Tag Archive | self worth

Listen to me

Listen to me

Hear my words, feel my thoughts

Before you react

Can’t you see what you do to me

Silence my words, invalidate my thoughts

Because you

Are more important

Your needs matter

And I don’t

I am not what you say I am

I am starting to know me

Too bad you don’t or won’t

Losing hope

Because you don’t even know

How to listen

Operation: Feel Better

Last week something changed, another switch flipped and I decided I was tired of feeling like me. Tired. Drained. Empty.

I re-read my DBT binder from intensive outpatient therapy. Hmmm. I am not doing well with self care. In fact I was self hurting.

  • I was staying up until nearly 4am every night and staying in my room until noon.
  • I was not doing basic hygiene regularly, only when I needed to go somewhere outside the house, which is usually only once per week. (Actually two consecutive days, but my worn out brain figured yesterdays shower was good enough)
  • I was only going outside for counseling, dr appointments, running light errands. Not actually spending time outside, just walking from the house to the car.
  • I was not getting daily or even much weekly exercise.
  • I was eating poorly, even binged a few times.

So I did not suddenly see all of this in myself. No. What I saw was my children, turning into depressed couch potatoes. My children, who normally have so much energy we can’t contain it, barely able to move. My children saying, nah, don’t feel like a bike ride or going to the playground. My children lounging in yesterday’s filthy clothes, too tired to change. My children cranky, irritable, snapping at each other instead of playfully making jokes.

Wow. The transformation was incredible. What happened? They had no schedule or structure with school being out. We can’t afford any sports this summer with me not working, so they are all just home, with nothing to do. And with me in bed, partly recovering from surgery, partly my odd sleep schedule, they had transformed and were showing signs of depression.

My brain hurt at this realization.

My stupid binder was right. I was hurting myself. And my kids.

I tried telling hubby my concerns and he was quite unresponsive. He is working so much he was unable to comment on the changes I am seeing.

So I decided on my own to make a change. Because I am mom, I can do this. I can do for them what I can’t for myself.

I told the kids that starting tomorrow we would have one daily activity. It has some rules. They can help me choose the location, give input, but ultimately it is up to me. Here are the rules I created.

  • We will drive to this location, it is far enough from home to require this
  • We will spend at least 30 minutes outside (unless terrible weather)
  • We will be active during the 30 minutes, moving our bodies, walking, playing, etc
  • We will go to a new location every day

So we started this mandatory anti couch potato activity 4 days ago. We have gone to 2 playgrounds and 2 nature preserves. We have invented new games. We learned eggplants have purple flowers. We explored a lean-to someone built in the forest.

When we got home, they asked about setting up the badminton net instead of heading back to the couch. We all played badminton. That was a bonus, not forced or mandatory. The neighbor kids saw us playing and asked to join. Awesome! Yes!

So this is working. I started taking melatonin at night to get back on track. That plus daily sun and exercise is helping me sleep-at night.

I may not be making money, but I am a damn good mom, and I am finally seeing how important I am to them. I am giving them life long lessons, values, hopes, strength. All the things I need. Maybe, just a fleeting thought here, is it possible I do have these things, because if I see them in my children it is a reflection of me? Can I give what I don’t have? Maybe I am not as empty as I feel, it is all somehow hidden from me. Does any of this make sense?

Fighting job hunting worthlessness

Unemployed. Isn’t that a nasty word? It is to me. Synonyms could be lazy. Good for nothing. Moocher. Freeloader. Waste of space. 

Worthless.

I know those aren’t my words and as much as I don’t apply those beliefs to others, I still do for myself. My own standards are higher. I still feel driven, this need to impress and succeed, or I feel like nothing.

I have started job hunting and I’m trying to be realistic and gentle on myself. My energy is not high. I need something flexible with minimal stress and hours. I tell myself this is temporary. That one day I may apply for those more ambitious and desirable jobs again. But I’m not so sure I’ll ever be ready. So I try to focus on me now, to process the unbalanced thoughts of needing to be perfect, comforting my sadness when I feel worthless.

