Forgiving Yourself

I know that it’s not my fault. But I still feel guilty. Guilty that I let him in, guilty that I didn’t totally kick him out of my life right then and there, guilty that recovery took so long.

The short version of what happened is I was touched inappropriately by someone I thought was my friend without my consent. This happened almost four years ago, at the end of senior year of high school. It was my first “sexual experience.” I had never even kissed anyone before this happened. There was high school drama aftermath, of course, and I lost my support system at school to the rumors.

I suffered with PTSD-like symptoms (not officially diagnosed) and the first year afterwards was really rough. Advice from new college friends was to forgive him so I could have closure. But I can’t forgive him. What he did was wrong, and he lied about it to everyone. I felt ruined, stuck. It took eight months to even say out loud the words “that was sexual assault.”

When I finally thought I was ready to date, I ended up with someone who used me for my body and the things he could do to it. Everything was technically consensual, but I certainly was not in my right mind yet. I was pressured to live up to his expectations. That relationship thankfully only lasted a few months, but it sent me back down the spiral.

I wanted to give up. I felt so mad at them, but I realized that parts of that anger and hurt feelings were directed back at me. I was beating myself up for being in the room, for not putting up a fight, for falling for the manipulation and overlooking the red flags. I didn’t have clarity in the moment to react the ways I should have, and I partially blamed myself because of it.

I can’t and won’t forgive them, but I found a way to forgive myself. I spent a lot of time stuck reliving the mindset I was in then, and slowly I realized just how different that girl was to who I became, who I am. Seeing my growth as a person gave me the opportunity to apologize to my younger self, for not being there to protect her yet. And that has been one of the biggest steps in my recovery. It opened a door I didn’t know was closed.

That person? That younger me? I saw how much she hated herself. What she needed from me was love and acceptance, not a constant reminder of her mistakes. So I gave it to her, to myself, and it worked.

Do you tend to blame yourself for things that have happened in your life? Have you ever forgiven yourself for something? What has self-acceptance been like for you?

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