It happened in February of 2014. The shame snuck up on me while I was in the shower. Shame is stealthy and would often blindside me, but not normally in the light of day. You see, shame prefers the quiet dark of 4 am where it has you all to itself. I had been sick with Ulcerative Colitis for a very long time and I was feeling quite exhausted by the pain and loss of blood. Being chronically ill and a perfectionist I believed that I was getting my just desserts by being sick and anytime I felt particularly uncomfortable the shame would remind me why. The bastard certainly didn’t hold anything back this time as it brought out the big guns. The garrisons were emptied and an army of past mistakes and ridicule lunged at me. The memories were random and ranged from as a far back as when I was three to as recent as the day before. Shame is shame. No matter if the mistake made was minor or major the shame felt the same. I didn’t want to do this anymore. The wakeless nights and the gut-wrenching anxiety during the day. I remember thinking very clearly, “This is why people kill themselves“. With that thought, I collapsed into a sobbing heap on the shower floor. It appeared that I was defeated, but what does one do when shame defeats them? I certainly, couldn’t end my life, I finally had everything I had ever wanted. My life was actually exhibiting the peace I had been craving for years. Why was this happening to me? I had stuff I wanted to do, things I wanted to see and I was not going to be able to do any of it if I was mentally and physically sick, let alone dead. So, I fought back.
I began to stick up for myself to myself. A memory would fire at me and I would explain exactly what I was feeling at the time and what my intentions were. During times that I exhibited a lack of self-respect, I told myself how lonely I was and how I was trying so hard to find happiness and acceptance. I comforted myself during humiliating memories by providing words of compassion as I would a friend. I convinced myself that despite my recklessness and my lack of self-respect, I was and am a very good person and would never purposely hurt anyone. As I continued to show self-compassion a beautiful thing happened. I gained a third perspective.
My past, where my shame came from, my present, where I was being attacked by it and my soul, who was sticking up for me.
I saw myself lying there in pain and I felt so sad for me. I picked myself off the ground, dried myself off and with my soul as a mediator, my present made peace with my past. I felt so good. I was full of self-confidence and pride. All the fear I had been living with became clear. The fear of what others thought of me, fear of the unknown future and the fear of conflict. It seemed ridiculous to me all of a sudden. With my soul intact, my past forgiven and my present awesome, I let go of my fear and I began to move with the flow of the universe. I put out there what I want, big or small and just go with it. If something dramatic or unexpected happens, I allow myself to feel the knock back of it, gain my footing and then allow it to just be. I take care of what I can in the moment and leave the rest that I have no control over. (Stress and worry still arise and I allow myself to feel it, but my recovery time is better. There is no dwelling.) To say that my healing in February was instant is not an exaggeration. With UC it is very obvious when you are getting sicker and it’s equally as obvious when you are getting better. I had never in 15 years felt as good as I was feeling a week after my shame battle.
There is no cure for Colitis because they don’t know how it starts or how it stops. To me it doesn’t matter if I’m cured or simply in remission, I know how mentally and physically sick I was one day and the next I wasn’t. I am not taking my health for granted. I continue to take my medicine, watch my diet and take care of my mental health. I’m very obviously a different person than I was even a year ago, but that doesn’t mean I don’t continue to struggle with my inner demons. I keep up with my soul work daily. I do well sitting at home in my cosy spa world, with my peace and incense, but the minute I step out in the world or log onto Facebook, shame is there. It is an epidemic. In our society where everyone appears to have perfect lives, perfect kids and perfect bodies, there is shame. Silence feeds shame. I want to end this. It’s eating us up inside and killing us. It’s killing our kids. I believe that there is a strength in numbers and by getting together, sharing our stories and creating a strong bond this strength and confidence can stick with us even when we are faced with society’s perfection. Life has humbled me. There is no story told to me that I cannot say “Me too”. I will lead the charge in this shame battle, but I can’t do it alone. I want to create a strong group of imperfect women who together can spread the love, caring and understanding that is needed to kill shame. Who have no problem with being the first one to come out and say, “I am feeling shame.” Shame is the same feeling no matter what the circumstances are and it is destroyed by love, compassion and talking about it.
It was the love of life and compassion for myself that helped me beat my shame, it was beating my shame that gave me the strength to let go of my fear and it was letting go of my fear that healed me.
So, that means ultimately love and compassion are a healing force, and that’s a really easy place to start. Chose to love life and to love yourself.