I keep trying to tell hubby, but he doesn’t get it, and I stop, too ashamed to continue. I tell him I don’t like job hunting. He says, yeah its frustrating. I sigh. I have no way to explain the depth of this pain. How much it hurts to be triggered by my failure stuck point with each job post I am not qualified for, or worse, so much worse, when I apply for a job I didn’t really want but get rejected.

This hurts. Frustrating would be much more manageable. 

And hubby doesn’t know how much it hurt when he asked if the job boards were full of the same sh*tty jobs as usual. Because I am applying for those crappy jobs…and not getting hired. Which means I’m even crappier.

Hubby also doesn’t know how difficult it is for me to contain my jealousy as he talks about work. I try to be supportive, but some days I don’t want to hear his hero, he saved the day at work stories. Because all I did was scrape cheese off the dishes here at home. I know I am working in my trauma recovery program, but it doesn’t feel the same. I don’t feel like a hero or a problem solver. I think I am guilty of applying the stigma to myself. Hmm. Because I don’t feel proud, or even share with my family what I do in counseling. I don’t come home and say “I finally had some movement on a tough stuck point today…” nope. My kids don’t even know I am in counseling.

So I’m tackling this  job hunting like exposure therapy. I’m doing what I don’t want to do, every day, and experiencing every negative emotion slowly, then bringing myself back to center, slowly, using my new tools. 

I’ll keep at it. Eventually someone will hire me, and eventually maybe my self worth as a human won’t be connected so completely to my ability to make money. I am not going to go numb or put on a fake smile. This hurts. So I will feel the hurt and recover. I don’t have to like it. But I do need it to stop destroying me.

What am I worth

pandys.org – low self esteem, reclaim yourself

Rape and sexual abuse are violations of our mind, body, and spirit. Because of these violations, it is extremely difficult to reclaim our personal worth. Without this self-driven empowerment, we can feel less than those around us. This feeling then causes issues in our personal, professional, and academic lives.

We often find it challenging to:

• feel secure in our emotions, reactions, and expectations
• stand up for ourselves

www.anxieties.com – I am not ashamed

Accepting Who I Am

  • I’m OK just the way I am.
  • I am lovable and capable.
  • I am an important person.
  • I’m already a worthy person; I don’t have to prove myself.
  • My feelings and needs are important.
  • I deserve to be supported by those who care about me.
  • I deserve to be respected, nurtured and cared for.
  • I deserve to feel free and safe.
  • I’m strong enough to handle whatever comes along.

No one expects you to change a long-standing attitude overnight. But if you can continue to reflect on these attitudes until you begin to believe them, you will be on your way to overcoming panic. Building up our sense of self-worth increases our ability to confront the obstacles to our freedom.

The second kind of affirmation has to do with our expectations about how we must act around others. It reminds us that we don’t have to please everyone else and ignore our own wants and needs, that we all get to make mistakes as we are learning, and that we don’t need to view every task as a test of our competence or worth.

Supporting What I Do

  • It’s OK to say no to others.
  • It’s good for me to take time for myself.
  • It’s OK to think about what I need.
  • The more I get what I need, the more I’ll have to give others.
  • I don’t have to take care of everyone else.
  • I don’t have to be perfect to be loved.
  • I can make mistakes and still be OK.
  • Everything is practice; I don’t have to test myself.
  • I am not ashamed.

 

But I am ashamed. It is still there, an aching, gnawing presence, something in me telling me I’m not the same as the other humans on the planet. That I don’t belong. That I can’t let them know about me or my struggles. That I am worthless.

I’m working on my stuck points but I have not had much movement in this area yet. I can intellectualize and know the bullet points above are true, but my heart and soul do not believe them. I was raised to be nothing, less than nothing. I was raised to be a playtoy, my only purpose AF’s sick enjoyment, one way or the other as he controlled me. His control was 100% complete. I was not a separate being with separate feelings. I served him. That was my normal.

My love and fear for AF were one in the same, and consumed me. I was driven to please him. I was so starved for attachment, connection, admiration, affection. My slightest mistake would be ridiculed and punished by removal of love. I was never good enough but it didn’t stop me from trying harder, because I had to try something.

