Effects of Abuse. Guilt, Shame and Solutions


In this post I have purposely not defined exactly what kind of abuse I am talking about. Really they all cause similar damage. It is my hope that the reader will define “it” for themselves as it has impacted their own life.

I was convinced that if I kept “it” a secret that no one would know and it would go away.

Then I thought that if I could just figure out what I had done wrong to bring on such a thing, or if I could figure out what I had done to deserve it, I could stop doing whatever behavior that it was, so this terrible thing wouldn’t happen to me again. But because I could not figure out what “it” was, I was never sure that I had stopped doing it and I lived in constant fear.  

Then I was convinced that if I told someone, then someone else would know and it would go away.

Then I thought that if I dug deep into all the details, admitted everything that happened, even what I did or agreed to in order to protect myself, even what I thought was my fault, even my own guilt and shame, that it would go away. But it didn’t.

I thought if I “put it behind me” that I would be free. But I wasn’t free and I didn’t know HOW to put it behind me. Everyone told me to “let it go” but no one told me how. They said “just give it to God” and I said how? They said “have faith” and I said HOW? I tried and I tried harder and harder and they said “just believe” and I said okay… because I was exhausted.

I thought that if I acted as if I was happy, joyous and free, that eventually I would be. It didn’t work.

I tried travel. I tried bright lights and exotic locations. That wasn’t the answer.

I prayed for years, at first just praying to die, and then praying for the answer, the truth, for freedom from the struggle. I tried religion, spirituality, meditation, relaxation, and bible study, and although each worked for a time, I often felt rebellious, unworthy, and even more aware of my shortcomings. Sometimes I felt too ashamed to go to God. Sometimes I felt that He had abandoned me too. I was ashamed that I thought that. Then there was more confusion, more guilt and shame, more self loathing and self blame.  

I tried men, and then marriage and children.  The fear of failure made it worse. How could I raise healthy children if I was so messed up and couldn’t seem to break the lifelong cycle of depression, guilt, shame, self blame and low self esteem?

Then I thought that if I threw myself into making everyone else happy that I would be fulfilled. That didn’t work either.

More guilt and shame; more feelings of failure and worthlessness. More depression.

I tried vitamins, whole foods and physical fitness but my spirit never caught up with me.

It was when I looked at the details of my life through new eyes that I began to see things differently.

It was when I looked at the details of the events AND the details after the events that became the key. It was the looking at the whole picture. The first thing that I realized was that the guilt and shame were not mine to carry. Even though I only realized this about ONE event at first, it was a beginning.

I began to heal when I realized that I believed a lot of lies about myself and when I understood how I came to believe them I was able to change the beliefs that I had about myself, and the abuse. I was able to change the belief that it was my fault. I saw that it wasn’t something that I had done so I didn’t have to keep looking for something to stop doing. I was able to see how people, more powerful and influential then I was, used actions, looks and sometimes words to manipulate me into believing I deserved what they did and then believing that I was unworthy of better. I was able to see how they misused their power.

As I began to look at the whole picture, I began to get a different picture. As I continued with this work I emerged from the broken life I was living as a broken and discouraged woman, into a life of fullness and wholeness. I felt peace and love flow into me, replacing the guilt and shame. I came to understand my worth, my value and my ability to love. I began to appreciate myself and recognize my gifts. My self esteem grew, my depressions became less frequent and eventually disappeared and the fragmented person that I used to be, emerged into one whole healthy wonderful person.

I pursued the truth and I found it and it set me free.

Please share your thoughts and comments.

Darlene Ouimet


26 response to "Effects of Abuse. Guilt, Shame and Solutions"

  1. By: Kate Posted: 4th June

    Hi Darlene

    What do you do with the rage that ‘it’ happened? You didn’t do anything wrong, so shouldn’t those who did the wrong to you get punished, humiliated, shamed? How can you be at peace until you know why ‘it’ happened and until the abusers are brought to justice?

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 4th June

      Hi Kate
      Yes those who did wrong should be punished, but that is not likely going to happen so I had to find a way to live in spite of all of it. I have written a lot in this website about how I did that. There were huge things in my way and it was in discovering those things that led me to freedom and wholeness and living beyond abuse. I thought that I would never be okay until I was validated, but I never validated myself. It is really hard to explain in one paragraph, but keep reading and you will see how looking at all this from a new angle helped me to move forward. I had to realize that the key was in looking at the damage and what it caused me to believe about myself. I am at peace now and I live my life to the fullest; something I thought could never happen.
      Hugs, Darlene

  2. By: Christina Posted: 27th October

    Hi Darlene,

    This is a beautiful article. I am an emotional, mental, and physical abuse survivor and victor. I still have a lot of healing to do as I am young but God has really freed me from so much already. In my journey, I have been led to other people who have some similar issues, and my own husband is a “victim” of shame and guilt-tripping. I am always on a quest to learn more, and someday I wish to be a Christian counselor with an open mind. For my husband, he is searching long and hard to find out why he was so cold, numb, and angry when he was a teenager. Now he is not as angry or empty, but he has so many issues trying to love, and trying to feel anything, or letting himself have a voice in anything. His mother was very dominant, and she was always guilt tripping him or shaming him, even though she took care of his physical needs and was not physically abusive. Having lived with her for 3 months after we got married, I was appalled at the amount of shaming she did, the sheer dislike for her boys even though they are just wonderful guys. I hope someday he will be able to overcome this, and realize that he is not always to blame for the way he is.

    This is a beautiful article, and I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for sharing.

  3. By: Elizabeth Posted: 17th September

    I am still trying to sort out the guilt issues. What I have had all my life is such a profound sense of shame is that I felt too ashamed to get help with a learning disorder, organizing my bills and activities. Also anything I actually did that resulted in things going wrong, I felt like I had committed a crime.After my family told everyone I was mentally ill after my breakdown, I felt that everything I said or did was scrutinized analyzed and judged as just more proof how nuts they thought I was; and this was true in my family.I actually saw things they wrote about me, that brought me to my knees with hurt and shame. It was as if they were SO intent that other people see into my life; my mistakes, my insecurities, etc that somehow no one would look at them, and they could appear perfect.I still feel very betrayed by my family. No one but me ever got ongoing therapy yet, when I did, it was yet more ‘evidence’ that there was something ‘wrong’ with me.I still have a hard time trusting people or listening to my intuition.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 17th September

      I think you are right. As long as they had you to blame and point at, they didn’t have to look at themselves. You were the ‘fall guy’ and now it is time for you to take your life back. This isn’t your guilt and shame, it is what they dumped on you. This is about them, not about you.
      Hugs, and thanks for sharing. I am glad you have found this blog. There is a ton of truth here and articles about all the confusion and pain that you are expressing.
      Love Darlene

  4. By: patricia Posted: 8th September

    Hi, I just wanted to thankyou for this post, It speaks for everything ive been struggling with…I ran away at 14 went to court/then to foster care then later placed back in the home. (my story is on survivors of child abuse link) but I was shunned by the whole family,& they always found diff. ways to hurt me. There went a period of time when I stayed away due to yet another traumatic event w/the family. I stayed away about 7yrs. Then on a whim I called and got envolved again. but yet the same result. Ive been trying for yrs to mend not just myself but get them to see who I am, and know how much I loved them regardless of the past and move toward healing relationships w/them. I just cant do it anymore. & it has put me in a bad space. Im now coming out and facing all this again after years of stuffing it down inside me & putting up w/the yet more. I’ve done work in the past w/therapy etc. I neva understood the guilt/shame part for then I didnt feel that way. but I dont understand why? am i going through teh guilt and shame now, I was more angry then. Why am I scared to talk about it? & why do I even care about them? today, I went on reading some self help sites I got from links & found myself wailing like a baby. cried from deep w/in my soul..I know I needed it & it was good to release it, Im exhausted now! wanted to share and thankyou all for being here cause I’m alone w/this. Nice to know there is a place I can come toshare and not be ridiculed etc. good nite & god bless 😉

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 9th September

      Hi Patricia,
      I hear you! I understand all the why questions, some of them are important and some of them are like a rabbit trail going nowhere. For me I had to let go of trying to understand why my family didn’t accept me OR see me for who I am. That was a dead end endevor. For me that was all about this idea that I had that I would not be loveable until THEY loved me. This was a lie that I carried with myself for many years. Letting it go freed me to work on finding out the truth. Letting go of the distructive relationships in my life was like lifting a heavy blanket that hid the truth from my own eyes.
      Thank you so much for sharing your pain here. I really understand it and I lived with it and I no longer have to ~ I broke free and I write about all the little things that helped me break free.
      Please come and feel free to share often. Hugs and love, Darlene

  5. By: Crystal Posted: 7th September

    Thank you for sharing,.. that has been my journey for so long,… I have stepped into the realization of what you are talking about,… I am still dealing with some guilt even though I know it wasn’t my fault but it gets better everyday!!,… thanks again for sharing.

  6. By: Nikki Posted: 7th September

    As I read Eddie’s poem tears started coming to my eyes because I could so relate. Thank you Eddie for sharing this.

    Darlene this blog really hit some major points in my own struggle especially where you said:

    “I thought if I “put it behind me” that I would be free. But I wasn’t free and I didn’t know HOW to put it behind me. Everyone told me to “let it go” but no one told me how. They said “just give it to God” and I said how? They said “have faith” and I said HOW? I tried and I tried harder and harder and they said “just believe” and I said okay… because I was exhausted.”

    This past week I was trucking along I was still very excited with myself over some major steps forward in my recovery however I had a dream the other night that when I did wake up I found myself angry, hurt, confused, and back in the midst of grief. No matter which way I turn this I can’t shake it I can’t break thru this one particular brick wall within myself it is like I am beating my brains out each time I hit it. I know there will come a day that I will break through however the part that hurts the most is trying to deal with my child-like heart over the situation. I have cried till my tears drip sore over the matter. And I keep thinking “Come on Nikki you have really made some leaps and bounds in the last few months, you have overcome so much more…”

    The hardest part is the realization that no matter how badly I want what has been taken away from me back, or that I will never have no matter how hard I try has been very devastating for me this year and the grief is like the tide it comes and it goes and sometimes it comes back crashing in on top of me and yesterday it pounded me.

    But I refuse to give up and I refuse to allow myself to believe the lies any longer however the hurt I feel can be ever so overwhelming!

    Thank you for sharing this and for your courage and for being you and being the light of truth for so many like myself.

    (((HUGS)))) to you my friend!

  7. By: Mel Posted: 6th September

    I recently told my ‘new’ housemate to remove his hands from my legs when he freaked out in a rage suggesting that i wasn’t interested in him making sexual references. I know these are his issues. I even walked away from the conversation after the fact while discussing our future living accommodations when he refused to accept his responsibility for his actions telling me that HE forgave me deflecting from the actual situation.
    It’s so exhausting facing these situations knowing that i did nothing and to be told that I am playing the victim…
    Darlene, your posts always come at the right moment! I can see the cycle and the false belief system beginning to form in this very situation. But it is a challenge to experience these things. I began to tell myself, oh Mel, you’ve made another bad decision… But i stopped.

    Eddie, your poem is so touching, thanks for sharing that!

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 7th September

      Hi Mel,
      Isn’t it interesting how people use the “I forgive you” statement against you, to actually indicate that YOU are the one who is wrong. This is such an abuse (control) tactic. Being told that you are “playing the victim” is another control tactic. The cool thing is Mel, that YOU know it! You know you are not to blame which is light years ahead of where we used to be! that stage is exhausting, but in my experience, I found that when I stuck to my guns, this whole thing got better. The people who wanted to have a real relationship with me, (which means that they will treat me with equal value) changed the way that they treated me, and the ones who refused to treat me with equal value, seemed to disappear. That part scared me a lot at first, but today I no longer have to put up with all that crap that goes with being devalued and disrespected.
      Thanks for sharing this with us! Yay for realizing that you had NOT made a bad decision!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Nikki,
      Some issues take longer then others. That is just the truth of the matter, at least in my experience. Sometimes it seemed like I took 2 steps forward in my recovery, and one step back, but I was still one step forward! It took time for us to be defeated in the first place; years of struggle that we went through will not be undone and set right as quickly as we wish it would. Sometimes I look back though and I am VERY happy that this recovery in me didn’t happen as quickly as I would have liked.. I doubt that I could have handled it in the time frame I was hoping for.
      Thank you for sharing this today Nikki. I know that MANY others feel this way too, and knowing we are not alone is such a comfort.
      Hang in there, you are awesome!
      Hugs, Darlene

      Hi Crystal, welcome!
      Guilt is something that really took me some time to understand. What was my guilt and what wasn’t was a huge thing for me. In the biggest case of misplaced guilt, my mother had reinforced that it was my fault for so long that I didn’t know any different. and that guilt and belief that it actually was my fault, piggy backed on other things that I also felt guilty for so It took a very long time for me to undo that damage and sort it all out.
      Thanks for sharing and thanks for being here!
      Hugs, Darlene

  8. By: Annie O'Sullivan Posted: 6th September

    Oh Eddie. I cried! I had the same experience. It was bad enough, why oh why did they have to add the violence? My heart touched yours this morning. I wish ou peace. Annie

  9. By: Susan Fisher Posted: 6th September

    Darlene I’m sure you lived my life.

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 6th September

      Hi Susan,

      I started this blog because I was doing public speaking in mental health seminars and I kept hearing those words ~ and I realized that there was a real need for -people to hear this message, that if this many of us relate and understand each other, then maybe the abusers are the one’s that are wrong. Maybe it is the people telling us that we are crazy, that we are mistaken, that we deserve to be treated this way, they are the ones that are WRONG and we believed them! Maybe they believed their abusers too and lived a similar life of lies, and they feel like they have a right to treat others that way now, but that is not OUR problem. I had to realize that I personally didn’t have to accept that treatment anymore, that I was worthy. And if other people don’t like the new me, then why does that bear any weight on my decision to recover or suggest that I can’t be the new me??

      Thanks for your comment Susan! Hugs, Darlene

  10. By: Louise Brookes Posted: 5th September

    Wow, Eddie this poem is really exact. Thank you for sharing it. I really feel the tired but at the beginning and the whiter than snow. So true

  11. By: Jennifer Stuck Posted: 5th September

    Eddie, wow! That is so sad to read. It gave me chills. Keep up the great writing 🙂

  12. By: carol welch Posted: 5th September

    Thanks again Darlene.

    I don’t often comment, but I rarely miss a post.

    I hope, one day, to be where you describe. It’s hard damn work sometimes…hard damn work… 🙁

    Thanks so much for your words of insight and encouragement!

    To life,
    ~carol welch 🙂

    • By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th September

      Hi Carol,
      It is hard work, but so worth it. Now that I am on this side of the fence, I am grateful every day that I never gave up. (at least not for very long) Thank you for you comment Carol and thanks for being here too,
      Hugs, Darlene

      Jennifer, and Louise,
      Thanks for commenting on Eddie’s great poem!
      Jennifer, your are always welcome to post your great poems as well.
      Hugs, Darlene

  13. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th September

    This is beautiful and heartbreaking and I am so honored that you have shared it with me and the readers here.

    Your poem expresses exactly what I am talking about ~ as children we believe that we have done something to deserve being treated in such a way and we just can’t figure out what we are doing or what we have done that would warrant such brutality and when we are adults it doesn’t just go away. We have these beliefs that we don’t even realize are wrong OR that those false beliefs, and deep down (often unrecognized but so familiar) fears that we are going to “get it” again and being constantly ON GUARD ~ are getting in our way as adults.

    Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful poem. I cried.. I felt the pain and I felt your life and my heart broke for the little boy that was you Eddie. I am so glad that you are not there anymore!
    Hugs, Darlene

  14. By: Jackie Posted: 5th September

    Awesome write Mr. Eddie

  15. By: Eddie Posted: 5th September

    Hi Darlene,

    Like you, I spent years (decades) thinking that there was something wrong with me that caused my father to be as physically abusive as he was when I was growing up. I guess in my developing mind I thought that my father must be right, all the time. So my thought was that if I’m being beaten then there must be something wrong with me to bring that on.

    When I was in therapy a few years ago dealing with all of this, I was having trouble verbalizing my thoughts on it, so the therapist suggested that I write it out in the form of poetry to see if that would help. It did, and the words just flowed. Below is one of those poems I’d like to share with you. It helped me to finally find my voice and illustrates the mindset of how I had become conditioned to think.

    “Whiter Than Snow”

    I lay my head down
    My pillow is so soft,
    I want to sleep forever,
    I’m such a tired little boy,
    So tired
    Of life already.

    “Angels bless and angels keep
    Angels guard me while I sleep
    Bless my heart and bless my home
    Bless my spirit as I roam
    Guide and guard me through the night
    And wake me with the morning’s light.”

    My prayer goes unanswered,
    As my father yells my name.
    I startle so easily,
    And jump from my bed.
    “Yes, sir?”
    I have done something,
    Forgotten something,
    Misplaced something,
    Can’t remember something,
    Just something.
    He yells at me to go to the bathroom,
    I know the drill,
    The lights are turned off,
    The door is shut,
    And I sit in the dark,
    Total dark,
    I hate the dark.
    “Please?” I call,
    But no answer.

    Another day,
    Another crime
    I have committed
    Against my father’s law,
    Justice is swift,
    And predictable.
    He has a black leather belt,
    Shiny black.
    He always yells
    While he’s taking it off.
    Yelling, yelling, yelling.
    The sound of belt
    Connecting with a little boy’s body,
    Again and again and again,
    Over and over and over,
    My legs collapse,
    God, please let me pass out,
    Please let me die.
    Why does he hate me so much?
    What is wrong with me?
    Why am I such a bad boy?

    “Whiter than snow,
    Whiter than snow,
    Come wash me and I will be
    Whiter than snow.
    Wash me and I will be
    Whiter than snow.”

    Wash away the badness
    In this little boy,
    So that I will be
    Whiter than snow,
    So that I will be

  16. By: Darlene Ouimet Posted: 5th September

    Hi Rebekah!

    About the weight and appearance stuff, where I started is in realizing what you just said ~ you realized that your “thought” (came to believe in your deepest belief system) that your only value is in your appearance. For me it is what that belief led to. AND if there were any conflicting beliefs that went along with it. For me there was a conflict because I believed that my appearance was what got me approval, so I wanted a perfect appearance. BUT I also got abused and believed that it was because of my appearance and believed that if I WAS not so perfect (weight and looks or any combination of them) ~ that I would be more safe. Huge conflicting belief system. 50/50 polar opposite beliefs. It was when I realized both of these that I had something to work on.

    Thanks for your comments! Keep me posted with your progress ~ this is such a tough one.
    (did you see that I started a category about body issues and eating disorders?)
    Hugs, Darlene

    Hi Jackie!

    Thank you for this post. Although there is something heart wrenching about it and yet I can see a ray of hope that you have for yourself and for healing and that is something to celebrate! I can relate to experiencing a lot of “die off” as I began to learn how to live. I went through several periods of mourning, anger, more mourning. I mourned the loss of parents, the fact that I had not really had love and acceptance. I mourned the loss of my childhood, and my innocence. I learned what I had come to believe that was so very wrong about myself, that most things I believed even about the abuse were not really true. (I am talking about that I thought I brought it on myself and asked for it, was bad etc.) And through it all, I grew. I re parented myself. I uncovered and embraced the truth. I did for me what they neglected to do for me. I grew and I flourished and I learned how to live. I became one whole person. Many of the fears fell away and today my life is very different.

    I am really glad that you are here Jackie.
    Hugs, Darlene

    Hi Pamela

    The details are tiring, exhausting really, but it is so worth it to pursue this new life and change those core beliefs!
    Thanks so much for your comments!

    Hugs, Darlene

  17. By: Pamela Posted: 5th September

    I find the details so very tiring. At times it feels like I will always be dissecting my life. I feel more whole that I ever have before, and changing my core beliefs has been a big part of that.

  18. By: Jackie Posted: 5th September

    I always thought if I could only please one of them, maybe it’d all go away but it never did nor would it. I’m so afraid of many things today because of all the “its” in a life then, that it haunts me today and has a greater affect on my wellbeing and all that we are. I told a teacher once, who made me go see a counselor and in turn she called part of the problem and it made things worse for me when I got home. I learned then that those who say they love you only say it to cause you harm, nothing is meant in a life lived with all kinds of “its” so I dealt with things as best I could knowing all the while it’d never end until I ran away from it all. To my surprise, running away didn’t change things because the “its” didn’t quit just because I thought I had gotten away from them, they continued for a long time into my adulthood life. We lived in a world then of cruelty in many ways unbelievable to most, grew up in the realm of inner walled rules to protect ourselves from all. No touch can soothe the hurt and never will just as no love can ever find it’s way into the inner heart of her because of the “its” in life. Pleasing everyone else became a way of life worth living to degree until even that world was shattered. The day life becomes genuine here, is a day worth looking forward to even if it means all the “its” of our life die completely off before we begin to live.

  19. By: Rebekah Posted: 5th September

    Wow Darlene,

    I have been doing those exact things…the ones that didnt work…and then finally I found a good therapist who was an abuse survivor herself, and she told me what she did and helped me see the truth behind the abuse and subsequent interactions with other objective people (mainly therapists and blogs like this one) have shown me the lies that I never knew were lies, and have opened my eyes to the reality of my life and its getting better. Im going through a particularly rough patch at the moment, but this time I know its ok, and its normal and it will pass and that Im not bad or wrong or broken. My therapist tells me every single week that Im having normal reactions to traumatic events…and I tell myself that a million times a day, just to hear it again. I still have the worst trouble with body image and the disconnection from myself and that my only value is in my appearance (and since I gained quite a bit of weight in recent years, its gotten much more negative) and I really dont even know where to start with that other than I know that its a lie, but unfortunately its still one I believe…the knowledge that its a lie isnt enough yet. Anyways, thank you for reinforcing that they are indeed lies one more time.


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