My last post talked about the juicy subject of guilt…something I thought I was in the depths of feeling, but now I realise this guilt quickly became shame, I just didn’t clock on. Shame literally does no good. It feels like something that riggles its way so subtly into your life, only to sit there and fester, turning your days into depressive inner chatter and withdrawal, isolation and self hatred…all coming from somewhere you can’t quite put your finger on, or without you even realising it beginning to happen.
That’s what it’s been like for me. This last week has been so bizarre. I have lost myself to the above scenario, and I have felt overwhelmed by it, but unable to get out of it no matter how much positive self talk or love I try to give myself. It’s all been shame based on what I did last year. All based on the fact that I attempted suicide… and all the self-judgement that has come from this. I have literally had to force myself to see friends, with a constant dialogue of “why are you still my friend, you shouldn’t be, I shouldn’t be here with you trying to be funny and normal after what I did, you must think I am so awful, I am awful…” running through my head. I have managed to perfect the art of avoiding talking about it when I do speak to friends because the vulnerability it takes to share this is WAY too much, and way too daunting…and I’m scared.
But tonight I asked a friend on the phone: “you don’t think any less of me because of what I did last year, do you?”… There was a pause and she laughed: “I can’t work out whether you’re being serious – is that a trick question?!” I went on to laugh too, but say that no it really wasn’t and I was totally serious… She went on to reassure and say lovely things. It felt like medicine. And it made me realise that when we get left with our guilt or self-criticism, doubt, and judgement, it becomes a big ugly bear that follows us around. To us it becomes massive, inconsolable and all encompassing. But when we share, the empathy and love, immediately softens it down.
“Empathy is the antidote to shame. If you put shame in a petri dish it needs three things to grow exponentially, secrecy,silence and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in a petri dish and dose it with empathy it cannot survive.”
Speaking with my therapist yesterday, she called this ‘toxic shame’. The shame that grows and grows when kept isolated from people, and the kind of shame that can only be healed, soothed, or told to sod off, through love. Without risk of sounding cheesy, that really is how it works. Since hearing that, I realise that really is true. It is love from mother/father or boyfriend/girlfriend that is the key to this passing, apparently. But, seeing as I don’t have those treats in my life, friends are the people I can turn to, to give me that love and reassurance. At least some of it anyway. I realised the beginning of this shame-fest was a tonne of grief about not having a mother to turn to. I suddenly felt an overwhelming and desperate longing for a mum to call up, to visit, and to tell that I overdosed… to have a mum to hug me and tell me it’s going to be okay. To tell me that she doesn’t think badly of me for doing what I did, that I am not any less of a person because of it, to tell me that she understands and that she is here for me always, that she still loves me, and that doing what I did doesn’t change anything… that’s what I needed/need, and after speaking with my therapist I realise that this is an innate human need that I was experiencing. But something that has been so blocked from my radar out of pure unavailability that I didn’t know what to do with it, so I buried it out of fear. As well as the scenario above with my friend on the phone, I have had two other times I have shared this shame briefly with a friend and immediately I just cried…simply hearing someone tell me all that I needed to hear, the shame just cannot help but disappear, even if for just that brief moment. This proves the love theory to be true.
“Shame works like the zoom lens on a camera. When we are feeling shame, the camera is zoomed in tight and all we see is our flawed selves, alone and struggling.”
The other day, in the midst of this ‘aftermath of an overdose’ shame-fest emotional shenanigans that I was experiencing, I was longing to pick up something and read experiences of other people’s journey with their healing of suicide…in every little detail. Not just the overall paragraph about it. Like, each and every nitty gritty and not-so pretty detail that only those who have attempted suicide can truly know. I couldn’t find it, and so this is why I want to document this journey. The feelings feel so alien, intense and bizarre…and SO flippin’ hard to express – in my journal, through the blog or in person. And given the nature of the topic, it feels hard to truly trust it is safe to share. So, instead, I need to keep typing and keep on finding my way back to the keyboard, and hope the spoken words will come properly soon.
This week has felt like I am learning how to do things from the beginning again. But maybe this is just a deeper level of healing. Letting love in at the moment feels almost impossible, but is the thing I crave the greatest. I am still allowing it to be around me despite this inability to feel it. I long to just keep schtum, keep withdrawn, keep myself to myself…but I know in my heart that’s not what I want. All I can do is prove this shame wrong. Keep on gently giving myself love or letting it be there from others, despite whatever self hating critical chatter is going on and whatever urge to withdraw and keep schtum is there.
Shame, sod off.