  • I learned to never say no, becoming whatever anyone else needed, whenever they needed me, I could morph into their ideal person and serve
  • I learned to serve others selflessly, volunteer, help, cheer up, give gifts, boost, tutor
  • I never needed anything for myself because there is no me inside
  • I can keep on giving endlessly, it is the only thing that makes me feel ok, I will do it until I drop from exhaustion
  • I have to care for everyone else and keep everyone safe and happy, everyone else is my responsibility, my fault
  • I must be perfect to be loved, I understand I am unlovable
  • mistakes are not OK, ever, I will punish myself
  • I will test myself and set myself up for failure to prove my worthlessness
  • I am ashamed of me, my thoughts, my feelings, my appearance, my past, my choices, my failures, my existence

 

So I have some more work to do. I can stop those thoughts now, as I am aware of them, but they are still automatic and triggering. The biggest problem I am still having is that I feel empty. And when I compare myself with the rest of humanity, I don’t feel like I am a part of everyone else, like I will always be a faker, because there is no me in me.

I am concerned with this now. Because knowing that I was raised by such a gifted psychopath, I am concerned that this state of being is irreversible. That my social damage is so completely devastating that I may never recover a sense of self that my parents were supposed to instill in me, not rob from me. AF knew exactly what he was doing.

He prevented my bonding with my mother. He told me she hated me. My youngest preschool memories are him telling me how much she hated me and never wanted me, telling me to stay away from, that he was the only safe person for me. I can remember that at age 3, so I can only assume he started it even younger. I can’t remember ever getting a hug from my mom, I was always afraid of her when I was little, and it wasn’t because she yelled or hit me, it was because AF taught me to be afraid with his whispering. Then as I grew older and he actually told me he loved me more than my mom and wanted to divorce her. My own mom was jealous of me. Hello, calling Dr Freud, come on, this is sick stuff.

He prevented me being close to my brothers. We were all isolated from one another and wedges of jealousy put in place. At age 5 I was overly affectionate with my older brothers and their friends, desperate for belonging, and thinking what AF did with me was normal. At some point one brother molested me too. At age 8 I was asked to tutor my 12 yr old brother who was struggling in school. It was humiliating for us to be forced to sit at the dining room table for hours. His work was easy for me…but that wasn’t the point, it made him hate me. I was put in direct competition with my oldest brother for grades and scores, but even if I surpassed him, I would get laughed at for trying because I just a girl and it didn’t matter, I would never amount to anything. I have a zillion examples, but this is enough for now.

He prevented my emotional expression. It simply was not allowed. I had to be calm and pleasant at all times. I had to deny my own pain and reality. Doctors were only permitted if his plaything was near death. Which I was, too many times. And it was mom that took me to the emergency room while he laughed and called me weak. I tried not to love the pets he brought home, but I became protector each time, and each time he tortured, took away, or killed one, he would laugh again, it was my fault for loving the filthy stupid beast. It was my love that killed it.

He prevented normal socialization. He did not permit going to friends houses, had all these rules for dinner time, phone calls, who could come over, invitations had to come before 6pm, you had be back before dusk, you could not attend other family events, we did not attend funerals or sporting events, we did not join teams or clubs. We only saw our Grandma once a year at Christmas. We did not have birthday parties. We did not go on vacation. He had total control over me in some ways, and complete neglect in others.

All of these lessons were repeated for me as I grew up. They were my normal. I believed the world he created for me, it was flawless and complete. I was alone.

I grew up with books and stories. My friends were the characters in the books and my imagination. I taught myself to read and write before preschool, language always made sense to me. I had trouble holding a pencil, but we had this clickety typewriter and I started writing stories in kindergarten. AF made fun of me for wasting my time reading and writing fiction, but I needed that escape. He tore up my little stories, along with the illustrations. I actually recall one about an invisible train. I’m sure they weren’t Shakespeare or anything, but I’m also sure I was pretty damn gifted and should have been encouraged not ridiculed. I stopped writing but I didn’t stop reading, knowing he wouldn’t destroy a book he would have to pay for. I did try to hide it from him though. By third grade I had read every book in my elementary school library. I started riding my bike to the public library, I still recall the day I got my own card! As long as I got back before dusk, got perfect grades, did all my chores, no one cared where I rode to by myself.

