DR. WALLACE: I’m 19 and will turn 20 in less than two months. I’m not proud of my past. Unfortunately, I was arrested once, and this troubles me greatly. I fear that my life is over since I’ll always have a record and I’ll have to explain myself to countless people, especially prospective employers.

I actually get depressed from time to time over this, and when I do, I envision that I’ll never amount to anything because of my big past mistake.

Will I ever overcome this albatross that hangs over me? Is there any way to move forward, or am I permanently doomed? — I Messed Up and I Know It, via email

I MESSED UP AND I KNOW IT: You are absolutely not doomed. Yes, you made a big mistake, but hopefully only one this large and hopefully you have learned a huge lesson via that experience. Your concern for your future indicates to me your deep sense of remorse, which is admirable, and that is a good start. You can’t rewrite the past, but you can have a great degree of control over your future.

Start by forgiving yourself. We are all human and make mistakes, but to rehabilitate your image to the general public, and most importantly yourself, you need to build safeguards in your life to insure you will not make the same mistake or any other one close to the incident that caused your incarceration.

Next, seek to make amends. I don’t know your life story, but if the incident that you regret is one that you can make some amends toward now, consider doing so. If it does not, then seek to do some volunteer work or donate your time, energy and even a little of your personal capital to seek to make the world a better place the best you can.

You should also seek out a mentor in your life to help guide you from here. Have this person be one who will be honest with you but be willing to help you get back on your feet in society and also emotionally. There should be a counselor or individual in the medical or law enforcement field who would be willing to guide you toward a suitable person to fill this role in your life.

DR. WALLACE: I got into an argument with my boyfriend, and it escalated to the point that we threw dishes at each other and broke a lot of things. We then yelled at each other even louder and finally, he slammed the front door and went out and got inside his pick-up truck. He then drove off rapidly with his tires squealing, and I didn’t hear from him for four hours.

I did, however, get some news about him then. His brother called me and told me that he had gotten into a bad accident and had injured another driver and one of his passengers severely. He also said that my boyfriend had broken one of his legs and had a head injury as well.

I was in shock and wanted to go to the hospital to see him, but I was out with my parents when I got this news, and they advised me to stay clear of the situation for a while.

The next day, my boyfriend’s brother came over to my house and started screaming at me saying that I was the cause of his accident since he and I had an argument only 20 minutes before the accident occurred. I of course feel terrible about the entire affair, but I didn’t know what to say to his brother so I just told him that I felt that he should leave. He yelled for another two minutes and then finally left, but he also slammed the door in a similar manner to how his brother had done the night before.

Now I’ve been thinking about everything that has happened and I feel remorseful, sad and a little bit responsible for what eventually happened. How can I ever make things up to my boyfriend and especially the people he injured? — Ridden With Guilt, via email

RIDDEN WITH GUILT: You have every right to feel sad and compassionate about the injured people in the other vehicle, and your boyfriend and the injuries he sustained as well. But in no way are you guilty regarding the sad accident that occurred.

You did not leave the house in a fit of anger, slam a door and drive a motor vehicle onto the roadway in a very unsafe manner with the tires squealing. Your boyfriend is the one who did these things and who did not keep his emotions and actions under control.

Your parents were wise to have you avoid jumping into the aftermath of the situation right away. You should reflect upon your relationship and think about what you’d like to say to your boyfriend when the time comes to visit him during his convalescence. And when you do, tell him you feel sorry about what happened to him, but take care not to accept blame for his actions. Focus instead on lifting his spirits, helping him and his family in any way you can during this difficult time.

Unfortunately, there is little you can do to help the other parties who were injured. I trust they’re already receiving the best medical attention possible at this time.

Dr. Robert Wallace will answer questions from readers in this column. Email him at rwallace@galesburg.net.

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