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 🙂