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Wednesday, March 2

The Power of Shame

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This is a series of stories that is part of my own healing. I welcome you to read along, or not, but I'm going to write it anyway. I hope you take something good from it, and I hope I do too.

If you have thoughts of suicide, please call 1 (800) 273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Crisis Hotline, or call 911. Please know, admitting help is not a failure. Life can be beautiful, you just have to live it first.
I know there are people out there that would question why I would make any of this public.

If I were diagnosed with cancer, if I broke my leg in a car accident, if I won the lottery - and if I shared these experiences, I want you to consider if you would be asking me the same question.

You see, you are uncomfortable because you think this is something I should keep secret. You think this is something that I should keep between myself and maybe my family. You think this is something I should keep quiet because some part of you thinks that I need to be ashamed.

Well, what this says about you is that you are ashamed. And that, unfortunately, is your own battle to face.

The fact is, I have spent most of my life being ashamed. At the first onset of my depression, I cried myself to sleep almost every night. A 14 year old girl, not a care in the world, and I couldn’t fall asleep without a cry first. I never told a soul. I thought, this is my burden to bare. I shouldn’t be this sad anyway.

Every time I would have a panic attack, I would retreat somewhere, calm down, or at least put on a mask that would help me make it through the day. Because that panic was mine, and no one else needed to know about it.

Every time - every single day - that I contemplated ending my own life, do you know who I told? Not a single person. Not my parents, not my school psychologist, not my social worker, not my counselors, not my teachers, not my sister, not one single person. In fact, I didn’t tell anyone until 11 years later.

Do you know why?

I kept it a secret because I was ashamed that I had let life spiral so out of control for me, that I had lost control of my own life, that I couldn’t just “get over” being sad, or anxious, or full of fear and panic. I was so ashamed that my brain was fighting against me that I kept it to myself.

I would have rather died in silence, kept my secrets, and been over with it.

I want you to think about that.

Think about the power of shame. Think about the things that you say to people who are suffering from mental illness. Think about your desire to coerce them into silence. Think about your desire not to even acknowledge them at all.

Think about how you are rejecting their entire existence - you are saying to them that their feelings are not valid enough to be shared. You are telling them they are not valid.

And you wonder why they want to die.

I can’t speak for the millions of people that have committed suicide. I can’t say why they do or they don’t.

I can only speak for me.

And Me is telling You that shame is a divisive, corrosive, ugly little parasite that eats away at you, it eats away at me, it eats away at everything. And how awful is that, how tragic is that, that shame would win over life itself.

So you know, to you out there that thinks I should keep this a secret, that thinks I should continue to suffer silently (as if I haven’t already done that for decades), to you I say, sorry.

I’m sorry that my pain and suffering has caused you so much shame. I’m sorry that my openness has caused you some uncomfort that doesn’t allow you to continue on with your daily life. I’m sorry that my way of healing has made you so uncomfortable that you would rather try to silence me than to hear me out - rather than to call my phone and maybe ask for five fucking minutes if I’m okay today.

I’m sorry that you can’t accept that sometimes the answer is no, I’m not okay.

And I’m sorry it makes you uncomfortable that it took me a full psychotic break to even admit to myself that I needed help.

It’s all very, very, uncomfortable.

But I will never be silenced because of shame. I will never stop telling my story. I will never stop doing the life saving work that I think needs to be done in this country to repair a broken health care system that leaves people like me behind - suffering in silence and shame until they no longer have the will to live.

So, sorry, that your shame prevents you from feeling comfortable for a few minutes of your day.

My shame, our shame, all of us who suffer - this shame has eaten away at us our entire lives until literally nothing is left.

And I refuse to live that way anymore. And I refuse to let a single person feel that way too. We shouldn’t have to feel this way.

We are sick. We need healing. We need help.

And I will never be ashamed of that.

To those of you, you beautiful, wonderful people, who have sent me such kind words of encouragement and thanks. You are the ones that keep me hanging on. I do this as much for myself as I do it for you. I truly believe there is a way to make this world better. I truly believe there is so much work that needs to be done to heal people like us. I am more willing than I ever thought possible to do this work. Because truly, I believe that you are just like me, I’m just like you, and We are Us. And I think there’s a way to live life better, there’s a way to be happy, there’s a way to be healed. So thank you. Thank you for who you are, and what you give to me. I will never forget that and I will not abandon this passion of mine.

I will never be ashamed of trying to make the world a better place.

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