I'd agree with everything that Hola and CC have said. In some ways, once I'd got over actually being convicted, the worst part was the loss of self-confidence. I didn't notice it at first probably because I was around a lot of people in a similar situation to myself.
It's now 6 years since my conviction and I can honestly say that its only been in the last year that I've started to really get back some of the confidence I had pre-conviction. A lot of it has come from meeting a new partner and disclosing to them. They didn't run a mile just reassured me that I was a different person now. Since then I've started to feel that I do have a place in the world. My conviction's in the past and is only a small part of the person I am. After I got my conviction I was pretty paranoid. I had a job and disclosed to my Line Manager and as much as I was sure he'd keep the info to himself, everytime one of my work colleagues was a bit blunt of 'off' with me I assumed they knew about my past (it was almost always cos they'd had a row with the kids or the Mrs). As much as you want to protect yourself and not give people the chance to judge you, as CC says it's easy to make people suspicious of you by your own actions.
You don't have to be punished for the rest of your life but in my case, I had to come to terms myself with what I'd done. Once I'd done that, it was a bit easier to let other's in and start living again.
It's great to have a place such as this where you can see the journey's that other people have taken and realise that anything is possible.