It isn’t your fault, you know. I know somewhere deep inside, you still believe that it is. It doesn’t matter what we’re talking about. You have shame about something – there is something you are afraid to tell people because you worry if they knew the whole truth, they would think you’re disgusting or pathetic or unworthy. They might stop loving you.
Shame. Shame is that dark place that we hide, where it festers and grows and causes that pit of anxiety in our guts or in that place right behind the breastbone that gets tight and makes it hard to take a deep breath.
Your shame is your own, I’m not saying it isn’t. But friend, let me tell you, it isn’t unique. Whatever you are hiding, I promise that one of us is hiding the same thing.
Sometimes, despite years of self-work and activism and self-love, a small, still voice inside of me says that if I had behaved differently, I wouldn’t have been raped. And again. Is that the scariest contradiction? I no longer have shame around being raped, but I have shame around the fact that somewhere deep inside, I can’t let go of the possibility that it was, on some level, my fault. That’s shame.
Sometimes, when people ask me about money, I lie and tell them that everything is all right. Really, I am drowning, and when I try to figure out what to do about it, I get such anxiety that I have to stop and ask myself if I’m having a heart attack or just a lot of anxiety. That’s shame.
Sometimes, I eat way more than I wanted to, and after, I feel sick, not physically, but emotionally, as if there’s something seriously wrong with me that I am still fighting with my demons surrounding food.
Sometimes I have panic attacks so bad that I can’t breathe and in the depths of those attacks, I start to wonder if anyone really loves me, *really* loves me, just the way I am. Sometimes those panic attacks are so horrific, I think I’m actually dying. And I think there’s something wrong with me that I can’t control them, so I’m afraid to talk about them because I think everyone else will think there’s something wrong with me, too.
Sometimes, I remember those voices of all of the people who have called me fatty, lardo, pig, disgusting, sick, whoa-my-god-she’s-coming-toward-me, and know that somewhere deep down inside, I still carry them. Shame means I’m afraid to talk about it because I think that if I tell someone about it, they’ll start to see it, too.
Your shame may not be the same as mine. Maybe you carry shame about alcohol use, or things you did when you were addicted to drugs that hurt other people. Maybe your shame is about how you wet your pants in the second grade and everyone laughed and sometimes, you still hear the laughter, and while most of the time, you remember that it’s just one thing, long ago, in the deepest, darkest parts of your soul, you shrivel up remembering. Maybe your shame is getting so overwhelmed by all that you have to do that you do nothing but sit at the computer and play solitaire and then go to bed crying because that means so much more to do tomorrow.
Your shame may be about being abused, about wondering if there was something you could have done, if you had locked the door, if you had behaved yourself. Your shame may be around your body or your intelligence or your very existence. You may have shame about your education or your upbringing or about your failed relationships.
Maybe your shame is simply that everyone thinks you are such a together person and your dirty little secret is that you have self-love meltdowns just like everyone else.
Your shame is your own and it’s not my place to tell you what to do with it, except that I am going to tell you that until you talk about your shame with someone, it’s going to hide and it’s going to bubble up in your darkest hours, and it’s going to grow bigger until you think you can’t possibly bear it anymore.
Friends, let me tell you this. You are not alone. And it isn’t your fault. It isn’t your fault because we have all of this pressure on us from birth to death and sometimes the weight of that is too much to carry. It’s not your fault because you’ve been called names or told you weren’t enough and it’s hard to hear all of that all of your life and not let it absorb into the core of your being. It’s not your fault because your parents told you that no one would ever love you unless you (fill in the blank) and it’s probably not even their fault, because someone told them the same thing. It’s not your fault because even if you were drinking, you still didn’t deserve to be raped. It’s not your fault because even if you were yelling and out on control, you didn’t deserve to be punched. It’s not your fault.
It’s not your fault.
Your shame is your own. But I am giving you mine, right here, open and laid out before you. It may not be your shame, but it is still yours. You are not alone.