The Voice Of Shame

*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 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.”

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Inside & Outside

My outside doesn’t match my inside.

I can talk about my emotions. How I’ve been feeling. How I’m currently feeling. To everyone else, it looks like I’m okay. Yet in those moments of talking about my feelings, my outside doesn’t reflect how I’m feeling on the inside. There’s a disconnect. And I don’t know why, or even how that happens.

In group today, when it was my turn to share, I told them a little bit about my experience on Friday, and how I’m still in that dark place. In our session last week Tuesday, OT told me I need to open up more in group, and use the time to its fullest. Therapist told me the same thing. So tonight, I tried. It was terrifying and extremely uncomfortable, but I did it. But once again, my true feelings didn’t match the way I spoke about it.

At one point during group (when someone else was talking about something), I had to leave and go to the bathroom because I could feel tears starting up. I don’t know how long I was in there, but I couldn’t stop crying. Then I intentionally this time, shut down those emotions. I walked out like nothing had happened, and went back to the group. Yes, I know. I probably should have stayed. Instead, I was rude and selfish.

One of two things happen when I talk about emotions and what I’m struggling with. Either I feel it all inside, but it doesn’t show on my face, as if I’m two different people. Or I just shut down completely and become numb. And the worst part is that 99% of the time, I don’t do it intentionally. It happens automatically.

Do any of you experience this? And how do I move past it?

I’m still feeling terrible since Friday. All I can think about is death. I see, and feel it all around me. I’m having nightmares. The kind that haunt me, and show up out of nowhere throughout the day. Like flashbacks. I get frustrated. After all, it’s just a dream. It’s not real. But then why does it feel so real? It’s past events, but with a twist. Like memories, mixed in with current fears. Some of these fears are those that I never even knew I had. I’ve also been struggling a lot with anxiety. I’m living off my Benzo’s (I’m not overdoing it- just enough to cope).

I feel disconnected from everyone and everything.

To The Man Who Raised Me

It feels like I’ll never get rid of you.
I constantly feel you inside me.
Like a second layer of skin.
I see you when I look in the mirror.
And I hate what I see.

You’re putting a roof over my head.
But you’re not doing it because you love me.
You don’t know how to love anyone but yourself.
You’re just doing it to keep control over me.
To show the world what a good man you are.

But you’re not a man.
You’re a monster.

I asked you to stop doing something.
You got mad, and still just keep doing it.
“That’s what family does. At least our family”.
But I don’t want to be part of that “family”.
I cringe and feel nauseous every time, but bite my tongue.

I was never your little girl.
I was just an object for you. Someone to control.
Just like you did with the rest of them.
You make me question my memories, my sanity.
My beliefs. Myself. Who am I?

I am who you say I am.
Isn’t that right?

You’re giving me so much right now.
Except that which I’ve always needed.
But you’ve taken away even more.
I wish I wasn’t yours.
But I can’t cut you out of my life.

I can’t stand the sight of you most days.
When I look at your face, I want to scream.
Memories flash on the screen of my mind.
Your voice sickens me.
Your touch destroys me little by little.

You broke what was shiny and new.
And have the audacity to say it was them that ruined me.
It’s never you, is it? It’s always everyone else.
You can do no wrong.
Your worldview is sick and twisted. Just like you.

I should have just let you die those times.
I shouldn’t have intervened.
Just go to my room and pretend I didn’t know.
Let others find you on the floor.
She says I did what I thought was right. But was it?

You think you’re a god, sitting on your throne.
Everyone must bow down and and worship you
Or face the consequences of your rage.
It works, because we’re so fucking scared of you.

I can’t escape. I’m trying so hard to find a way.
But I fail time and time again. I’m a failure.
I’m letting go of the hope that you’ll change.
That you’ll be the father I’ve always wanted.
I wish I could get you off me and out of me.

Will it ever end?

I can’t get away from you.
I’m helpless. Trapped.
“Get out” they say.
I’ve tried. I’m still trying.

And it hurts. It fucking hurts.
because even though I hate you,
I love you.

I Want It To Stop

The excruciating physical pain I’ve been in this week has subsided quite a bit. It’s not as unbearable as it was. But the emotional pain has stuck around.

In my previous post, I wrote how I feel like crying when thinking about the next day, week, etc. But now, its escalated into panic. How the hell am I going to make it through the next few days? The next week? My usual “one hour at a time” mantra isn’t holding up. It’s one excruciating hour at a time, and feels like too much to handle. I can’t do this! It’s too hard.

I don’t know what to do. I just need everything to stop! Please, please, please make it stop! How can one person hurt this much?

I need and want a friend right now, but none of them are available this weekend. And they don’t even have decent excuses. It’s frustrating and makes me extremely sad that when I really need them, they’re nowhere to be found. But when they need me, I’m there, no matter what mood I’m in. Even if I’m hurting as well. But I obviously don’t tell them that. In that moment, it’s about them. I put my own shit away to be there and support them.