I didn’t start writing again until I had my first kiddo. I don’t know why, but something about becoming a mom brought out my creativity that I had stuffed away a lifetime earlier. I started writing a novel while my newborn napped. And I was happy.

Until I wasn’t. Postpartum depression took over. PTSD triggers took over. My novel sits in a folder, abandoned. I no longer have the energy or interest to jump back into it. I have no more creativity. I have nothing inside me. I have no ambitions that are for me. Everything is…meh. Pointless.

I have been off work over a year now. April 2015, PTSD became unbearable and I entered a suicidal crisis. A nervous breakdown I suppose. I am still not recovered from this, and although I can imagine getting some job and making money to provide for my family, I can’t imagine getting any job I might ever care about. And that makes me sad. But I will serve, because it is what I do. But not yet. I’m not ready yet. My mind and body need more time to heal before taking on more. My goal is when the kids go back to school, it is hard enough just being mom all summer without another job too.

 

Mama needs a new pair of shoes

My mom’s memorial service is tomorrow morning.

I’m still breathing, and I guess I’m holding it together somewhat because here I am typing, not hiding under my blanket in a dissociative state.

I can’t wear pretty or even most normal shoes. I’d like to look nice for my mom’s service. I’m unable to wear anything resembling girl shoes at this time, so a dress is definitely out. Planning what to wear has been horrible, in one way it doesn’t matter, in another it matters a great deal, and mostly, it is just making the fact that mom is gone way, way, too real.

I’ve been wearing one pair of sneakers for the past year or so since this hemiplegic migraine stuff started. I only have one pair of shoes that I can get my weak foot into without it crumpling up inside or twisting when I walk. Once I determined I had a nice pantsuit to wear, I was not too keen on wearing these beat up blue sneakers with it.

I asked Hubby to help me buy some nicer shoes. I need it to be totally flat, no arch support, and no memory foam that they seem to be putting in everything, and no heels of course, and no odd textured soles that slip out from under me. I need the shoe itself to be lightweight, I’m already limping and dragging. It needs to be flexible, not too stiff, so it doesn’t push back against the way I limp and trip me.

I tried on some cute shoes first. That was a mistake, because it hurt deeply when I couldn’t even stand up in them, unable to support any weight on my weak foot and ankle. Next I tried some loafer styles, but they were too open and didn’t come up high enough and slipped right off my noodlish foot. You see, you don’t think about how much muscle tone your foot has, but when it is gone you can’t even hold a slipper on it, it just slides off when you lift your leg. Next I tried some shoes that had laces, almost like men’s dress shoes. They stayed on, but either my toes crumpled up and I couldn’t flatten them inside, or they were too stiff and heavy.

Cue the flashback. And the tears. I was suddenly 12 again, desperately trying to get a recently paralyzed leg to wear the 7th grade band uniform black dress shoes to go with the black skirt. I made myself a toe splint out of popsicle sticks and medical tape, one stick under each toe and then a support bar under the ball of the foot and one on its side in between each toe jam, and between the toes and ball. Then I packed tissue in all around it to make up for loss of muscle tone, and taped the shoe to my actual foot in every place I could as well to keep it from sliding off. I made it through the concert and afterwards unwrapped a very bloody foot that night, but I was very pleased with myself because it worked, the shoe stayed on. I played perfectly and smiled prettily during the concert, no one knew about the construction set in my toes or the blood seeping into the tissues. I thought that was a normal solution and that I did a good job. No one, not even my parents knew what I did or how it hurt. They didn’t force me to do this, I did it myself, because I had to. I knew I had to hide my flaws, solve my own problems, and smile while doing it. So I did.

I told Hubby about the flashback and wiped away the tears. He said something like, “This is so not fair you have to go through this again” I said “yes, but this time, you need to tell me that the shoes don’t matter. Right?? That if the only shoes I can find are zebra striped and hot pink, that I’m more important. That walking without pain, that not falling, is more important. You need to tell me that now. Tell me.” Seriously I am laughing at the absurdity of the cruelty of the universe to have weakened my leg so much again, to send me back to these childhood memories. But I’m almost wondering if I have to relive some of this crap to let it go. Because this time I won’t hurt myself, and this time I have people that care more about me than the impression it would make if people knew I couldn’t wear the proper shoe.

