Whether this is due to feelings of worthlessness or the inability of the brain to work rationally when depressed is not known for sure - but this elephant-sized guilt can literally beat you up. It can pummel you. It can have you crawling on all fours. To all those around you, it is chronically out of proportion - yet the depression makes it seem perfectly reasonable. If unchecked, guilt can actually become life threatening.
When I was first ill, I remember being overwhelmed by a sea of guilt. Here is a list of the things I felt guilty about:
- being a poor father
- being a poor partner
- being ill
- not having earned enough money in my life
- not having a large enough pension to retire on
- of working part time
- of not being more mechanical with cars
- of not being happier on holidays
- of not looking after my partner better when she had ME
- of failing to love my children
- of not contacting my sister more
- of not appreciating my friends
- of being a failure at writing
- falling out with an old friend
The level of my guilt was simply astronomical. I remember my partner asking my children to write lists of the things that they liked about me. These were lovely lists - but at the time I couldn't accept any of the nice things they were saying; I was just this terrible person and an appalling father. End of. Looking back now I can see that depression had completely skewed my view. The level of guilt I was experiencing might have been appropriate if I had just gambled away the family home on the horses - or had a string of mistresses or had been physically abusive. I was none of these things - just a quiet guy who had always worked and earned money - who maybe spent a bit too much time writing poetry - but who now had become ill.
This ramping up of guilt is another trick of depression. It can make you feel utterly worthless which, I suppose, is exactly what depression wants you to feel. It reinforces all the other negative messages that are flooding your brain. It is confirmation of your badness - your worthlessness - and that you deserve to suffer.