I swallowed the last bite and an overwhelming feeling rumbled inside of me. “I cant believe I ate that,” circled in my head. As if in on repeat. A deep sinking feeling grew in the pit of my stomach. A warm, nauseating bubbling deep within me. Thick and sluggish. Overwhelming. Shame.
Shame is heavy, fiery, internal. Like granite stones rolling around the pit of my gut. And after years, really decades, of trying to ignore it. Trying to think my way out of it. And trying to starve it away… today I’m trying something new.
Today I’ll write a letter to it instead.
I’m sorry. I’ve carried you around my entire life. Every single moment I’ve tried to ignore you. Pretending you weren’t even there.
Shame: I’ve done everything I could to block you from my awareness.
I’ve piled food on top of you. And I tried to starve you away. I’ve attempted to think you away. Exercise you away. I completely closed myself off to you. I tried to be “good enough” so you wouldn’t stick around. Tried to be the perfect daughter. Friend. Girlfriend. Wife. Employee. Mother. I dove into pleasing everyone else in my life, so that maybe, just maybe, you would disappear.
But it never worked.
Because, shame, you were always still there.
I was afraid if I sat down with you, you’d overtake me. That I’d go under, never again to come up for air. And I was ashamed of having you. I thought by simply carrying you around, it meant there was something wrong with me. That I was bad. Dirty. Not good enough. Never good enough. And so I pretended you weren’t even there. The moment you started to rise within me, I did everything I possibly could to shut you down. And shut you up.
I’m sorry I didn’t hear you. I never even tried listening to you. It didn’t occur to me you had something to say. I closed myself off from you. Yet you remained, deep within my gut. Where I hated you.
Shame, I realize now that I never just allowed you to be in me. To work yourself through me. Instead I attempted to hide you. Squeezed you with clothes, trying to camouflage you as if you weren’t there. I tried to purge you from me. To shrink my gut so small you couldn’t possibly exist.
But no matter how small my belly shrunk, shame remained in the pit of my gut.
Never once did I allow you to be. Instead, I ran from you. I ran to my studies. To the workouts. And to the scale. Later I ran to my career. Then my husband. And my kids. I ran away from you so fast I tricked myself into believing I’d lost you. I thought maybe if I was just “good enough”, if people loved me “enough” or if I was happy “enough” somehow you’d never be able to catch back up to me.
But you were still there- always there. Festering deep within my gut. And when the kids went to bed, the sun went down, and I was alone with myself- I felt you there. Like a brick, you weighed me down.
I didn’t realize I’m not special or unique just because I carry you. In fact, everyone has met you shame. I couldn’t see that having you doesn’t make me different from everyone else. Or wrong. It doesn’t make me who I am. I didn’t realize you just wanted to move through me. And that once I allowed you to move through me, I could move on.
What I didn’t understand was: by trying to ignore you, hide you, or outrun you… nothing was really changing. Because you were there, within me, all along. I never reached out a hand to you, never opened my ears to hear from you. Never just experienced you.
Now I understand that you bring me messages. You are real and you are there, and having you doesn’t make me bad or wrong.
Shame- you’re a part of the human existence.
I understand now that everyone carries shame.
You were passed down to me from my mother. Who got you passed down from my grandmother. And so it goes…
You’re part of the human existence. Because we all want and need to fit in. To belong. And to feel loved and accepted. You alert me when these needs are not being met. And you do something else for me, shame. You protect me from other difficult feelings.
When I finally gained the courage to sit with you, shame, I found out there was so much more to you. I invited you to the table, to sit down for tea. Not ever realizing you’d bring so many others along with you. There was much more underneath you.
For you were helping to cover other painful emotions. Only after sitting beside you was I able to meet the feelings below you. Feelings like anger. And sadness. Grief. And fear. You point me towards other emotions waiting in line behind you. Wanting to be felt. Processed. And to be healed.
What I understand now, after years of healing, is that I’m strong enough to sit with all of these uncomfortable feelings.
Not only can I tolerate you shame, but I can learn and grow from you.
Thank you shame
So, shame, thank you for visiting. Thank you for moving through me. I know we’ll meet again. But next time, instead of trying to rid of you, trying to ignore you, or trying to shut you down…. I’ll set a place for you. So you may sit down with me for as long as you need. I’ll listen to the messages you bring me and look deep below you. Knowing that once you’ve been witnessed and processed, you’ll move through me.
It’s ironic really.
The more I tried to avoid you shame, the longer I carried you with me.
While all along, witnessing you allows you to flow through me. Leaving behind you a trail of other feelings waiting in line to be felt. To be processed.