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How to get rid of guilt?

Whispering Shadows: A Story of Guilt

Lily was struggling in her marriage. Her husband seemed distant, her child was demanding and her in-laws unsupportive. Being a working woman in a field dominated by men, she had additional pressure of performance. She was still managing all of this well, till one day she had a breakdown and nothing was the same again.

Lily seemed like any other young woman. She has a polite and likeable personality. Average height, small built, and a smile always featured on her face. She was an obedient, caring and seemingly innocent looking girl. She had agreed to an arranged marriage suggested by her parents. She chooses a career as per their desires. She didn’t have much to say about any matter or even opinions about people. She was okay, obliging and making others happy. Though what seemed ordinary to the world, wasn’t the truth and one day it came rolling out like an avalanche. 

It was yet another monotonous day in her life, she thought. She came back from work tired and under tremendous pressure to work on a deadline. She was struggling to handle things on her own and was attempting to complete everything all at once. In addition to her career, which she valued greatly, she was also a domesticated woman who was expected to take care of her husband and child. She immediately started cleaning the house, making dinner, and holding her 2-years old child. Today, her child was particularly demanding and difficult to handle. She was in the middle of making dinner, her husband called to say he won’t be coming home.

This shattered her because all this time she was excited to get back home and finally spend some time with her husband. Although things were not too great between her and her partner, she still loved him and wanted him to reciprocate the love. In her struggle to cope with this, she often immersed herself in caring for her child or throwing herself into her work. She would try to play with her child, hang out with her colleagues or simply take a walk in the park. Yet, whenever she allowed herself a moment of joy, a weight of guilt dawned upon her like a dense fog. It was as if she was forbidden to have fun by herself. 

So today again, after speaking with her husband, she looked at her daughter, who was playing with her teddy bear, to find some form of solace but failed. This was too much. She was over-saturated. She dropped on the floor howling like a child. A long lost memory had flashed in front of her and she became almost incapacitated to even move. 

It was a memory of her as a 2 years old playing with her teddy bear. She distinctly recalled having an orange plastic teddy bear, which she was playing with. Her father came back from work looking distant, angry and intoxicated.. Furious and enraged, her father grabbed the teddy bear out of her hands and threw it away. She was trembling with fear, incapacitated again. She couldn’t understand why her father would take away her toy or stop her from playing and having fun. She was beginning to believe that she didn’t deserve to play or even be loved. There must be something wrong she did that angered the father. A belief, rather dangerous, had taken a solid shape in her mind. “I am not required”. “Something is wrong with me”. “I’m not meant to play”. 

As a child, she had been neglected and unloved by her father.. She felt lonely, isolated, and rejected throughout her childhood.Lily’s father had never shown the affection he had for her. He was never kind or considerate to her. Her spirit was crushed by his apathy, which felt like a mountain to her. Thereafter, Lily had a hard time being happy in life. Especially, when her father was around, she felt bad for even daring to enjoy herself. She was plagued by distant memories, such as the day he pushed her into a pitch-black cave when she was barely a child. She felt completely alone, unwelcome, and imprisoned. She carried those emotions with her, causing an emotional damage. She even began to think that she does not deserve to live. 

Her father’s presence continued to cast a shadow over her life as she got older. He had a somewhat broad, muscular build, resembling a beast overthrown by intense passion and anger.  Frequently, his rage would sweep through their house like a hurricane, making Lily feel insignificant and powerless. Her mother made an effort to protect her, but she was only able to block so much of his rage. The remorse and shame Lily felt every time she thought of her father was something she was unable to overcome. 

Lily became entangled in a web of insecurity and self-doubt as an adult. Desperate to receive approval and reinforcement from others, she turned into a people-pleaser, submissive and opinionless. She longed for her father’s approval, thinking that she would at last be deserving if she could simply make him happy. Today was a moment of change for her. During her meltdown. 

However, Lily knew in her heart that her value was not determined by her father’s acceptance. Today marked a turning point for her. In a moment of crisis, as her life flashed before her, she saw clearly the lies she’d believed, the choices she’d made to make others happy, and how she’d diminished herself. She was determined to break free from her past, reclaim her worth, and find happiness. Though the road ahead seems tough, she believed that with determination and courage, she could build a new reality where enjoying herself didn’t come with guilt.

Have you ever felt guilty about having too much fun in your life?

Do you think you deserve to be happy or have fun?


Suvanjali Lama, Clinical Psychologist and Research Associate, Treta Foundation 

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