an interest in law). When I was applying to colleges, I ended up choosing to go to their alma mater instead of the community college that I felt was more appropriate to my goals at the time because of the immense pressure they placed on me. Their reasoning was that if I chose community college I would lose scholarship opportunities – which is absolutely fair - but I was not ready to move onto a campus two hours away at all.
It isn’t just academically that I am faced with this type of anxiety. Every relationship, both friendship and romantic, is judged by my parents on a strict, unfair basis. My mother honestly destroyed a romantic relationship I had with a lifelong friend a few years ago because she disliked his dreadlocks. Any time he came to visit me she made it so uncomfortable that neither of us could stand it. I’m sure to many of you this sounds childish and dramatic, but I’ve spoken to her at length about it and the only reasons she gave me for disliking my friend were superficial. I feel extreme guilt about having any long-term relationship and spending more time with that person than my parents. My (now ex) boyfriend and I shared the holidays between our families last year and the stress of “betraying” my parents by spending part of the holidays elsewhere made me physically ill. I’m honestly concerned that I will never be able to get married or have a family if I continue to feel this way.
My personal appearance is often a source of guilt as well. Any time I modify my appearance, be it dying my hair or wearing clothes that fit my own personal style, I feel that I’m a horrible person and any joy I would have felt by doing these things is overshadowed by guilt that I’m an embarrassment to my parents. A good example of this is tattoos. I have been fascinated with tattoos as an art form most of my life and have always desired meaningful tattoos in subtle, easily hidden locations. Despite living on my own, working 40 hours a week, and going to school full time, any time I decide to get a tattoo I spend months and months worrying about it and feeling that if I do it I’m betraying my parents again (I literally lose sleep over it).
The biggest issue of guilt and anxiety I've dealt with lately occurred after my parents questioned my finances and accused me of spending money on things that they "didn't know about" - insinuating that I am purchasing drugs or something else that would be shameful. I had a meltdown over this because I have worked so hard to have stable finances, and because of the guilt that they weren't seeing how hard I was working, I created an in-depth budget to show them that I was being responsible and completely cut out any "extras" such as going out or shopping for things other than necessities.
Honestly, all I want out of life is to just be able to live my life fully in the way I’ve always dreamed. Even when I’m not faced with anxiety I have a horribly difficult time making decisions which I think is what allows other people to put in their two cents and make me waver in my decisions. I don’t know how to get past these feelings because every time I do it lasts for about an hour and then I begin to feel them creeping up again. I don’t feel as though I’m an irresponsible or immature person, and I know that I should trust my own decisions as “good” and “okay” but I just can’t. Is there a trick to getting past this and being able to be my own person/make my own decisions or am I completely crazy and in need of therapy?