Someone posted something on Facebook the other day about feeling guilty, and that got me thinking about the idea of feeling guilty and how to respond to that.
You all know that I deal with depression on a fairly regular basis (though this has been a good week as of writing this -- YAY!). One of the ways my depression shows up is that it makes me feel guilty about everything. It doesn't matter whether something bad is actually my fault or not, if I was in any way involved, I am probably going to feel guilty about it. Actually, it doesn't even matter whether it was something really bad, it could just be a mistake or a misunderstand that didn't cause any long-term damage. I'm still going to feel guilty.
I've discovered lately that one of my methods for coping with this in the moment is to strongly blame someone else. Even if rationally I know it wasn't their fault, even if I share some of the blame, I work hard to tell myself that it was someone else's fault. If I work hard enough, I can usually trick my mind into letting the guilt lift a little, at least enough that I can cope with it. (Also, I only blame people in my own mind -- I don't spread my blameshifting around to other people.)
Generally, after time has passed and the emotions have settled down, I can mentally return to the incident accepting the more accurate view and admitting my fault or my error in the whole situation without it triggering a whole new depressive episode. I don't just go through life blaming everyone else forever -- I just have to let it sit and move into "So this one time I did a stupid thing" territory in my brain instead of "I am doing stupid things right now." Depression can still use past things to attack me, but it doesn't hit me as hard or as deeply as mistakes that I feel like I just made.
So here's the question: Do you think that this method is wrong/unhealthy? And if so... what's a better response?
Refusing to accept blame is one of the things that is A Big Deal in Christianity. A good chunk of evangelical thinking centers around accepting responsibility for your actions, repenting, and changing your ways. Deliberately refusing to accept blame, even with the intention of going back and accepting blame later, would probably not be received well.
Here's the thing, though, I genuinely am not sure I know how to deal with guilt otherwise. Or, well, depression guilt. Regular guilt is easy peasy for me to deal with compared with depression guilt.
I started thinking about what common alternative answers might be, and all I can think about is that people would tell me to rely on God and pray and trust in his forgiveness. Which, obviously, yes, is important to do, and I do try to do that, but in the meantime, I have to be functional in the real world. When depression hits, I use every single little thing I can to attack it and fend off its lies, and sometimes that means lying to myself for a little while until I'm ready to deal with the truth. I can't just wait for God to magically fix things, because sometimes that takes time, and in the meantime I'm missing days of work because I can't focus and I'm miserable to be around because I feel crappy, and I have to do something to keep myself together.
I genuinely don't know yet what I feel about people using negative coping methods to deal with things like this. I even tried mentally comparing it to somebody who uses drugs as a coping method. Although that's obviously not the same thing, I wanted to figure out how I would answer someone who was coping by doing something that I thought was clearly wrong. And that didn't really give me any answers at all, because all I can think is, "Well, it's totally different," but without any helpful comparison to help me figure out what I think.
I'm still mulling this over. Right now, lying to myself seems like the least damaging coping mechanism I can think of for dealing with situations like this, especially if I try to go back and fix it later when I'm coping on my own.
So I'm really curious about you guys' thoughts. I suspect some of you will think, "What? There's nothing wrong with this at all, you're being way too harsh on yourself," while others will think, "Nope, whatever your justification is, that's not right and you need to find a better option," and I'd love to hear from both sides. The more opinions I get, the more I can figure out what I actually think.