This word is a huge one in both of our lives, and seriously, how are we even meant to come close to doing this word justice given the hold it has over us? One blog post can’t ever even begin to describe the fucking constant presence of shame. How it sits back and quietly tuts at you so that you think you have enough of a hold over it to not let it impact your life, until it eggs itself on until its completely screaming in your ears, and you can no longer hear/see/think straight.
The image that comes to my mind when I think of shame is of a fire…sometimes controlled, a medium burn, easy(ish) to handle. Sometimes that dies down, its just embers, still hot, but not in your face, not painful…and then all of a sudden without any warning it’s fed some fuel and it’s roaring, burning you, engulfing everything around you. If anything is volatile (yesterdays word), it’s shame. Shame can go from nothing to everything in a millisecond.
Last summer shame was being particularly noisy one day, and pocketcanadian suggested that I write out everything I was ashamed of, and for once I did. I’ve got a word document here titled ‘all the shame’. It’s not short, 3 pages long, full of things that I was ashamed of. Some of them feel less real reading them tonight (though I know they were incredibly real to me back then), and some of them still ring true. And, as ever there are more that come to mind. It’s an ever changing (and probably expanding) list.
Here’s one that still has a massive hold over me because the personal belief underlying it is one that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to shake:
- That I’m too much. Too needy, too incessant, too annoying, want too much, ask for too much, am too emotional, take too much away from other people.
And here are a couple that I wrote that still make me feel physically sick:
- That it was my fault because he was just a kid, a victim, and if he’s so young and innocent I should have been able to stop him.
- That he was just a kid so it can’t have been bad. That it’s different to abuse by an adult, that I’m lucky and should shut up. That I’m being disrespectful to people that were actually abused.
If/when PC writes about this one, I think she’ll probably talk about the shame spiral…about how once your ashamed and then trying to let somebody in you start getting ashamed about being ashamed in the first place. I’m nowhere near as eloquent as pc, so I’ll leave that bit to her.
I wish I could say something more positive in this post, but well, I can’t. It’s just one of those crappy things, and I could write a whole load more about it, but I think that’s enough rubbishy stuff from me for today.
the good ol’ search function on our blog reveals that i’ve written about shame 33 times (and i can’t even believe it’s that infrequently). i didn’t count the number of pocketbrit’s posts that came up but i’d guess it’s similar to me.
it feels too huge to even try to tackle tonight. it is the thing i’m working on in therapy right now…in particular, the shame i feel about the inordinate amount of shame i have, and the horrifying way i often succumb to its downward spiral. how knowing him and naming him don’t seem to help not to listen to his voice. how i am still so affected by him, how fully i still believe what he has to say.
to be fair, i have made baby steps, namely, that i am able to tell nearly instantly when i encounter the voice of capital-s Shame. and every once in awhile, i’m able to steel myself against him, sometimes sufficiently enough that i can defend against his wily, evil ways. however, even those times, i am not grateful to him for getting me here, i fucking hate his guts. and lately, it’s seems to be a losing battle and i get sucked into the undertow, choking and sputtering for days on end.
the shame about Shame is the worst, though. because most times, i don’t want to admit that he’s got me. that i’m not better than that, yet. that i am too weak and too small to fight him, that i let him win. that i’m siding with their voices, that i’m not as healed as i pretend to be.
he makes me think that dying is a viable option. that the best thing would be to remove myself from all of it. to protect others from me, to shield them from my rot, to excise myself from the world, to erase my existence.
he steals pocketbrit from me, and me from her, so much lately. he tells me that my wife and daughter would be better off without me. that i am pathetic, that i am never going to get better, that i am wrong and stupid no matter what i do. that i deserve to be alone, just like they said. that i’ll never get it right, even if i try my hardest.
he gets in my ears and transforms the words, expressions, and tone of the people who love me. puts me on edge. isolates me. sings me to his side of things. and reminds me, at every turn, that there is something so unbelievably wrong about me that my own parents couldn’t love me.
my therapist tells me, over and over, with unbelievable patience and gentleness, that he’s the one who’s wrong. that his voice was directed to me, that it’s not mine. that just because shame speaks, doesn’t mean that he speaks the truth. that in fact, it is his voice that got me here, that enabled me to survive to this point. with amazing, persistent, optimism, she tells me stories about how we can listen to it without accepting it. (ha. maybe she can. i am less successful at this).
coz really…the cadence of his voice is so familiar, his words so horribly intimate. he knows how to make us curl up into a tiny ball. makes the tears prickle with alarming immediacy. helps us pack it in, tells us to quit trying to be too big for our britches.
i wish i knew the antidote to his convictions. i’m open to ideas, honestly, so feel free to share in the comments.