Day eleven of the “Try Looking At It Through My Eyes” challenge asks:
Choose one thing in your life that you have done and feel guilty for and write yourself a letter forgiving yourself for that thing. (PS. You don’t need to name the thing you did unless you feel comfortable doing so.)
By now you should be used to getting these letters from me so I’m not even going to bother proving my credentials; you know who I am because I used to be you.
So, where are we now? Parks and blankets, isolation and soup vans? I did tell you homelessness would be soul-destroying, so perhaps now you’ve experienced it you’ll spend a little more time listening to my sage-like advice instead of filing it away in the ‘too hard to deal with’ basket.
I’m not writing today to get you through homelessness. Partly because there’s little I can say that will make you feel better and partly because this is something you have to deal with by yourself. The only person who can help you out of this situation is you, Andrew, so just get to it…and never give up!
The reason I’m writing to you today is far more complicated and important. I’m here to help you forgive yourself for the things you feel guilty for. Now, given that I’m you, I know full well that forgiving yourself is one of the hardest things in the world. You hold onto things. You dwell on every decision. You take responsibility for everything, even for things that you had no control over, and it’s not healthy. In fact, all that’s going to happen if you keep blaming yourself is an early – most likely slow, painful and lonely – death.
Now, I’m not going to focus on the little things you can’t forgive yourself for; things like stealing the milk and chocolate from the convenience store or not asking Natalie out when you were thirteen. By now you already know how futile feeling guilty over these trivial acts actually is. What I’m going to focus on are the big three. And, just so we’re clear, I’m not going to forgive you for them. I’m going to tell you why you should forgive yourself for them in the hope that you will find forgiveness in yourself.
Should you have been there for Grace? Absolutely.
Should you despise your very existence for the rest of time because you weren’t? Possibly.
To be honest, this one is hard for me to justify without resorting to the tried and true excuse of ‘mental illness’. You know as well as I do that if you had been ‘stable’ at that point in your life things would be different. But you weren’t stable, you were hypomanic, you were lost to the ravages of this insufferable mood disorder. Half the time you weren’t even able to look out for yourself, so why exactly do you think you could have been there for other people?
When it comes to this mistake I’m afraid I don’t have any easy answers. You know you did the wrong thing and you’re going to have to live with that. You know you should forgive yourself for it. And I know that there is nothing I can say that will make that happen.
So please, just try to move past it. After all, when it came to Kathy, she did.
No matter what you tell yourself, no matter what lies you deceive yourself with, no matter how many times you tell yourself that you could have saved her; Samantha’s death was not your fault! At the time of her death you were 10,000 miles away on the other side of the planet. At no point in those months did she tell you she was depressed, suffering through mental health problems or becoming suicidal. If she had, you know damn well that you would have done something. Sure, you can play the ‘what if’ game from now until doomsday, but even if you had entered into a relationship with her there’s no guarantee that you could have curbed her drug use, which means there’s every chance she would still have taken that ecstasy and still lost her life at a tragically early age.
You did everything you could for Samantha. Not only were you her friend, you helped her achieve a life-long dream, and you witnessed the bliss in her eyes as she achieved it. Even her sister would go on to tell you just how much you meant to Samantha. You were there for her when no-one else was, and that’s certainly something to hold onto.
But the reason you shouldn’t blame yourself for Samantha’s death is simple; you don’t even know if it was suicide. Sure, your mentally-ill ravaged mind has latched onto this explanation as it’s the easiest thing to focus on, but there’s every chance it was simply an accidental overdose; which means there is literally nothing you could have done.
Samantha’s death was a tragedy that will affect you for the rest of your days. But instead of mourning her loss and languishing in her demise, you should celebrate the fact that for a brief moment the two of you were friends. And that is more important than anything.
I am going to say something that you have already heard countless times over. In fact, over the next several years you are going to hear these words so often you’re going to want to smack people for repeatedly saying them to you: the abuse was not your fault; you did absolutely nothing to deserve it.
Kathy was a sociopathic narcissist, a master manipulator, a woman so insecure in her own life that she would do anything to illicit control over everyone she came into contact with in order to prove to herself her delusional belief that she was the most perfect human being to have ever walked the earth.
And yes, you fell for your lies, get over it.
You will never know the reason why she chose you to destroy. (And if you’re still harboring any doubts…that is definitely what her goal was!) You loved her; she deliberately annihilated you. You had no idea what she was doing; she always knew what she was doing. So what exactly could you have done differently?
So I say again: the abuse was not your fault; you did absolutely nothing to deserve it.
And I need you to keep repeating that line, every single day, for the rest of your life, otherwise the guilt you feel over the abuse will cause a lot more damage than her vicious treatment of you ever did.
Although you won’t be able to comprehend this right now, not from the park that you currently call ‘home’, in a few years you will begin something called your ‘recovery journey’. You will spend many days, weeks and months looking back over every decision and action in your life so you can find closure and more toward a healthy, happy future. A large part of this recovery journey will be forgiving yourself for these three, and other, events.
Hopefully, by sending you this letter, the seeds of that forgiveness will have been planted.
So once you’ve read this letter, re-read it if you must, but then tear it up, throw it away, have it for your dinner, do anything to it other than dwell on it. You do far too much of that as it is.
Be kind to yourself, Andrew, life will get better than it is now.
And if you can learn how to forgive yourself, it will get even better, or so people say.
Love and hugs always,
If you’ve missed any of the previous posts in this challenge, you can read them here: