Forgive yourself, get therapy
Dear Annie: My faith always has been very important to me. I have strong moral values, and I don’t believe in having a sexual relationship outside of marriage. So I am deeply ashamed about a relationship I had with a man to whom I am not married. This man had some problems that made intimacy difficult, which was a blessing in itself. The relationship didn’t last long, and it mostly just consisted of telephone conversations. Still, the fact that I allowed myself to enter into a relationship of this type haunts me. I have prayed repeatedly about this, but I am having difficulty forgiving myself.
What can I do to be at peace about this? I cannot talk to my minister about this. I do not have contact with this man. He would call quite often to check on me. I reached the decision that I should not have telephone conversations with him. A few weeks ago, he called every day for about a week, and I did not answer his calls. I finally sent him a text, told him I was well and wished him well. He asked why I did not want to talk to him. I told him I was very busy and that when he called, I was not always where I could talk, which was true. How can I put this behind me? I haven’t seen this man since I quit talking to him.
I’ve become so depressed about this that I have just stayed in except to do necessary things. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I have spent most of my time involved in church activities and doing volunteer work. I don’t think I have agoraphobia; rather, I’m so ashamed that I have retreated. I love people and doing for others. I am on an antidepressant, and I do have something to take for panic attacks. — I Knew Better
Dear Knew Better: I applaud you for seeking professional help, and I encourage you to keep taking medication as directed by your doctor. But medication is only one part of the equation. You should also be seeing a licensed therapist, someone who can help you talk about what you’re feeling and help you move past the shame. Ask your doctor to refer you to someone, or search Psychology Today’s database at www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists. Be prepared to try a few different therapists to find one with whom you really click.
And please stop being so hard on yourself. You seem like a warmhearted person who values kindness. Try to show yourself the same compassion you would show anyone else.