Unpacking Baggage

A couple therapy appointments ago, my therapist asked me why I couldn’t forgive myself for my mistakes.  I cried and told her I didn’t know.  My assignment was to forgive myself.

In the days that followed, I ruminated over her question and I realized I did know.  It turns out that I can stuff my baggage in the closet, but that doesn’t mean it disappears.  Eventually, the door opens.  As I debated whether or not to drag all this stuff out, the Bible verse from the devotional I read seemed chosen just for me.  Basically, it stated that secrets and sin should be brought into the light because hiding prevents healing.  That was a clear enough sign for me:  unpack, it is.

I had mentioned in previous appointments that my childhood wasn’t great.  So, I brought my school pictures to my last appointment.  I showed her my kindergarten picture and told her that was the last year of my innocence.  I continued to tell her about the dark things and shameful secrets that I have spent my life pretending didn’t happen.  I cringed as I said out loud words my mom said to me that I really wanted to just forget.  Every horrible memory that I use to torture myself in my lowest moments, I told her.  I don’t know her reaction because I avoided looking in her eyes, but she told me she had a book that another patient told her about – said it changed his life.  She asked if I would read it.  Uh, definitely yes, if it could help me.

I cried several times while reading Healing the Shame that Binds You.  I don’t agree with everything in the book, but it did help me see some things about myself.  Although I don’t think my family was quite as dysfunctional as some of the case examples, I very much identified with some of the coping strategies – mainly, perfectionism (or as the author said, “becoming more than human”.)  I’ve spent my life, as long as I can remember, trying not to make mistakes (and that’s worked out really well for me, haha).  I can also see how not acknowledging certain emotions and trying to be someone other than me (I didn’t like me because I wasn’t good enough) led to more poor choices as I got older (my marriage being one of them.)

There was one section I read that really struck a cord.  It detailed how a ‘shame spiral’ happens.  In summary, something happens like feeling pushed away, or something critical is said (or interpreted) and attention turns inward.  The event is relived over and over, causing a sense of shame to deepen and it becomes paralyzing.  This happens all the time for me- I didn’t realize this wasn’t “normal”.  Since I began reading this book, I’ve caught this happening twice and I stopped the negative self-talk.

I still don’t know who I am, but I’m praying that I will learn to accept me- flaws, mistakes and all.  I want to truly believe that God can love me and use me in some way.

This was kind of a heavy post, so I would like to end it on a “cat” note… because my kitties make me smile 🙂

05-27 Sammy_Lizzy
Sammy and Lizzy (my sons’ cats)
05-27 Lucy_Lily
Lucy & Lily (the kittens I got last Halloween!)
05-27 Roxy_Skye
Roxy & Skye (the “acquired” kitties – almost here 6 months now)
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Author: findingmedaily43

I used to enjoy hiking and snapping pictures along the way. I used to have creative ideas jotted on pieces of paper stacked on my desk. I used to laugh and look forward to spending time with others. I used to write. A lot. Through this blog, I'm making an effort each day to find myself.

5 thoughts on “Unpacking Baggage”

  1. Kitties are always a good note to end on. This is a really encouraging post, because it sounds like you are making progress confronting and fighting those demons of the past that continually drag you down. Are you familiar with Psalms 61-65, refuge Psalms? Psalms 61: “Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer. From the end of the earth I will cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy.” KJV. God does love you. Keep up finding “you” — and yes you can accept yourself with all the flaws, all the bad and all the ugliness that the world has heaped upon you your entire life. Then I hope you can start to see that there is so much that is really great about you.

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    1. I appreciate your encouraging comment and the very appropriate verse. I will let that one sink in today. My first inclination when I read “there is so much that is really great about you” was to deny it. Instead, I will allow it as a possibility 🙂 A few months ago, we had to give testimonies for church membership. I cried during mine… I didn’t share everything, of course (we had 1 minute!) but afterwards, a woman approached me outside and told me not to be ashamed of my divorce – she was afraid to say something in the group, but she was also divorced. I keep seeing signs that honesty can reach people in unexpected ways. In that vein, I get the feeling this is a place to let stuff go. My therapist is my safe place in person (my family is not). Very few people read this blog so it feels safe… if anyone decides to not read because of my past, then that is okay. It is better to be liked by a few that truly know you, than by many who only see a side of me I decide to show.

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      1. I think you would be surprised to discover how many people will accept you just as you are, even with all your perceived shortcomings.

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  2. Just as much as you recognise and stop the negative spirals, you can build positive ones: ‘I am good enough. I am getting stronger. I will be happy.’
    A friend of mine is a counsellor and lives by a Jungian adage that might or might not be of help to you: ‘I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to be.’

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    1. There is freedom in that adage, Sarah Ann. It’s much better than the one I’ve had: “If I don’t acknowledge it, the past didn’t happen.” 🙂 The whole purpose of unpacking the baggage – finally – is to have the freedom to not be burdened by it. So, I’ll see where it takes me.

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