Shame is defined as the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, or ridiculous done by oneself. It's an extremely painful feeling about how we appear to others (and ourselves) and doesn't really depend on any one particular thing at all. Just existing, really.
I'm sure you can blame it on Catholic upbringing, but I had always defined shame as guilt. Who knew - THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING AT ALL. Did you know this? This was life-changing.
Apparently, rather than feeling like a constant disappointment for who you are (shame), guilt is actually valid because the feeling is in regard to an offense, crime or wrongdoing, whether real or imagined.
How had I always mistaken the two, melded them into one and then made shame the master of all emotions? So many times I've taken responsibility for situations that aren't mine. I've carried sadness and anger on the behalf of others. And you know what? There have been a LOT of times when I nearly got there - and a LOT of people that have latched on to me and let me do that for them.
I always knew in the back of my mind it wasn't possible, but deep, deep down, I always thought, "Hey, Sami, if you can prove one time that this can happen, then everything will be perfect in everyone's world, and everyone will love you, and you will be acceptable, and thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory for ever and ever!"
Enter the shame cycle.
Ahh... an explanation for it all! My therapist worked to get me off the merry-go-round. And I'd get there, but not until I was just about to go right back on again.
"So, I'm not really stepping out of the cycle, am I?," I asked.
"Yes, you are - because you're realizing it," she reaffirmed.
"Except that if you get off at the end of the cycle, only to jump back on right away, then what's the point? I'm not getting better." I argued.
I needed tangible results. I needed her to just tell me what to do, and I would do it. (spoiler alert: that's not how real life self-improvement works). I wanted everything in a nice, neat little report so I could go back to my to do list and say "check!" and then excitedly move on to the next thing. But none of this made sense to me. AT ALL. So I just felt lost and stupid and frustrated and confused and stuck.
We were at an impasse, so I brought in my husband for a third-person perspective. If you're ever in therapy and struggling, I highly recommend it. It's hugely helpful, and completely heart-opening.
It's also really scary, because wow, are you putting yourself out there. I sat there looking straight at the ceiling, embarrassed of what words may be coming, but desperately hopeful that whatever they were would help push me in a good direction.
So I listened to my husband expound on his observations and feelings about the matter. And I cried and cried. It hurts incredibly to feel one way and anticipate how you'll act when you see someone you love in your head so clearly, only to be stifled by shame and have things go completely opposite of your intended plan. My actions would cause confusion and hurt, and then I would hurt for not being able to just honestly express how I felt - which is funny, because up until this year, I had always thought I was so blunt and honest and true to who I am. Everyone had told me this, too, so how could it not be true? To dig to the bottom of the barrel and realize that it was all being so horribly masked by shame absolutely killed me.
I knew to the chosen few who I am closest, my shame would occasionally leak out in plain sight, but I didn't really understand how it looked until I heard my best friend and most trusted companion explain it to someone I trusted with all of my hugest fears and insecurities. I thought I was fooling everyone and maintaining status quo so that no one else would be the wiser. I thought if I just always jumped in and participated and helped and listened and tried to solve everyone's problems so they *seemingly* didn't have to, then I would be accepted and appreciated for what I could do for them. I could be loved and accepted.
Ain't that a crock of shit? hahahaha. I am suggesting mind control. I wish I had so haphazardly felt that way in that appointment, but hindsight's 20/20, right?
I spent the month of May mostly in bed. It's important to note the difference between the things I fully intended to do versus how the month actually played out:
Things I wanted to do:
1. Drink heavily
2. Run Home
3. WRECKLESS abandon
Things I actually did:
1. Stayed sober.
2. Did a 30-day-yoga challenge
3. Did Couch to 5k
3. Cried a lot - for no reason at all.
4. Didn't give a fuck.
5. Slept. A lot.
6. Somehow still managed to run my company - successfully.
7. Actually talked to a few people I love and trust about what I was going through.
As I write that all down now, I'm kind of - Ok, really - impressed with myself. How is it possible I could appear to look so together on the outside when I felt like I had nine hundred tons of brick weighing me down? #girlboss
I know, I know. Things get worse before they get better. So I accepted this as part of the process and had mentally decided it was alright to lay there depressed for as long as I needed to 'honor' my feelings. Eventually things would start moving in an upward direction again. Nothing lasts forever.
But that shit dwindled. Until I found a way to distract myself with... HAWAII! And buying a house! And renovating a house! And guests or events every single weekend! Yay!
I am the pimp-daddy MASTER of distraction. "Uh... Imma just stay busy over here, alright?"
And it worked, until things finally slowed down four months later. In mid-October, I found my calendar clear of obligations and most of the details on the house done. I was mostly relieved, and not eager to jump into much of anything, but I didn't anticipate a full-on crash.
I realized I was completely depleted and exhausted and really angry about it. I hadn't been taking care of myself because everything had been going into the house, or my clients, or anywhere else that needed it that wasn't me. Not like it was anyones fault but my own, but I had never experienced such a rage about that before.
I lurked around the house in a depressed, angry funk just waiting to snap out of it, because as I mentioned before, "eventually things would start moving in an upward direction again. Nothing lasts forever." I really thought if I just kept waking up every day with a mantra that I was going to have a positive attitude, and have a great day, things would totally start shaping out as such, and I could move on to appreciating all of the wonderful things I had achieved in 2015.
Four weeks later, I hadn't gotten anywhere. I had been terrible to my spouse (and lucky for me, he loves me a lot
and is really patient), and even after amping up the self-care - yoga, acupuncture, body talk
, meditation, massage, nutrition, very long walks - I was still missing something.
I had remembered seeing a woman in Boulder three years ago for some energy/psychic work, and decided I would go back for a visit. I really appreciate this type of modality because we're all up in our heads too often, and I truly believe you have the answer in yourself the whole time. Your body always knows - it's with you in every experience, everywhere you go. Your mind may have forgotten, but your body will always remember. Effortlessly.
This time, the appointment was brutal. She sliced through the thick of things with a stinging knife and I was half shocked and half relieved about what she so naturally brought to my attention. Ninety minutes, some shifted energy and a lot of tears later, I left her office feeling a little destroyed, but hopeful that she had made a difference.
It's all a very fascinating process, but the thing that stuck with me the most was one of her first statements. She said when my soul came into the world, it anticipated all of the wonderful things it'd like to do here, and that my biggest challenge in this life is maintaining my calm in constant chaos.
And it made so. much. sense. That is where I'm comfortable. I have always been the calm and maintained in so many storms; my dad, my mom's extended family, troubled friends, drama queens, crazy bosses, etc. But each of these things is just a challenge to remind me of my soul's main objective. I'm so easily distracted by all of it and need to be 'on guard' to always handle it and stay strong for everyone else all of the time that I have never felt safe caring for my own needs. And how the heck am I supposed to even survive if I'm not even taking care of myself?
It so simple, it's embarrassing - but man, I struggle. I'm writing this all down because I know I'll need a reminder.
I also want to remember what great gratitude and accomplishment I have gained in this past year. Marrying my husband, leaving my job, going to therapy, creating a new sanctuary for us as a family - even among the mayhem. I have been devoting my time to escaping those chaotic situations and people that don't serve me to create a safe, strong place for myself. I have been supporting myself without really realizing it.
But I did. Just yesterday, in fact. And the real me, who has been missing since nearly January finally reappeared. It's nice to be back.