THE SHAME GAME
At one time or another, we have all done things that we are ashamed of. I know I have had my fair share of skeletons in the closet. I grew up believing secrecy was normal and that it was best to keep personal matters private. This belief led me to keep a whole lot of crap stuffed away into some very deep and dark places within myself. Why are we afraid of sharing the dark moments in our lives? For me, the fear of judgement and not being good enough or living up to some made-up standards was enough for me to keep a lid on my boiling pot.
The problem with stuffing it all away is that secrets can make you sick. Really sick. Fear and shame can lead to anxiety, depression, and isolation. I know this well because I’ve been there. I’ve suffered from serious mental health issues since I was a teenager. It’s been a roller coaster of too high and too low, post-partum depression, and prenatal depression. There were years where I would not share this with anyone. I feared that people would see me as weak, that they wouldn’t understand, and they would eventually turn their backs on me. I kept it all a secret and tried to manage it on my own. I’ve had people tell me that mental health issues are not real and that people are just weak. They had no clue of how much I battled, and this message was loud and clear that keeping my struggles to myself was the best idea. The trouble is that we are not meant to handle everything alone. Humans are meant to connect and offer support to one another.
Once I began writing and vlogging my story, shame and fear rose within me … BIG time. I’ve found that the most interesting realizations about this journey so far is that my relationships have become so much deeper, and I’ve made connections with many wonderful people. It seems that the more vulnerable I am, the more connections I create with others.
This goes against everything that I was taught growing up. I know sharing publicly isn’t for everyone, though I do highly recommend getting deep with your family and friends. Opening up and being vulnerable is happening for me everywhere. It’s like I started rolling a little snowball, and with each time I share, it grows a bit bigger and starts moving a little faster. I’m now booking speaking engagements, which is something I never imagined a few years ago. I have had such a great response from people that have similar fears and shame triggers; they are so grateful to have a voice speaking out on their behalf. I remind myself of this when I start to panic about a speaking event; that I’m there to share my story for one person that needs it. To reach someone that feels alone; isolated and desires a sense of belonging. I use this thought to move me past my own fears. I recognize that healing is beyond myself. The world is in so much pain, and we need to stand up for one another.
I’ve decided to turn my pain into purpose. My suffering will be used for another’s healing.
After my first speaking engagement in October, I had a major vulnerability hangover. It’s funny because the evening went really well: I had great feedback, and I was really pumped up about it and couldn’t wait for the next one. Then, the following day, I crashed hard. Sharing the pain, shame, and words that I haven’t spoken out loud to very many people was incredibly scary. I spent all day meditating, talking to friends, and was vibrating with very low energy. Shame and fear are low energy feelings, and it’s helpful to avoid sitting with them for long. This is one of the significant benefits of connecting with a community; you can have a solid support system in place for times when you feel like you’re down and out. I’ve got a list of 10 kick-ass women I can call on at any time to talk me off of whatever mental ledge I have myself on. It’s truly beautiful and keeps me from sitting in the Shame Game for too long.