I spoke in public to about fifty people the other day. I shared my experience, talked about changes in my life, and how beautiful today feels because I decided to try and openly tell my truth, accept mistakes I have made and what I learned from them. I gave a testimonial impromptu type of speech, standing at a lectern.
I opened my heart to people who listened to me, they did not sleep. I talked about mistakes I made growing up, and what I learned from making those mistakes. When I finished talking, I ended with a message of hope about the healing power of telling the truth. I focused on what other people can learn from my truth. I faced pain from alcohol and survived my father’s mental illness. My past traumatic experiences diminish when I bring them to light and learn to understand what I experienced. I have a sense of personal integrity when I understand what happened to me. I can’t change the past, but I’m no longer fearful of remembering the pain it caused me growing up. I learned something.
Guess what??? As I drove back home after giving the speech, I fell into my old thinking. The old attack: shame rears its ugly head inside my brain to haunt me. Shame on me. I am a bad girl for being alive. I embarrassed myself in front of strangers and they hated me. It feels like an attack, and episode of insanity. Pathological shame is trying to get me, nasty toxic negativity shows up to get my soul. Its familiar disgrace taunts me to hate myself for breathing and berates me for revealing secrets that don’t want exposure. I feel unbearably scared and confused, like a little girl again. Shame is like an unwelcomed guest that won’t leave me alone until I wrestle and face the ugliness. It does not want me to be happy.
Shame tells me that no one else in the world understands me or even cares to know what I’m talking about, or gives two cents about what I feel. Who do I think I am to be happy? I expose my weakness as a human being. Shame looks like a toxic vapor, born to hate, like an Irish Bogeyman, looming, rasty, raggedy, an evil attacker with nothing but spew going on. Shame pulls me out of goodness, and shakes me up all over. It tells me I don’t deserve gentle things. Shame smells like rotten watermelon that sat too long under the sink, sopping and awful to deal with, but necessary to remove in order to survive. I am not supposed to talk about shame, if I want to be a lady, I must stuff the darkness into a small space and pretend it isn’t there.
But I am committed to telling the truth, so I say the ancient toxic poison’s name aloud. The only way through shame is to openly talk about it. I get on the phone, and talk to trusted people who listen for maybe a short time, while I blather about the shame attack I am battling. It’s embarrassing to be needy, when I’m certain they would rather watch TV or talk on the phone with a happier individual than me. My friends care to help me get over toxic shame. They reach into their love and compassion, while I suffer insane emotions, and they help me cope.
I try to understand why shame appeared, and it’s usually when I feel vulnerable, like having just given the speech and revealed my truth. But shame is not real, was planted in me as a child. For years, shame has colored my perceptions of who I am and what I do. I know what it is now. Pain comes with shame. We all know about pain. I choose to go through the process of removing negativity from my life by talking things over and telling the truth about what’s real. This is a valid approach to healthy living, even though it is not easy, it is necessary for me to grow.
I am an adult, and do not need childish emotions like shame to destroy what beauty I create in my life. I can unlearn the shaming Bogeyman, who needs to return to the bog and die. I made it through my shame episode, and I grew from talking and writing about it. I can share the true victory of love conquering negativity. Telling the truth gives grace to my life.