Dear Dr. Archer,
When I was younger I sexually abused members of my own family. Most were younger than me, and two of them were sort of consensual.
I've been living with this secret for a long time, and I have contemplated suicide for as long as I can remember. I hate myself and the skin I live in for what I've done. I've had enough of those memories swimming in my head. Some days I forget about them, but they do tend to come to mind now and then.
This past weekend I've come closer to death than I've ever felt before. I noticed one of my family members I abused couldn't even look me in the face. She just ignored me like I don't exist. I don't blame her, but I have tried moving on and I thought she might have, too. I had to leave the house because I had to go cry and didn't want anyone to see me.
I'm nearing my wits end. What should I do?
This is a very deep, dark secret to keep, and I understand the guilt and shame you must be feeling. And though I certainly condemn what you have done, I don’t want to see you end your life because of it, and suicide is not the answer.
Listen, M, if you truly believe you will harm yourself, you MUST go to your nearest hospital ER and seek help. You might think this will benefit those you have hurt, but it will only increase their torment.
Instead of sitting in shame, or having to leave the house when others are around, apologize to those family members you have hurt. Yes, I realize it will be extremely painful, but you need to express your regret and shame to them, and let them know how deeply sorry you are.
If you need help, start off by writing an apology. You don't have to give it to them, but just start writing. Let your feelings flow from your mind onto the paper. Write, write and write and express yourself; this alone is therapeutic more than you know.
Then, man up and apologize to each family member face to face. You may be forgiven, or you may not, but at least you will have expressed your sorrow for your actions, which may give them some semblance of peace.
I also encourage you to seek counseling. What you did was wrong and hurt the people you love. And please let me just add one important fact here. If anyone you molested was under the age of consent, it was not consensual and it was not somewhat consensual, no matter what happened.
The young underage mind does not have the ability to consent to sex. Also, it sounds like you were underage yourself when these events occurred. That does not excuse what you did, but keep it in mind. If you did not feel regret and were continuing this activity now as an adult, my answer would be very different.
You need to talk, talk, talk to come to grips with what you have done. Only then will you be able to move on and make something meaningful of your future.