*Another trigger warning post, with references to drugs and alcohol)*
Since that Tuesday of the “group disaster” (dramatic, I know), I’ve been struggling with that horrible emotion called “shame”. It’s been hanging around me since then. Not from the group event anymore, but in general. This feeling of being fundamentally flawed. Feeling dirty and ashamed of myself. Of my actions and behaviour both past and present.
I don’t know why I’m struggling with this so much lately. Probably just like everyone else, throughout my life, I’d have these moments. It would never last more than a few hours. But now it’s a constant. Like a demon that just won’t let me go. I either try to push it away (which we all know by now doesn’t work), distract myself, and try to focus (and be mindful) on other things, or allow myself to experience it in its entirety. But I don’t last long with that one. It’s too hard to sit with it for more than a few minutes.
If there is such a thing as “meant to be” or “not meant to be”, then what if that Tuesday was supposed to happen the way it did? That it was a catalyst for change and healing? What if it’s time now to start dealing with all the shame, and that’s why it’s coming out so strong lately and seems to be the most dominant emotion over the past two weeks? I don’t know. All I know is that it’s fucking hard, and I don’t want to deal with this.
On Thursday I was supposed to have a session with my OT. I was only supposed to have a session next week Tuesday, but I asked her whether we could have one this week as well, which she was more than willing to do. On Thursday afternoon she let me know that we’d have to cancel the session. She had to go to the doctor, which to me, is a valid reason, so I was okay with it. Later that day I sent her an email asking if it would be okay if I give her a call, if she was up to it. I would have just called and not asked whether I could, which is what I’ve done before, but I didn’t want to bother her that day as I didn’t know how she was feeling. After I sent that email, I felt this tremendous shame hit me. How could I be so selfish? We had to cancel our session, but here I was asking if I could call her because I needed someone to speak to. What kind of person am I? I could have called D, who I also trust, but I didn’t want to bother her either. So it’s even these kinds of simple things throughout these few weeks that have been adding to the fire of shame.
Along with this, I’ve been having a lot of dreams as well. Some of them are just random dreams, but then there are those that have actual memories attached. There’s even been a few things that I haven’t remembered in years. My subconscious is bombarding me. Reminding me of things that I’d rather not remember.
This morning, while still in my half asleep state (it takes me an hour to fully wake up- sometimes even two) I made myself coffee, like I do first thing every morning. But today, I added a couple of tots of liqueur to it. I didn’t even notice that until I took that first sip of my coffee. I don’t even really drink alcohol anymore. A few weeks ago, after work, I poured myself a glass of wine. I took 3 sips and poured the rest down the drain. At Jasmine’s birthday dinner, I had one Cosmopolitan (which I enjoyed- I love cocktails), and while everyone else continued their alcohol binge, I switched to milkshake. It’s also me trying to be more responsible. At our business meeting yesterday, Jasmine and my business partner had a beer, while I had coffee. But this morning, instead of making a new cup of coffee, I thought, “I’ve already made it, so I might as well drink it, or I’ll just be wasting.” The sunk cost effect in action.
While sitting outside drinking this cup of coffee, a feeling of comfort washed over me. It was a familiar comfort. And then I remembered. It was that same feeling I had when I was 20, and had started drinking heavily. When I would wake up in the morning and reach for a bottle of wine or any other alcoholic beverage I could find. It would make me feel ready for the day (or night). That I could get through it. It was soothing for me. I worked shifts, either from 5pm to 5am or 5am to 5pm. Long hours, but this job was a very different kind of job. I could even drink at work. It was actually a requirement. It was where I started smoking, drinking, and experimenting with drugs. It was also where I first fell in love. All of this became my norm. Memories, triggers, all gone. It was like I was a new, separate person. It felt like I was in a bubble, and nothing else but the job, alcohol, people and drugs existed. Even when I was at home, I was numb. Like I didn’t have a soul. I was lost. I was a mess.
At some point during this time, I had a somewhat confusing experience. A few of us from work went to someone’s house (who went away on vacation, I think). I remember us going into the main bedroom, which had a TV and huge bed. I can’t even remember the names of the people I was there with. When we left that house, and it was time to go home, I found out that we had been there for almost an entire week! It was supposed to only be a day. How could so much time have gone by without me even being aware of it? I barely remember that week, but there are a few foggy recollections. And all of those recollections are of us all in the bedroom, sitting on the bed and the floor. There’s one moment that I remember clearly though. I was feeling the effects of the drug/s wearing off… A horrible, frightening feeling, and asking for more.