Today I found myself repeating a pattern of something that I used to do a lot of in my teen years. Every time someone hurt me, or let me down in certain ways, I would feel this defiance and anger inside. But I didn’t want them to see or hear how it affected me. I was scared I might lose them if I mentioned it or showed it. So I’d hide it until I was alone. Then the anger would come, and I’d repeat “I don’t need anyone, I’m fine on my own.” But when the anger died down, I’d break down, with sadness consuming every inch of my being. I’d feel so alone. I preferred the anger, because it covered the disappointment, the rejection, the hurt. Anger is always so much easier to deal with, isn’t it.

I’ve had to cancel a few birthday “celebrations” over the years. Even as an adult. I’ll never forgot my 21st birthday. I was at a co-worker’s house (I was staying with her for a few weeks- I just can’t remember why), and everyone I had invited to my little party had been unable to attend. One of them cancelled an hour before it was due to start. My co-worker had gone to visit her son, as it was his birthday as well. So I was alone that night. The power went out at some point. So I lit a candle, poured myself a glass of wine, and sat on the floor, against the couch (I seem to find it comforting sitting on the floor instead of a couch for some reason- only couches though. Normal chairs- I’ll sit in them rather than on the floor). This might sound really silly, but I pretended there were other people there. Like my mom, little sisters, friends. Making up conversations in my head (there were some pretty funny ones). I had to do that, because if I stopped, the reality hurt too much. Remembering that makes my heart ache. So I’m not a fan of the day of my birth. Besides, I was a mistake. I never should have been born. I don’t even know why birthdays are celebrated in the first place. Who came up with that idea?

I’m writing about all this because I want to prove a point. I’m convinced that there’s something I’m doing wrong. That’s there’s something fundamentally wrong with me. That it’s why friends and family seem to want to spend as little time with me as possible. The things I mentioned above seem to prove it. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had this feeling (and believed) that I deserved everything that happened to me. And right now, I feel it’s especially true. Looking in the mirror earlier today, I wondered who that face belonged to. What’s her life worth?

I want my therapist. She always seems to know what to say, and has a calming influence on me. It’s weekend, so I can’t even reach out to her. And I’m not seeing her anytime soon either, which just feels so messed up. I just want to be held by her. No CBT, DBT, REBT, FFST (Okay, I made that last one up). Just one of those talking sessions. We all need one of those from time to time. Those sessions where she just listens and doesn’t make me work through techniques, skills, etc. I just need someone to listen to me, without judging. That’s what I mean when I say I want to held by her. In that protective therapeutic cocoon. Where it’s warm and safe. Even when it’s hard.

In one of the letters my therapist had written me, she told me that I’m brave. And now I keep hearing her words “be brave” (from another note), but I don’t feel brave right now.

I will try to be though. I’m trying. I’m really, really trying. I just need to get through tonight and tomorrow. That thought makes me panic. I’m trying to just stay in the moment, practice mindfulness, but it only works for a few seconds and I swing right back. These flashbacks that I’ve been having don’t make it any easier. I don’t even know anymore what’s a nightmare, and what’s a real memory. They seem to blend into each other. Swinging from adult to child mode. The nightmares and flashbacks are all from that young part. I should never have opened that door to let that inner child in. When we started working with that whole thing, I knew it was going to be difficult, but I didn’t know just how painful it would be.

“Stop crying. You’re not a baby.”

But big girls cry too.

Going Back To The Old Me

Before starting therapy, I pretty much kept to myself. My feelings, my thoughts. They belonged only to me, and I didn’t share them with anyone. I was always the shy and reserved one. It protected me. It worked for me. Yet at the same time, it didn’t really work. It might have sheltered me from rejection, but it also ate me up inside. I tried to open up a few times, but just ended up getting hurt. Further reinforcing that it wasn’t safe to reveal the deepest parts of myself.

Even in primary school, I was a shadow. When I tried to make friends, and join the other children, I’d just get mocked, teased and called horrible names. So eventually I stopped trying. What was the point. I still remember the day I got my first friend. I was eating my lunch on a step, overlooking some children playing. A girl came to sit next to me and asked my name. We shared my lunch, and from that day we became best friends. I think she was the first friend I ever had. I was never allowed to go visit her at home though (my dad was very controlling- “only protecting me” in his words- when I actually needed to be protected from him). Then we moved to a new city again, and I never heard from her, or saw her again. I didn’t want to get attached to anyone again after that, and I don’t know if I ever did, as I can’t remember the next year or two.