Hubby looked right at me and told me the words I should have heard long ago. That its okay to show up wearing whatever shoes can get me there with the least amount of pain. That no one cares if my shoes match, that they only care about me. Then he looked at me with that sideways look he gets, and asked if that was what I need to hear? Because he thought I should know that. I confirmed I needed to hear it, needed permission to do something ‘wrong’ like wear the wrong shoes, because I’ve never been important, I’ve never been anything. He says ‘Hmmm…’

We both seemed to gain strength from that, and looked over the store shelves one last time before giving up. I finally found something! I couldn’t have done it without Hubby’s help – both his physical help of bending and getting shoes from low shelves, and his emotional support. I would have given up like I had the other times I had tried to find shoes in the past year and came back with only my ratty old sneakers again.

So I am sorry mom. I tried, I really did, but the only shoes I could find are actually suede boots. But it snowed again yesterday so boots aren’t so out of season even though it is Spring, and it will look fine with my black jacket. And with a little luck I won’t fall when I wear these-practicing at home here today. They aren’t comfortable, that would be asking too much – but they are lightweight, flexible, flat, and have good traction.

This made me think of an old commercial for perfect fitting socks…found it…   🙂

So my noodlish drop foot is only one concern weighing on me. I’m dealing with each one as it comes up, somehow. But I feel like a punching bag. Or maybe a barfbag. Katy Perry feels like a plastic bag, drifting through the wind. I have one of those stuck in the thorns of my rose bush outside, so maybe that works too. I feel baggy. Out of control. And so damn tired. Enough already.

Shoes done – check!

Next I get to fight with my insurance company and see why they denied approval for my surgery. On Wednesday. Yeah. Seriously. Just let me take care of myself without fighting so hard. Why….

 

No self worth – when a good little girl is never good enough

Don’t tell anyone. Don’t let them see. Don’t let them know. Keep quiet. Smile. You’re so pretty when you smile, no one wants to see an ugly face. Don’t bother the grown-ups. Be a good girl.

It’s our special secret. Crying never helped anyone. Only boring people get bored. Never let them see you sweat. Anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time. Wish in one hand, shit in the other, see which piles up quicker. Dreams are for idiots, geniuses make plans. Only fools waste time on books and art but you’re just a girl so I guess it doesn’t matter anyway. I don’t why you try so hard, you’ll never do anything important. Girls only get good grades or good jobs because you’re cute or because you cry.

These are only some of the messages I heard on a daily basis from my parents. I learned to be perfect – to only show people that I was perfect, and to hide every flaw. I was put in an impossible position of needing to be superhuman to be accepted and no matter what I achieved, I was treated as less than human, as nothing, nonexistent, an invisible nuisance like a gnat or fun toy for their sick amusement and pleasure.

Not only did I suffer from low self esteem and low self worth, I suffered from no sense of sense at all in this environment. My parents did not allow me to grow and develop into my own person, with unique desires, needs, and emotions. I existed only for them. I was completely enmeshed and served them. My only desires were to please them and be accepted – something I never knew was impossible. Abused children never know this, how can they?

So today I have some maladaptive behaviors based on core beliefs stemming from no self esteem. In fact I have way too many to describe in one blog post, so I will pick one that I’ve been discussing with my counselor recently.

I have a need to keep my secrets. I still need to hide my flaws. I still try to be perfect.

How can this be? I’m not a tortured little girl any longer. Why do I still resort to the same social behaviors that were taught to me as a child? Well, I haven’t learned any new ones yet. And until last week, I wasn’t even aware of how ridiculous some of my behaviors are, based on these unbalanced core beliefs. I’ll explain.

