It happened in February of 2014. The shame snuck up on me while I was in the shower. Shame is stealthy and would often blindside me, but not normally in the light of day. You see, shame prefers the quiet dark of 4 am where it has you all to itself. I had been sick with Ulcerative Colitis for a very long time and I was feeling quite exhausted by the pain and loss of blood. Being chronically ill and a perfectionist I believed that I was getting my just desserts by being sick and anytime I felt particularly uncomfortable the shame would remind me why. The bastard certainly didn’t hold anything back this time as it brought out the big guns. The garrisons were emptied and an army of past mistakes and ridicule lunged at me.
The memories were random and ranged from as a far back as when I was three to as recent as the day before. Shame feels the same no matter what the situation. I didn’t want to do this anymore. The wakeless nights and the daytime gut-wrenching anxiety. I was tired. Beaten.
And then a thought came to me very clearly, “This is why people kill themselves” I didn’t want to die. I cried out, “God help me!” And with that, I collapsed onto the floor in a sobbing heap.
All at once, as if in a dream, I rose from my body to see myself lying on the floor of my shower. The water pouring over my back, my body moving with the sobs and I thought, “This poor woman, she’s in so much pain. And I was thrown back into my body.
With new found strength I began to counter my shameful memories with self-compassion. What were my intentions? What situation was I in at that moment? What do I know now that I didn’t know then? I forgave myself for allowing others to treat me with disrespect. I apologized to myself for the lack of respect I showed myself. I called myself “sweetheart” and envisioned a comforting hug. I saw myself as another person. As a friend in pain.
It was all over in minutes. I picked myself off the ground, dried myself off, took a deep breath and made immediate changes. I was not going to let me be put on the back burner anymore. Nor, would I allow anyone, including myself, to try and shame me for my past mistakes.
I became aware of my Self. My soul. My body was sick and abused, but it was a vessel for this beautiful being that was made purely out of love and I felt a powerful need to protect her.
I began to follow my own advice:
I set boundaries. Which meant learning to say “no”.
I stopped holding myself responsible for other people’s happiness. I stopped looking to others for mine.
I became aware of toxic people and situations. I unfriended, unfollowed, stopped watching, reading etc.
If it made me feel crappy I didn’t do it.
With my new found self-confidence and awareness of my Self, other people’s thoughts on me didn’t seem to be such a big thing.
I had been sick with an Ulcerative Colitis flare up for four years until that day. To say that my healing was instant is not an exaggeration. The day after my shame shower, I was ten times better. A week later I felt the best I had in months. A month later, I felt better than I had in years. Four months later I was in complete remission. And on November 6th, 2014 after a routine colonoscopy all that they found was residual scar tissue.
There is no cure for Colitis yet. I still have the disease and am reminded that I have it, from time to time. I often have fallouts with my Self and egoic behavior rise. I become clouded and overburdened with worry and too often I find myself wrapped up in toxic situations. But, with practice, these unawareness episodes are becoming fewer far between.
Shame is taught to us. We are not born with it. If you have had bouts of shame, chances are you may be able to recognize times in your past when you’ve felt it.
I remember my first time very clearly. I was six, walking down the aisle in a crowded church. I was holding my mom’s hand and she bent down to my ear and whispered that my teacher had told her someone had made a crude gesture while on a field trip. I gasped and said “Who?” Thinking I was getting a piece of juicy gossip. “You did.” She replied. The breath came out of my body, my stomach collapsed in on itself, everything became blurry and I felt weak in my knees. The shame seed had been planted.
This is one of the many memories that came at me in the shower 32 years later. But, that would be the last time I would ever feel shame over that or any other memories. There are times that I will leave my mind unguarded and the feelings will arise, but I know the cost. My health and my relationship with my beautiful Self are more important than beating myself up for not knowing what I know now.
My darlings, shame is not a natural thing, there is no place for it in our bodies. It lives by making us believe that if another found out, we would be unlovable and unworthy. So, we keep silent out of fear and it thrives.
Free yourself. Heal yourself.