I also vaguely remember someone coming to deliver pizza, and one of the guys whispering to us to keep quiet so that we didn’t get caught. I’m not sure what exactly he was worrying we’d get caught for… I have this vague memory that we weren’t supposed to be in that house… But I don’t know for sure. I can’t remember any other part of the house, except for that bedroom and the front door. Had we been in the bedroom all this time? I’m still confused about this whole experience, and what exactly happened. Maybe it’s better that I don’t know.
This part of my life went on for a few months, before I made a clean break (and had my heart broken). I was still drinking a lot, and became friends with a very bad influence. I can’t even remember how we met. A lot of things are a blur. We got up to a lot of shit. By this point I had another job (I have no recollection of the time between leaving that job and this new one), an actual “real” job, and we’d go out nearly every night. Sometimes I’d come home at 5am and have to wake up at 6:30am to go to work. I have no idea how I survived this period of my life. Those early few years of my 20’s. But somehow, I did.
My therapist knows about this. She’s the first person I’ve ever told, and she knows the details that I’ve omitted. I told her about it in the last in-person session we had before I moved to my current city. When I first told her about this, and how much I hate myself for it, the shame that I feel, she told me “you did what you had to to survive.” Those words have repeated in my mind a few times today. It doesn’t take the past away. It doesn’t excuse anything I did. But it helps me feel a little bit of self compassion, even though it’s short-lived. But I’ll take what I can get.
I’ve never given much thought to that time, and thought that it hadn’t affected me all that much. But it did. It has. I’ve realized that it’s shown itself in subtle ways through the years. This time in my life is weighing heavily on me today. And the shame is so strong. So much so, that I’ve been nauseous the whole day.
Another reason why I feel so ashamed about those years, is because I was always the “good girl”. And then overnight, I went from being the “good girl” to this stranger that I didn’t recognize. The worst part is that I had come straight from Bible College (back in the days when I was still a believer). I was a “good girl” before then, because I was so well-behaved and didn’t act out like most teenagers do. But the only reason for that was because I was so terrified of my dad, that I never did anything he wouldn’t approve of. I was always paranoid that he would find out when I did something to “embarrass him”. So I was the “perfect” teenager. He was very protective (his words- mine is “controlling”), so I wasn’t allowed to go to any parties with my friends. If I went to a friend’s place, he made sure the parents would be there so that I didn’t do anything wrong. Most of the time I had to have my friends over at my place instead. I had to wear only that which him and my first step-mom approved of and bought me. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup or even nail polish. I couldn’t change my hairstyle or colour. I wasn’t my own person.
The two years before college, were filled with horrible events. My first step-mom and step-sister left, taking an entire step-family along with them. I lost two of my grandfathers and my grandmother (who was my most significant attachment), to cancer. My dad’s suicide attempts followed. I internalized all of it. I focused on taking care of my dad, and was closed off to myself. Then during my college year, my friend ended his life.
I guess all of that eventually caught up with me, and I fell apart. I didn’t know how to deal with it. And so began my years of trying to survive everything, while trying to forget it all. Growing up, I did what I had to in order to survive. I hid, I dissociated, and did a lot of daydreaming. I was basically a ghost. But now I don’t need to “just survive” anymore. Now’s my chance to really live.
But I’m ashamed of who I am. Of who I was. Of who I’ve become. Do I even deserve to live and have a good life?
I’ve realized that my social anxiety isn’t just about the possibility of rejection. That’s just a small part of it. The major part is the shame that I’ve been carrying. Shame over who I am. Over what people see when they look at me. Will they be able to see through all the bullshit? Can they see my “bad”?
Oh, and I eventually threw that coffee out, and made myself a fresh cup. I don’t want to go down that road ever again.
I didn’t mean for this post to be so long. But I think it’s good that I got all of this out. Some of you might not want anything to do with me after this, but I’m feeling so crap at the moment that the thought doesn’t really even bother me.
“As much as I’d like the past not to exist, it still does.”