In January I had a particularly bad hemiplegic migraine attack that weakened my right arm and right leg for a few weeks. Sometime about 2 weeks after the attack, I decided to go grocery shopping by myself. I started pushing the cart and was doing fine for a while, until my right side fatigued as I put more in the cart and as I walked along. This was the first real exercise I had attempted since the attack but I was walking fine so I thought I could do it. First I started to limp, and then my right leg started to drag. I could no longer lift it. This was not alarming to me. Annoying, yes, but not alarming. I just knew it was time to go and headed to the checkout line. But to my horror, as I walked to the front of the store – people noticed my struggles.

People can’t see my struggles. People can’t know. Don’t tell them. Don’t let them see. Smile, no one wants to see your ugly face. Now you’ve done it. You screwed up.

First one, then another, then another, oh God no, another…people kept asking me if I was alright, did I need help, should they call someone, did I need a chair, could they push the cart for me….

Shut up! Leave me alone! Go away! Why did I come here today? Why did I think I could do this? I should have known better. I have to get out of here.

I smiled politely and told each person that I was fine. I refused help. Because I was fine. Because they have to think I’m fine. And if they can see I’m not then I’m actually going to pretend?? Hmmm.

Somehow I slowly made it out to my car, got my bags in it, locked the door. I wanted to take a moment to recover, but everyone was still there watching me! I had to get away. I drove home, with shaking hands, and tears started before I pulled into my driveway. I screamed and cried and hit the steering wheel and had an amazing fit that confused and shocked me. I had no idea what was happening. I felt horrible everywhere. My stomach was queasy, my throat was tight, my head was aching. I thought about my class and therapy – was this an emotion? Ha, I actually laughed at myself while I cried. I pulled out my chart of emotions and went through it….sadness, fear, shame, guilt, despair, frustration, humiliation, anger, grief, anxiety…I went on to name some more and ended with overwhelmed.

Why? What happened? Why is that response so strong for me? I’ve been working on this for a week now, completed several worksheets and I think I have a clue now. This situation actually encompasses several layers of stuck points, each one triggering the next core belief until I short circuit. I used to shut down, numb out and dissociate. This time I felt it all. Woah did I feel it.

Some of my stuck points for this event:

  1. If I can’t do my job I am worthless
  2. If people see my flaws I have failed
  3. If people see my flaws they will know I am nothing
  4. I’m not allowed to share my faults or secrets
  5. If I break a rule, I am bad
  6. If I get caught breaking a rule, I will be punished
  7. If people see me struggle I will be humiliated
  8. If people have to help me, I am a bother, a burden to them
  9. If people see something that I failed to hide, shared unintentionally, I have been violated
  10. If I let people see the real me, they will hurt me or leave me
  11. If I let people see my struggles, I am a failure, disobedient
  12. If I let people see my struggles, I will hurt them, make them uncomfortable

I overwhelmingly felt like a bad dog at that grocery store. Like I had messed on the carpet, chewed up the pillows and now my owner has caught me. The shame and fear were huge, but the disgust and self-loathing were intolerable. I was taught to hate myself and that lesson has stuck.

Like when I asked Mom if we could eat at Wendy’s after my back surgery at age 12, she said we could get drive-thru, couldn’t eat inside because she didn’t want anyone to see my leg brace and be uncomfortable. Wouldn’t want them to be unable to eat their lunches would you? They made me practice walking at night so no one would see. Kept me hidden away like I was hideous and would make people lose their appetites. I had a metal and plastic brace from my hip to my toes to stabilize the knee and ankle. It looked a little like the picture below, but my leg was a bit girlier, skinnier, and not so hairy.

afo_ankle_foot_orthosis_orthotic_brace

I see this now and I get so angry at my parents. Seriously. I wasn’t ALLOWED to be paralyzed? I am so freaking sorry that my being paralyzed put such a damper on your fashion plans for me and ruined lunch and social events that summer until, all on my own, because you denied me physical therapy and after care, I learned to walk again. A-holes.

OK. Sorry about that.

So anyways, I have some deep seated stuck points regarding how I am to behave, and even though I know rationally they are not healthy or realistic, I can’t simply snap my fingers and change it all.

Another example:

I told my counselor I am afraid of having flashbacks of my first back surgery during my next one coming up soon. And I’m not sure how to best prepare for it. I told her, it’s not like I can warn the hospital staff.

