I feel invisible ants crawling underneath my skin.
Like Superman opening his shirt to remove his business suit to reveal his powerful self, I want to tear out my skin, but unlike him, I want to leave this body. There’s invisible shit all over my face and I’m sure everyone can smell it from a mile away.
I do whatever it is I can to hide. I crawl under my duvet and hide in my dark bedroom. And when I can’t do that, I put up an invisible wall around me, a stoic expression on my face, never looking at anyone in the eye, and apathy in my voice. I disengage because I’ve done that with myself.
What everyone doesn’t know and what I don’t know either at this point is there’s a shame-storm raging inside of me. Food, booze, and Netflix dampen it, but can’t make it go away. It won’t accept anything else but a confrontation.
It’s an evil monster that’s also a gift.
It’s an evil monster as it tells me all the ways I’m a failure, all the ways I’m not good enough, all the ways I didn’t get it right, and how it has all snowballed to these fateful days of my life. I’m bad. I’m a nobody. Nobody will ever love me once they know.
And there’s the most hurtful thing of all, to believe I won’t be loved.
This is why it’s so hard to face shame upfront. My mind can’t get past the idea of not being loved. It stabs an invisible knife right into the middle of my chest, making me unable to breathe. For love is the very essence that sustains my being.
There are times when shame comes like a drizzle of rain. There are times when shame comes like a tornado wiping every inch of personal growth I’ve made. There are times when shame is a never-ending storm varying in intensity day to day.
But they all still have the same evil voice, no matter the story behind it.
And I refuse to cower underneath its weight.
I choose to face and feel my emotions when they come, and let them have their way with me. There’s a knowing somewhere inside me that knows the only way is through.
As I let myself get drenched, the muscles all over my body contracting, and my breath always coming out shallow, the voices start to make sense. I didn’t realize until now that I’m experiencing shame.
That evil monster has a name. I’ve made my first strike by knowing it. Now, I feel a little bit of space has cleared up in my head, like one lane in a congested highway has just opened up.
What is shame saying?
Like a bystander, I’m now able to take a step back and face shame, instead of feeling shame.
What happened that brought this on?
Where have I heard this story in my past before?
I realize that this present experience is replaying in my head a past storyline. Almost like I was back in those years when I was slogging my way to survive. And the memories are not just in my head, they’re also showing up in my body. I feel the weight of it while I watch myself.
I am both actor and audience in the same play.
It seems my past is coming up to be healed, no matter that I’ve surpassed it before.
There’s something about that past storyline that’s made me who I am today. Perhaps there’s an identity that’s way past its expiration date that I’m still holding on to. There’s probably a belief that I dearly held on to that the idea of even a slight chance of anything ruining it feels like I’m not going to survive.
And so I persisted, albeit unhealthily.
There’s something about how I moved through that experience before that won’t serve me anymore today, and won’t serve this present experience no matter that it looks similar. I have to face my preconceived beliefs, my dark shadows, and all the voices that tell me there’s no other way.
Because the truth is, there is.
I have to look at myself in front of the mirror. I have so many evidences now that show me I can survive. I’ve cultivated this deep well of love within me that accepts me for who I am.
I have to look around and realize I’m not alone. I may not have all the answers, but there are others who can help me figure it out. I can certainly ask for help.
I have to look up and beyond, and recognize that this experience is part of a bigger play, both in my life and as part of this world.
And most of all, I have to remember that my shame is not my story. The circumstances surrounding it are parts of life’s dance. I refuse to be dragged down to its depths. I choose to challenge what shame says. I choose to understand what I can do. I choose to believe I’m worthy of being here no matter what. I’m simply learning my way.
That’s why shame is also a gift. It’s shown me the ways I still downplay myself, and has given me the opportunity to rise above it.
Only in rising can it be healed.
This article was previously published on Rebelle Society.
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