I’m learning a hard lesson: shame about being mentally ill is not something I can just fix and then forget about. The shame lingers, waiting for a chance to reattach itself to my back. At the blink of an eye it jumps on me, making me heavy and slow. It sticks on the bottom of my shoes like gum, willing me to stop moving forward, to stay stuck and hide instead.
Bummer. I thought I’d outgrown my shame! Me and my mental health superhero underpants that maybe don’t fit me as well as I’d hoped. Today my mom repeated to me a question she’d heard on the radio: If you knew you only had one day left to live, would you go to a nudist beach? Talk about a serious question. Maybe what I ask myself is whether or not I’d be willing to take off my mental health superhero underpants and show up on the internet nude.
Wait, that didn’t come out right.
What I mean is that I shouldn’t be ashamed of my vulnerability. Maybe I won’t go nude, but I’ll just put on regular non-hero underpants sometimes and not be ashamed of it.
Why am I writing about this? My shame is holding me back again. I’m screening what I could be telling you about my current state of depression because I am afraid of being judged. Everyone judges people all the time, but those thoughts can be discarded as false or they can be valued and seen as truth. I am afraid of what you see as truth.
I need to filter some details of my life for privacy reasons, but feelings are fair game. I feel scared. I feel weak. I feel like my life is out of control.
I am dealing with some very painful memories in therapy. My therapist says that my current feelings are coming to surface as part of those painful memories. This is how I felt when those memories were made.
What scares me is the power of those feelings. Feeling like my life is out of control can be a memory, but when I crash my car the week these feelings erupt, that blurs the line between my memory and the present. My car was part of my identity, and the convenience it allowed gave shape to my days, and now my routine is shattered. When I had my car it didn’t matter that I lived far from the people I care about because I could easily drive to see them but now I am disconnected. I’m afraid of my tendency to isolate when I feel awful because that is a recipe for crisis in the life of Erin. I am teetering on the edge.
One small comfort is that I feel slightly better now that I’ve told you about this. I am breathing easier already. I think we can really gain some control when we share our feelings, no matter how ashamed we are of having them. What are you feeling today that you haven’t shared? If you don’t want to tell me, tell someone who you feel safe to confide in. Then tell them about superhero underpants, and how they come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe you could get yourself a pair.