Insider View: A First person account of Dealing with Shame
A First Person Account
(The following account is a narrative by a person dealing with mental health issues. It describes the struggle to overcome a sense of stigma and associated shame, which may accompany such concerns and become a block in reaching out for help. In such situations it is helpful to have family and friends who accept and not judge, when we reach out to them and share our difficulties.
But here one should also use some discretion and judgment while selecting people to whom one chooses to disclose personal matters. In the end, it is important to remember that we have a right to keep our personal matters confidential, and other people should not share it with a third person, without our consent.)
Shame: All Consuming!
“I can’t get no satisfaction,
I can’t get no satisfaction,
And I try, I try, I try,
But I can’t get no satisfaction”
– The Rolling Stones.
I have felt shame a lot of times in my life. A lot!
I go into this uncontrollable rage that makes me want to hurt others as much as I am hurting. Make them see me, as raw and wounded as I am. Make them understand somewhere that I don’t mean to hurt them, but that I need them to feel like me so that I don’t have to be alone in my pain.
I don’t want to do it. I try to communicate in the best possible manner, but somewhere along the line I just lose the plot. The people I have hurt over the years, the ones who have stuck by me, the ones who have understood what is happening, I am so grateful to them. They have seen my shame, my raw unhappiness, my sadness in its extremities and they have stayed. They have showed up when they had to. They have helped me when they could. They have, above all, tolerated me when I have been unable to tolerate myself. When my soul is screaming at people, and I am behaving like a maniac attacking people with words that I know I cant take back. That will stay with them forever.
Shame consumed me. It’s always been my Achilles heel. It’s always been that one emotion that makes me fall into a well of emotions starting from defensiveness to ultimately admitting defeat. When I have been ashamed of my own failings I have taken it out on those closest to me. I have been unbearable. I have been scared of telling people so I lie. Lying gets me into more trouble. This is because then the root cause of the problem cannot be addressed. Shame keeps me from focusing on what the actual problem may or may not be. I couldn’t tell my parents I was struggling with daily life because I was scared that they would be ashamed. See the double role shame is playing? It’s hitting me in the form of fear, and hitting them in the form of concern and fear. See what an obstacle it is. So I didn’t tell them till I broke down. Till I had to. Till it was too difficult to live. Were they ashamed? NO. I think I read them wrong. They were concerned, yes. However they were proud of me for asking for help. This is what I believe, when shame rears its ugly head and calls me an attention seeker. It is what we ultimately choose what to believe, that helps us get past the feeling of shame and its friend, uselessness.
Why do people feel ashamed of saying they are mentally ill? They just have different chemicals in their brain that’s all! It’s nothing else. People who should be ashamed are people who’ve been untrue to themselves, not people with difficulties. Just because you can’t see the difficulties, doesn’t mean they are not there. Maybe you can’t feel it but that person who is sitting across you right now – crying, twisting his or her hands is probably struggling with something they can’t comprehend. And its scarier for them than it is for you to watch them. Its shame that’s keeping them from reaching out, hugging you and allowing you to comfort and love them. It is shame that is keeping them from asking for help. The help that will finally enable them to resume the functioning of their daily lives. It is shame that will come out in its famous attire of anger or plain unhappiness. Shame. It’s the worlds most obvious vice. Yet people keep quiet. Shame comes out in ego, pride, and arrogance. Shame comes out in so many forms.
Have you actually ever seen raw shame? I doubt it. Stare in the mirror and think of how true you are to the goals you have set for yourself in the coming years. And if there is a nagging feeling somewhere, you’ll know its shame. Shame that you didn’t try enough. Not that you didn’t achieve the goals, but that you didn’t try enough. If you know that the wrong thing for you in your life is to remain anxious, depressed, lost and confused and you don’t do something about it, you should be ashamed.
Nothing is wrong with you. You just need a little extra help. People might say that ‘extra’ help is what one should be ashamed of. Why? Some people have it from the start; some find it on the way, albeit in a more painful way! Be happy for yourself and be confident of the help you get. Shame can be kept at bay on most days. Think of the people who have come forward to help you! Your parents, your friends, your doctors, your loved ones. Think of those who are rooting for you to overcome the hurdles you face in your mind. Think of the people who need you to talk and tell them when things are not okay. Think of the people on whom you are lessening the burden on, by being able to function within the defined spectrum of expectations. Think of the people who need you, who need to feel you love them, care for them.
I am not ashamed of myself. I am not ashamed of the fact that I am anxious or depressed. I am a little scared. However I have a wonderful support system. It took me a long time to create it, and that was because I kept quiet for a long time. But this wait was not worth it. Once I reached out, I found friends in the most unlikely people; I found love in people who I thought would mock me. Maybe I got lucky, maybe I didn’t. I don’t know. All I can tell you is that don’t wait for a breakdown to talk. Just talk. The consequences, the pain, the initial shock … people will get over it. And most of all, you will be happier.
– Anonymously Lucky.