Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shame Spiral.

My dear friend who for the purposes of this blog we'll call "The Mermaid", talks about the Shame Spiral. Like it's spelled with capital letters. Like it's larger than you and me. Because in the moment, it certainly feels that way.

It's that feeling she gets when her baggage relating to all of her imperfections or perceived imperfections or deep wounds from the past rises up like the tide to try to swallow her alive and drag her out to sea with the rest of the debris. By the time it's around her ankles she feels that she will drown, and then of course the panic sets in. Sometimes that means I get a phone call, which is fine with me really, because as a previous commenter posted: misery loves company and frankly I can often relate.

Yes, I have my various "issues" but I've always been willing to jump in and take challenges and push myself, and have always felt like I was ready to climb the next mountain, because WHY would anyone waste their time with MOLEHILLS. And I'm tenacious...I think it's a result of ADHD actually...even before I was diagnosed I was aware of how easy it was to start and not finish things, and I developed a serious complex about it and it made me feel really lame, so I developed an almost compulsive need to finish everything I started.

Then I attempted my Iron Man Are You Fucking Kidding Me-athlon of 2010...quick recap for the first time reader: I finished grad school, ran a small business, held down a paralegal job, met my now-husband after swearing for 34 years that I would never get married, moved in with him and his children, planned and executed a wedding for 300 guests, got a dog...and got asswhipped by the worst migraine vertigo that my neurologists had likely ever seen. So there I was disabled to varying degrees for...a while. Certainly longer than I ever had been before.

And let me tell you...if I had baggage before about worrying about not finishing things...let me tell you...that hit me in May of last year, a year and a half ago, and I'm still not only literally recovering from the whole thing in that my brain still isn't 100% of what it used to be. It was like recovering from a concussion really...and interestingly since my mother was going through recovering from a mild concussion at the time, it was interesting to note parallels. But I finally just realized tonight, as my husband asked me to make the kids lunches tonight instead of tomorrow morning and I had a minor meltdown...that I am carrying a giant suitcase full of shame with me these days.

Shame is a charged word. Shame is a word that I'm not even sure I can say out loud right now. It's so provocative to me right now that I'm actually trying to get up the nerve to say it out loud because I've clearly really hit on something and I think it's something that's holding me back...or at least something I need to move through in order to continue recovering from that whole experience.

I am ashamed that I have limitations. I am ashamed that I spent most of last year unable to engage regularly in my family's morning routine because it triggered illness on my body. I am ashamed that even now I have to be very careful about how I regulate my activities and my energy to make sure that I'm not pushing myself too hard. I am ashamed that though it would be more helpful to my husband for me to make the lunches at night instead of the morning (it's a long story), I just can't do it right now. And it's like Kate Bush wrote "when you can't tell your sister, when you can't tell the priest, 'cause it's so deep you don't think that you can speak about anyone".

I am ashamed that the coping strategy I have used for years of pushing myself tenaciously through to the finish line in nearly any situation I've seen fit to challenge myself to...can now cognitively and physically disable me.

I do not pity myself...but I AM afraid, and I AM ashamed.

The lunches are just a metaphor. They were my way of dipping my toe into the routine, with the hope of being able to take on more as the school year progressed. Sonny isn't trying to make me feel bad...he's just trying to make a morning happen in a stress-free way. But to my shame suitcase it sounds like "it's still not enough". And it hurts.

To add a layer of the possibly ridiculous but true, I am also ashamed of being ashamed...a classic Shame Spiral. Because then you are ashamed that you're ashamed of your shame...a barber pole of unending shame, rising up in your soul (at least I still have a sense of humor when I'm miserable).

So yeah, my ankles are steeped and I'm carrying a shame suitcase barber pole thing. And worse, I'm mixing some really clanky metaphors (what's new). I'm kind of glad that I that maybe I'm can start unpacking that piece of baggage. I can see the lock's a bit sticky on this one though...


  1. Okay. So I would like to request your next entry: "How to deal with Shame and make your life perfect (so you feel no more shame for being the cause of your shitty life)". thanks.

  2. Well, I'll tell you what I do: go through it, not around it.

    For those who get stuck in "dwelling", try it with a therapist by your side.