Ask The Therapist: “The feeling that I betrayed him is killing me from the inside every day…all these regrets are killing me.”

In 2016, the number of people estimated to be suffering from mental health issues like depression and anxiety amounted to roughly 1.1 billion. Since then, numbers have likely continued to rise. Moreover, studies have also shown women especially on average are a) more likely to suffer from mental health issues, and b) less likely to talk about them. The taboo in Pakistan surrounding depression and anxiety disorders only serve to aggravate the individuals suffering even more. For the women who cannot seek out full time therapy, we’ve enlisted the help of a trained therapist. You sent us in your questions – here are the answers!

“I don’t know how to describe what I feel because lately whenever I try to think of this, I feel numb. I don’t know if I really need help or if I just need to share things that I am going through right now.

I am married and after 6 years of marriage, I can say that I am happy with what I have. But people around me, such as my in-laws, including my husband, have been making me feel like I am not important and I can go if I want. They don’t need me and it won’t bother them if I am not there. I love my husband so much and I was living in mental hell just because I loved him. Feeling worthless is very upsetting. But he said I can leave if I want to. We were living together, but we stopped talking so I decided to finally move on and find someone better who will actually value me. My husband started to sense things that I was feeling and he started checking on me and I came clean to him and told him that I am thinking of leaving, which is when he started to panic and things changed. He realised that it is impossible for him to live without me. He cares and loves me more, and is now involved in my life. He wants to know what I am thinking and feeling, but now I literally have nothing to say. The feeling that I betrayed him is killing me inside every day. I pray and pray to God for forgiveness.

I just can’t live with this burden on me although he knows everything and I am sorry and said sorry hundreds of times. He thinks and says that he is the one who took me to that road and that’s why I did what I did, and that he deserved it. But I think it was my decision to walk down that road and I should have stopped. All these regrets are killing me. I trusted a friend who wasn’t loyal at all and forced me to make all the wrong decisions. It hurts me to the core of my heart. I was abused as a child I never trusted men. How could I do this to myself again and why did I even trust a man who was nothing but a manipulator? All these regrets are going to live with me, especially the one of me betraying my husband. “

Shahrukh’s Response:

Dear Anon,

I can only imagine what it must have felt like being in a house where people made you feel like you weren’t valued or loved. That sounds incredibly painful, and lonely even. You wanted to feel loved and appreciated, and I feel for you. From your message, I can sense that there’s a great deal of heaviness and pain in each word, and a great deal of guilt over what happened, and I hear you, it must be really difficult to carry that around. Let’s explore a little further and see what might be going on, and see if we can get you the clarity and grounding that you need. 

What’s keeping you from setting that weight/guilt free?

Anon, what strikes me in your message is the enormity of the guilt you’re still feeling. My curiosity immediately goes towards what purpose it might be serving for you. It is common to feel guilt when you’ve hurt someone, of course, and once it has served its purpose, that usually means it’s time for it to leave. My question for you is: what’s keeping that guilt around? From your message, it seems that you have done a great deal in terms of making amends, and it also sounds like your husband is doing the same. What is it that you’re still holding onto?

You’re Human. Forgive Yourself.

Sometimes as humans, we find it difficult to truly accept our imperfections, which is so interesting considering that this is the main feat of the human condition. The truth is, somewhere down the line, we will make mistakes, we will hurt others and we may look back in hindsight and think: I can’t believe I did that. While these mistakes are inevitable, it’s important to remind yourself that you are doing the best that you can. It’s okay to make mistakes, Anon. It’s okay to be HUMAN. 

At this time, it’s helpful to recognise that while you may not have any control over what has already happened, you do have a say in what happens from now on. Give yourself permission to be self-compassionate and forgiving. Holding onto that guilt and shame can often create a toxic cycle and can lead to feelings of low self-worth, confidence, perfectionism, anxiety or even depression. It’s when we start healing ourselves from that guilt and shame, that we really begin to move towards being our most accepting and authentic selves.

Practicing Self-Compassion

Self-Compassion is a practice designed specifically to help heal the wounds of shame and guilt. It teaches us to accept ourselves unconditionally, and be kind towards ourselves, free of judgement and criticism. I would really encourage practicing this regularly. There are several resources available online – all you need to do is Google “Self-Compassion exercises”, and there will be several options. I would personally recommend self-compassion.org, a website associated with Kristen Neff, who is a leading expert on Self-Compassion. 

One exercise that I really love to practice is imagining someone I love and feel a great deal of compassion for. I ask myself: “What would I say to this person if they were experiencing what I’m currently experiencing?” I would respond to that person, and then redirect those words towards myself. 

The above exercise is one of many, and as you practice, you will find what works for you. If you feel like you need extra support, I would also recommend mental health counselling. Counselling would be able to help you further explore whatever you’re experiencing, and perhaps even help you develop an even stronger sense of awareness and coping strategy. 

Anon, everyone, and I mean everyone, is worthy of forgiveness. You ask for a great deal of forgiveness from those around you, and I wonder if you’re able to forgive yourself? I know how it is when you hurt someone, and how much that guilt can hurt. It doesn’t have to keep hurting, and you can choose to let it go whenever you’re ready to. I hope you are able find the clarity and grounding that you’re looking for. I’m rooting for you. Best of luck and stay in your power! 

The above article is written by Shahrukh Shahbaz Malik who is trained in humanistic integrative counselling at CPDD in the UK and currently has her own private practice in Karachi. The views expressed in this article are those of one expert. They do not necessarily represent the views of Mashion, nor do they represent the complete picture of the topic at hand. This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment.

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