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Shame hits me violently in the guts, and I feel like all of a sudden I am underwater, looking out at the scene before me, unworthy to be this human, amongst these other humans.
My mind is awash with judgement.
“Why do you make such terrible choices? Why aren’t you more like them? Why are you so pathetic and shameful? You’ve had plenty of time to fix yourself. You are too old to be grappling with what you’re grappling with.”
I start to furiously eat, I feel my face gloss over with a pretend smile, and I detach from reality as I am being eaten alive from the inside by this vicious monster that is telling me that, finally, I cannot ignore him anymore—finally he’s going to show me what a loser I really am.
That night I go to bed feeling withdrawn from the world, not present at this moment. I rush my daughter to bed, I am irritable, and I can’t bear to hear her delays and chatter.
It irritates my skin, and it saddens me and makes me feel more ashamed as I jostle her into bed—a disconnected, ghost-like life form trying not to be alive in this body anymore.
Four hours after she falls asleep, I am awake in a manic torment, drawn into my phone like it possesses my soul. Endlessly scrolling and clicking, I feel the exhaustion bearing down on me.
Somewhere, far away, I hear the small voice of my heart asking for help.
I ignore it and continue to scroll. Eventually, I am overtaken with exhaustion, and I fall asleep.
In the morning, I wake with a heavy, deep sadness on me. I want to hide, but I can’t. People say hello—I am messaged and talked to. I feel like crawling into a cave.
So I stop.
I become curious about why these feelings have arisen. I ask myself questions. I track back when the emotion exploded within me. I ask myself tenderly, “Di, darling, what are you feeling?”
And then, with the tenderness, it comes. Deep, deep tears. Tears of torment, of anguish, where my body is sobbing so painfully, so deeply. I feel lost, terrified, and completely alone.
Once the tears arrive, I know I am on the home straight. The tears signal that I have connected with the feeling—that I am feeling it, seeing it, and hearing it. That’s when it starts to integrate within me.
I give myself to the tears, to the pain in my body that shame has created. I know that by fully being here with it, the pain of it will start to shift. I am able to be with the shame because of everything I have done to create a feeling of safety in my body for these emotions to come up.
When it’s hard for us to sit with our emotions, it’s because we haven’t created the environment, the safety in our bodies, the ability to be with ourselves, support ourselves, tend to ourselves—no matter what arises.
And so the emotions linger, in the background, sucking out joy, peace, calm, love, and connection from our lives.
But it is possible for all of us to sit with our emotions.
We all have the possibility to hold everything that we are and feel and experience—when we return to the innate knowing of how we are truly meant to be. Whole and resilient. Tender and loving. Brave and empathic.
I hear every day the deep, heavy, hard feelings that people encounter. I hear the depths of people’s pain. And I want more than anything to show them that they are not alone.
I know that I am not alone when I am gripped by shame. I know that I am not weird or unusual or crazy or in any way deficient. Not one tiny hair on my head, or one inch of skin is anything but normal in me.
Just like nothing in you is in any way unusual or strange or weird or deficient. We are often gripped by emotions that take us to the edge of our capacity. That tell us stories about ourselves that are worse than the darkest nightmares. That seem to shine lights on horrifying parts of ourselves.
I want to share the depths of my emotional reactions because I want to show that it’s normal to have these kinds of reactions—and if not these reactions, any reactions to our emotional, lived life experience.
So much of what we share with each other is the bubbling surface—the small grievances, the big fears, but packaged in an acceptable story.
So little of what we share is the deeper, darker things we grapple with late at night, the terrifyingly icy fears crawling up our spines, the sense of being on a dangerous precipice, the idea that our lives are spinning out of control, the darkest pain of loneliness, the fear for our health for ourselves and those we love.
In the moments when we are alone, or like me, sitting with lovely people who love me, emotions don’t respond to logic, nor do they respond to requests to go away and return at a more convenient time (and after all, there is never a convenient time).
Emotions arise because they are lurking within and are looking for opportunities—always—to come up and be seen.
Shame repeats within me, because for so long, I refused to see it or feel it. It was unbearable for my system because shame made me feel that I was deficient and wrong. When really it was just an emotional imprint that was seeking integration.
Shame is just an emotion. It carries no inherent judgment. It’s something that has been collected along the way—like fear or anger or a love of chocolate-covered raisins.
When we remove the judgment about our emotions, when we try to see them and hold them and feel them as they are, when we don’t try to cajole ourselves out of the experiences we are having, then we are giving ourselves infinite room for healing. When we bring love and empathy to ourselves, over and over and over and over again.
Our emotions have things to tell us.
Our emotions are trying to communicate what we need, and it is only by allowing them to bloom inside of us that we can really start to hear them.
And for me, my shame was telling me that regardless of what I do, I am a human being like every other—worthy and entitled to love.