She says Why not?

Huh?

The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. No way. not possible. You want me to tell all of those strangers, nurses, transporters, volunteers, doctors, surgeons…that I might have a flashback? That I have PTSD? That I’m not normal? The thought filled me with the same mixed bag of fear, shame, dread, guilt, anxiety…no…we don’t tell people…they don’t need to know…

She challenged me. She does not back down. She asked me to list out everyone I’ve ever told about having flashbacks and PTSD. It was a VERY small list. Then asked which ones of those people humiliated, rejected, or said horrible things to me. Sigh. None of them. Each person I have told has been compassionate and understanding so far.

Then she asked if I’ve ever told medical personnel. I said yes, my neurologist, after I had been seeing her a while. And the counselors in the psych ward. And her of course. She asked if any of those people treated me horribly once they knew about my flashbacks. Again I had to say no.

Then she had me visualize, a brand new nurse coming in to my bed, and I was telling her her hello and just by the way, I might have a flashback, I have PTSD, I just wanted you to know. How do you think she would respond? I tried sooo hard, but in every scenario the worst I could come up with would be maybe a nurse being abrupt or like ok, whatever, but no one being horrible. Most responses I imagined were “Thanks for letting me know, is there anything I can do to help?” or “What can I do to help make this less stressful for you?”

This fear I had…fear of what?? I had no idea. I had no idea what the terrible consequence might be. What exactly had my parents been trying to prevent all these years? Why did we all have to be perfect? What is this horrible thing that happens when people know the truth?

The answer is NOTHING!! Nothing happens. Its all a lie to keep us quiet and afraid. Was it all about control? Did they need us to be perfect so they could be perfect parents? Had my mom not told her friends I was paralyzed so she couldn’t risk anyone seeing me? If kids are perfect, then other people don’t ask questions and they get in trouble? Was it about her and them – and never about me at all? All of my shame was about covering their own asses? And I’m still doing these behaviors, to protect them, unknowingly, because it is habit, hard wired and ingrained in me.

I’m such a good girl.

I’m both sickened and amazed by these revelations. I think one day I may be free. But these chains are still bound tightly.

(picture credit: By Pagemaker787 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)

Shame Attack

Shame. Just seeing the word makes me cringe.

I’ve been mentally suffering again, and I struggle to know what it is that brings me down into the darkness. I’ve written about it before, as some sort of cycling mood disorder or depression that hits me for a few days. I have figured out that shame is at the root of this, and I think I actually suffered a shame attack. (my word – to liken it to a heart attack or asthma attack)

I revisited Brene Brown and her ideas on vulnerability and shame.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psN1DORYYV0

This time I came away with the notion that guilt and shame are related, but completely different. Brene posits that guilt is healthy, it is an agent for change and action.

GUILT=”I hurt your feelings, I did something bad, I feel guilty, I apologize and feel better”

SHAME-“I hurt your feelings, I AM bad, I feel shame, I apologize and feel worthless”

Shame allows us to internalize the bad, be one with the bad, in an endless cycle of self hate. I’m starting to figure out some of my triggers for shame attacks, I think. Triggered by success. Triggered by the kindness of others. Go figure.

I used to think I was such an introvert that any social interaction wore me out and gave me need to hide in a dysfunctional stupor for a few days. I am now starting to think that is only partially correct. Yes, I do need alone time to recharge, but that implies a healthy recovery process. Not me hiding from my own brain, dodging my own painful thoughts – thoughts of self loathing and giving up on life itself. I must ride the waves of self destruction, drifting aimlessly until I spot the horizon. Thankfully I have been through this enough times to know that I will spot that horizon, so it is more a matter of distracting myself than actually nurturing myself on those days. Finding some way to ignore the putrid lies my brain feeds to me, hateful lies full of shame and disgust.

I had a lovely time at my public art demonstration. I was mindfully present and felt joyous. Hubby was amazing helping me get organized and make the schedule work with kid events too. Many of my new friends came to watch me draw and I felt loved. Many, many strangers complimented my work. I felt proud of my accomplishment. All in all it was a great experience.

