Inappropriate past behavior haunting me
I'm a young, male adult. I have had a pretty decent life, but in my teenage years, around the age of 13-14, I was subjected to one of the roughest times in my life. I was stuck with an angry, alcoholic, and abusive stepdad. This went on for about a year before things exploded, and it left me, my mother, and my three siblings homeless for a time. And then, when I was 14 or 15, I don't quite remember which, I ended up committing a sex crime with one of my younger siblings.
I really need help, very badly. Or at least just to get this off my chest, with some sort of advice. I don't know what to do with myself. I want to seek help, but I'm growing more and more afraid of doing so. My psyche's taken a massive hit from all of this. But I'm drowning in guilt from what I've done, and am slowly feeling that I no longer deserve any sort of help or boost to my self-esteem for the sickening thing I did. Granted, I have Asperger's Syndrome and was going through one of the hardest times in my life, but that's not an excuse for what I've done.
Around the time of my 15th or 16th birthday or a bit before, I ended up rubbing on one of my very young siblings after I finished laying them down to sleep. This happened while they were asleep. My sibling knew nothing of it, and I hope to always keep it that way. I don't want them hurt. And I would never, ever dream of doing something like that again, it only happened once. I'm sickened to the core of what I've done and feel like I'm living a lie. I feel incredibly depressed from all of this, as well as anxious and a bit paranoid. I love my siblings to death. I want the world for them. I never want them hurt.
A few years later though all the guilt and shame just seemed to crop back up, with no escape. It's even started to creep into my dreams at night. I don't know what to do. I want to seek help, but I'm scared of what could happen to me, even if I know I should face punishment. I'm scared of what it will do to my sibling and to my family if they found out. I already told my mother, she's the only one who's ever heard this story prior to now. She told me everyone makes bad mistakes when they're a teen, but I can't fathom they're like this. I'm afraid, guilt-stricken, and scared. I feel I may also be depressive, perhaps even manic depressive, but I worry that it's all just related to this incident I can't put behind me. I want to get better, but I don't feel like I even deserve to. Despite knowing I'll never do something like this again, I'm afraid of that the person within me who did it will crop back up. I'm scared of myself; I'm terrified of repercussions; I don't know what to do.
My young friend,
I have great news for you. From what you have written, you are a wonderful person, with high moral values, and well above average intelligence. Assuming the Asperger's diagnosis is correct, it is clearly no handicap to you. You are as good as anyone else, and better than many. Here is proof:
1. You have set out the main lesson I need to teach many people in your situation: you are responsible for what you did, regardless of your circumstances. Abuse from your stepdad, temporary homelessness, and all the other stresses are no excuse. But you need to learn the second important lesson: the difference between responsibility and guilt. I hand out the following card to my clients who suffer from guilt because they have made a mistake:
There is no such thing as a mistake, fault or defect. There are only learning opportunities. When you make a mistake:
a. Apologise to yourself within your heart and forgive yourself.
b. If possible and appropriate, apologise to other people affected.
c. If possible and appropriate, make restitution. (This means making good.)
d. Work out how you can handle a similar situation better next time.
If you find that a past act was a mistake, that's proof that you've gained in wisdom. The worst thing you can do is to beat yourself up with shame and guilt. You are responsible for having made the mistake, and the above addresses that. So, your mother was right.
2. In fact, your cry for help has shown that you have done everything that needs to be done. Since that time, you have taken special care not to hurt other people this way. You have kept your act a secret from your sibling, and are determined to keep doing that, in order to protect them.
3. You have been carefully thinking out the consequences of various possible courses of action. This shows intelligence.
So now, why did you do this thing? It was not because of your difficult childhood, but because you were going through puberty, with sex hormones racing through your blood. Again, this is not an excuse, but an explanation. You had choices, and you made the wrong choice. You should not have done that, but you were weak at the time. You have learned your lesson from that mistake, for life. Well done. You have become a better person because you have made that mistake, and that's what mistakes are for. I don't know how old you are, but the years of guilt and beating yourself up between then and now are sufficient punishment. You can now let yourself out of your mental jail, and get on with the rest of your life.
Now, how can you make restitution? Either as a chosen career or in your private time, do things that make life better for victims of sexual abuse, and/or for others who have made mistakes in their lives and now want to make good, and/or to protect potential victims... something that allows you to pass on your lesson to others. You can do this without ever letting anyone know of your mistake, and without preaching, lecturing or forcing people.
If your Asperger's allows it, a profession like youth worker or child protection worker would be the kind of thing I mean. If you choose another line of work, being a volunteer visitor at a prison or something like that would make you feel good. (There but for the grace of God go I.)
Your new grandfather,
This question was answered by Dr. Bob Rich. Dr. Rich has 30+ years of experience as a psychotherapist. Dr. Rich is also a writer and a "mudsmith". Bob is now retired from psychological practice, but still works with people as a counselor.For more information visit: http://anxietyanddepression-help.com