I went to go watch the sunset on the beach today. It’s one of my favourite self-soothing practices. Usually it makes me feel better. It brings me peace. I feel at one with nature, and like I’m not alone in this world. But tonight I just felt this deep sadness the entire time. At first I didn’t understand why, and just tried to push it away. To be mindful of the beauty surrounding me. And then it came. Memories of the same way I felt so often throughout my life. Memories of moments where I felt so alone, with so much sadness buried deep, but that I couldn’t express or verbalize. Growing up, I wasn’t allowed to show emotions. Both my dad and then step-mother hated any display of emotion, other than happiness. But I was hardly ever happy, so I had to pretend that I was. When I went to my biological mom every second weekend, I watched my step-dad hurt her, and occasionally my little sisters as well. I couldn’t show my fear and hatred toward him. I couldn’t protect them. I was scared he would hurt them even more, and that he’d hurt me too. But he never did. I think he was scared of my dad. He was very cruel to me though. Men (monsters) like him, usually are. He also hated displays of emotion. It was a trigger for him. So there were many tears left uncried. So much hurt with nowhere to go. So many secrets with no one to tell. That pattern has followed me ever since.

It was only when I started therapy in March last year, that the pattern got interrupted. Opening up to my therapist felt amazing. She didn’t judge, she didn’t tell me to “stop being a baby”, or get angry with me for expressing my feelings. She didn’t punish me. I felt safe with her. Since then, I’ve become more open to more people. Only to a certain extent though. I knew what to share, and what to keep hidden. Every now and then though, I’d become brave and say more than I should.

In group on Tuesday, I was in a bit of a manic state (I had been in that state for a few days already). We had the usual “check in”. I was a bit late, as I had to go pick up a friend, so when I got back to group, the check in was already underway. Other than the usual check in, we also had to pick an animal that represents us, and tell the others why we chose that animal. When it was my turn, and started sharing, I got interrupted by one of the guys. He argued with me about the correct name for the animal I had chosen. I was so embarrassed and just wanted to disappear. I didn’t want to make it known though how I really felt in that moment, so I argued back. And then I just shut down and let the next person share. It’s taken me a while to start opening up in group. But now with this, I feel it’s not okay to do that anymore. I’ll still connect to the few people I’ve really grown to care about, before group, during the break, and afterward. But I don’t want to open up during the group anymore.

Jasmine and I spent the day together yesterday. Usually when I’m with her, we speak openly about our thoughts and feelings as they come up. But this time I couldn’t. I pretended that everything was okay the whole time, that I was happy. I have to pretend with the dad and current step-mother anyway, so it’s easy. Easy to pretend, difficult to deal with internally.

I just don’t want to be vulnerable anymore. My blog is my space to be open, but in the offline world, I want to stay away from that. I had a great therapy session on Wednesday. But then on Thursday, my manic phase was over, and I went straight down into the depths. And since then I’ve been feeling this need to protect myself from the world.

My younger parts, especially, have been struggling. They need me to take care of them, protect, and love them. They can be vulnerable with the adult me. They only need me. This song is my message to them. It just seems to fit.

First Love

Lonely tonight.

I had her.
I lost her.
She let me go.
She broke my heart.
My first love.
A love I never experienced before or since.
There were others I thought I was in love with.
I wasn’t.
I was just infatuated for a short while.
I had been fooling myself.
But with her it was real.
Unexplainable.
Painful.
Beautiful.
What if she was the one?
My only shot at true love.
My last.
Now meant to be alone.
Forever.

Love heals? No, love destroys.

Letter To The 14 Year Old

Every now and then I go through my computer and delete everything I don’t want or need anymore. Those things that I won’t need soon, but still want access to, I put on my external HDD. I don’t like clutter. Not even on my computer. Everything needs to be named properly and be in neat folders.

Today was my clearing day. I came across a letter I had written in December. I don’t want it on my computer anymore, neither on my external. So I’m posting it here instead.

This is the letter I referred to in my post “The Inner Child & Teen“.

Letter To The 14 Year Old

Dear (Me),

Today I heard you.
I heard your silent screams.
Today I felt your pain.
I cried your tears.
I’ve never allowed you in before.
But today I stayed with you.
And I was you back there again.

Disorientated and confused as you lay your head down.
Not sure what had just happened. Nothing seeming real.
“Help me”, those words spinning round and round your head.
Could anyone hear you? Did anyone know? Could anyone see?

Even within the darkness, unable to see everything…
I feel. I feel your pain and despair. The hopelessness.
The all consuming loneliness.
You just wanted someone to hold you, didn’t you?
The soothing sound of a heart beat, not yours.

Fear. Confusion. Shame. Pain. So much pain.

I wish I could tell you it all works out.
I wish I could tell you the wounds fade quickly.
But I can’t tell you this. You wouldn’t believe me anyway.

It hurts to listen to you. It hurts to be you.
But I’ll try to not leave you alone again.