So why the shame attack the next day? I’m not exactly sure of the mechanism, but I think to simplify it a bit, my inner self does not believe art is a worthy way to spend my time, and even deeper than that, I think I am afraid I don’t deserve the compliments – that I am not actually talented.

Now this was a juried show, meaning I had to submit a sketch and plan to be invited to participate, and it was limited to a small number of artists. They gave me a spot central to the festival and said they were so happy to have me. All of those people complimenting my work were not just being kind. Rational thoughts should say that someone thinks I am in fact talented. I do think I am talented, and I was proud – hugely proud of myself that day. It felt great to interact with the crowd, answer questions, and hear their surprise and admiration.

It was the next day I was filled with doubt. The next day I could barely get up out of bed, I wasn’t sure why though. The dark thoughts are so powerful and confusing, like being tossed about in a tornado. See, the shame is not so direct, it is all encompassing and does not tell me why it is there, and so I am left guessing about why my brain has chosen to torture me yet again. I’ll list some of the thoughts I had in my negative tape the next day.

“Why did you choose something so complicated to draw? The others were done in half the time”

“You should have spent more time talking with your friends or the crowd, it was rude to keep drawing”

“You looked fat in the photos. When did you get so fat? Why didn’t you exercise more before this event?”

“You forgot your business cards on purpose – you don’t actually want success”

“The kids were tired and whining, why do you keep dragging them along to your events?”

“You wanted to be with your friends, out drinking, and not with your kids – you are a terrible mom – a terrible person”

“Why do you need so much attention?”

“Why can’t you finish any framed art? Why do you only do these art shows with nothing to keep or sell?”

“What’s the point? It’s all meaningless”

“They didn’t pay you enough, why did you work so hard? Don’t you have any self-respect?”

“You’ll never make it as an artist”

“You wore yourself out doing something silly for yourself and now you are useless to your family.”

“You’ll never learn. You’re so stupid”

“Everyone just humors you”

“All you do is waste time. You’re wasting your entire life. No need to continue life if you’re just going to waste it”

—————

I chose TV and video games, and alcohol, to drown out these thoughts. These activities numbed the pain, silenced those thoughts, but actually made me feel worse about everything as I prove to myself that I am a pathetic waste. I avoided my family, doing only what needed to be done to feed them. Luckily they can all dress themselves now and mostly played outside. Extra shame when their friend comes inside and sees me not dressed at 2pm, hair not brushed, dishes not washed, floors not swept, and playing games. I couldn’t even pretend to work, the games were obvious, and I had no extra energy for pretense.

The good news is, the attack only lasted 1 day. Yesterday. Today felt more like recovery and recharging instead of survival. I still zoned out with alcohol and games, but I also got moving and did some chores in between levels – because I wanted to, not out of guilt. I was able to think and plan and make a nice dinner, so Hubby could have one thing less to worry about. Yesterday I could not rub two thoughts together in any helpful way.  I barely remember it, it’s all hazy. What a strange brain I have.

Today the thoughts were gentle, encouraging, and no hate. And as my inner bully quieted, the tears weren’t waiting to fall today. Here are some of today’s thoughts.

“Yesterday was hard, but it is over now.”

“I could do one load of dishes, that would be really helpful”

“You’ve been through much worse, this is no big deal”

“Your family loves you and understands”

“I can wash some towels, we’ll all appreciate that at bath time tonight”

“I can vacuum those dust bunnies real quick”

“I really had fun drawing, I wonder if I should do it again next year? I’ve learned so much about composition, it keeps getting easier”

“I’d like to enter an art competition, I wonder if I can find the time to meet the deadline?”

“This game has beautiful graphics, it would be fun to sketch some of these scenes”

“I’ve never been to Venice, I hope I can travel the world more some day”

“I wonder what we’ll do in that meeting at work tomorrow?”

—————

So shame has left, and hope has returned. Again. This cycle is exhausting, but at least I am still learning, and I think, still headed in the right direction. I do wonder if there is any way to stop the shame attack before it starts? I’m surely going to try.

Who knew that tearing up the sprinkler system ...

Maybe next time, I’ll just wear my cone of shame and see what happens (Have you seen Up?) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)