My earliest memory of experiencing shame was when I was around three. My family was on a car trip, likely driving from Chicago to Texas. We had stopped at a gas station, in Oklahoma, I want to say. My father had to make a phone call, so went inside to make it. I went in with him. I got away from him at one point, and looked at some of the various products on display. One was a little toy set which looked really awesome to me, though looking back from thirty years in the future seems somewhat tacky and cheap. As I made this discovery, a man walked up, and stood next to me. I did not look up, I assumed that this was my father. I said, "Daddy, I want this!" and tugged on his pants. The man said, "Little girl, I'm not getting that for you, and I'm not your father." I was mortified. I immediately ran away to find my dad, who was still on the phone.
Anyway, it's been thirty years, and I still feel uncomfortable thinking about it, and a bit more uncomfortable writing about it now. The problem with a good memory means that I can bring back these shaming memories with ease, and the emotion usually comes with them. The wrong memories will cause me to burst into tears, rather than simply feel uncomfortable. Of course, that's only if I'm alone, because expressing a lot of emotion in front of other people is even more shameful for me.
I've been thinking about this a lot, recently. I had a bad night, the other night. I wanted to reach out to someone to try to get help. But shame largely prevented me. I was afraid I would be spoiling someone else's good time, and did not want to be a burden. When some casual suicidal thoughts started creeping in, I sent a text message to my therapist. I wasn't really near the point of attempting, but I knew I could get that way eventually, if left to my own devices. He talked to me through text, which was all I really needed. Eventually, I fell asleep, and woke up not feeling great, but feeling better. That's the shame I always carry with me. That I cannot get through life without being a burden to someone else. I am ashamed that I am so needy.
Shame easily overcomes my feelings of self-worth. I have extreme difficulties working on a resume. I feel like I am lying when I put my skills down. I feel like no one will take my resume seriously, because they'll somehow know I'm worthless. The worst part of all this is that I know this is irrational. The knowledge of my irrationality makes me ashamed as well. After all, I cannot overcome this weakness, even though I know that it exists, and that I'm looking at myself in a very skewed light.
So, one may wonder, why I am writing this journal entry. Why am I baring my soul to the world? Why am I allowing myself to be this vulnerable? How can I do so, knowing that I am opening myself up to be judged, to possibly be more ashamed?
Why? Because fuck shame! That's why. Because I want to get better. Because I don't want my life ruled by the anxiety that comes from assuming that I will be judged by those to whom I am so closely connected. Also, because I know I will not allow myself this vulnerability in person. Maybe someday I can, but that day is not today. Part of me is hoping that if I lay this out for everyone to see, that they will realize that I'm constantly hurting. Maybe they will realize that when I reach out and say, "Hey, I need to talk, do you have a moment?" that I am honoring them by admitting my weakness to them. Maybe it will open the door to allow myself to be human, and to join the human race.
I can dream, right?