Regret, by definition, is a sense of sorrow, guilt or repentance over something done, or desired but not done. Years ago I asked Declan, my oldest bio bro, what his biggest regret in life was, he responded, “None. I have learned from every mistake I’ve made, thus making them not mistakes, leaving nothing to be regretted.” So, I dug deeper and asked if he felt guilty about anything and his response was something to the effect of not drawing something for someone, or something. He is not a deep thinker. He is a surface kind of person so he does let things just roll off. He takes things as they come and lets them go when they’re gone. I, however, am a super analytical person and complete opposite.

So, what do you feel guilt over? What do you regret in your life? Anything? Are you like my brother who turns everything into a learning moment, dysfunctional or not? Or, are you like me and have many different regrets, knowing things could have turned out differently–if not better?

I used to think that I felt most guilty about being the only one to make it out of my family, but as years go on my thoughts drift from that and on to things that I could have done better. And because regret and guilt are different, they both seem to come at different magnitudes. If you were to ask me what I regret most, up to this point, I think I’d have to say fighting and living through the trauma. I say this because this regret is the basis of so much of my guilt. So much of what I hate about myself are things I gained from fighting to survive..and surviving. Because I had to fight to survive for 14+ years (17 1/2+ if you count foster care) a lot of my behaviors are still survival mechanisms…and though better, are still detrimental sometimes.

Because most of the people in my life don’t come from backgrounds where they had to survive, or who have already worked through their bigger struggles, their behaviors and everyday interactions are just normal and I can become quite a stress to them. I hate that.

If I had to choose the one thing I feel most guilty about, it’s the amount of stress I bring to other people. The most recent example goes to Becca. At the moment she’s taking a break from me because she “needs less stress in her life”. This isn’t the first time she’s taken a break from me due to needing less stress so I’ve become kind of accustomed to it. But then there’s an expectation there that asks that I be accepting of her when she’s ready to jump back in. And it’s not just her that feels this way…this is the reason I was sent away to school not too soon after I was adopted. This is part of the reason the first, second, and third adoptive families didn’t want me.

It’s hard, sometimes, to know that I cause so much stress to other people. It’s hard because often times I don’t know what it is that I’m doing that’s stressing them out. Or if I do know, it’s something I’ve been diligently working on fixing about myself but the stitches just aren’t coming quick enough. And then I get angry and start to regret surviving. Not in a victimized way, but in a way that says, “had I not survived, I wouldn’t have to still be fighting every day.” Because had I died, I wouldn’t be fighting. I wouldn’t have to struggle with relationships, with connecting, with making sure everything comes out sounding regulated, with going to work and to school, with maintaining just the day-to-day stuff. And I know, too, that life isn’t always going to be such a battle to live…and that gives me some smidgen of hope that one day I’m not going to make people need to walk away for their own sanity and stress-relief.

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