Words of shame float back to me on the wind like so much flatulence.
“How dare you tell the family secrets?”
“How could you say out loud what happened behind closed doors?”
Words I never heard spoken, but the message was clear–Do Not Tell. We Must Appear Perfect.
These words floated back to me after I told another volunteer at the animal rescue about my marriage, how I felt bullied. How I felt intentionally disrespected.
I didn’t tell her how I had come to believe his words of my failure and inadequacy, thrown like stones, over and over and over, bruising me to the core.
I didn’t tell her how those times of being pelted and feeling powerless to protect myself left me feeling hopeless and yearning for death.
But the stench of shame wafted, reaching my nose, touching every part of my skin with its particles of the essential Wrongness Of Me.
I made him look bad to an outsider…what about his reputation…I was probably Just Overly Sensitive…
It’s the Lies. The Lies In My Bones.
The Lies I learned at age 3. And 5. And 35.
That if someone else said so, the problem was ME. What they did felt mean and hurtful and bullying, but it was Me who was Wrong, who was Too Sensitive, Too Weak, Too…..BAD.
This is Shame. The awful, stinky, stick-to-your-skin-ness of Shame.
And it’s a Lie.
All of my past experiences have played a part in who I am.
All of my past experiences required some sort of choice on my part, but I can continue learning, growing, BECOMING.
I am more and more aware that this journey of life is about the Unfolding of Me.
I think Shame will always lie to me and flush my face and body and cling to me when I Tell A Family Secret.
But I recognize its odor sooner these days. Recognize its LiarFace.
And I can more quickly choose to step aside and walk forward without getting mired.
Shame is an ugly, smelly bugger. Healing takes time and understanding and for me a lot of reading and direction and conversations. I’m grateful for the work of people like John Bradshaw and Brene Brown who have undressed Shame and shown it for the bully it is, I’m also eternally grateful for the steadfast input of truth into my life by my Favorite Mental Health Professional, Stephanie, and the friends and family who love me and believe in me.
If you have struggled with shame or bullying, find these people for yourself. You are worth all the love and all the time.
Thank you for reading and listening.
A few resources to get you started:
2- Listening to Shame
3- The Power of Vulnerability