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Shining a light on Shame

The oxford dictionary defines shame asa painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour”.

I have come to the conclusion that a lot, most, if not all, of our personal demons are as a result of shame that we feel to some degree or another.

I became aware of this concept reading Brene Brown’s book, The Gift of Imperfection.  She studies shame and studied the correlation between how happy a person was and their level of perceived shame – and it is down to perception – shaped largely by how much they bought into their families’ ideals, the media’s rhetoric, society’s expectations, and how much they chose to live their lives to the beat of their own drum.

Today I am shining a light on my shame.  I believe that shining a light on the darkest parts of us enables us to heal, to let the shame go and become whole again.  It allows us to forgive ourselves for our self imposed shame and to find a way through the mire, to finally walk tall and free of the shackles that shame imposes on us.

So, this is my shame.

I am ashamed that I am not a perfect mother.  I felt that I had a less than perfect childhood that I blamed for the imperfect adult I became.  I pushed myself to be a ‘perfect’ mother so that my children would not feel the shame of imperfection as I do.  This, of course, was impossible.  There is no such thing.  I looked for what I believed to be perfect mother traits in women I met and tried to emulate those in  my own life.  Because I was not living my own authentic truth, the plan backfired.  I became stressed and somewhat cranky (not great mother traits, to be frank).  Rather than looking at myself and allowing myself to accept all of myself (warts and all, the good and bad) as a mother, I berated myself, blamed myself for my children’s foibles, and took all the blame.  This was an injustice to my children.  It took responsibility away from them and also gave them no credit for their journey in life.  I release the shame of not being the perfect mother.

I am ashamed that I am not a raving beauty.  In a world that is obsessed with how a woman looks, which has grown to unsustainable proportions, the shame I feel at being 30 kilograms overweight, not having a glistening six-pack stomach, having female pattern baldness, wearing glasses, not being able to have beautiful long nails without resorting to artificial means and not having a glowing tan, is probably understandable.  But I have to take responsibility.  I am an intelligent, well read woman who has had a wealth of life experience.  I have a choice.  I have the ability to choose not to buy into the media obsessed, male-driven version of the perfect woman.  I have a choice to stand tall, celebrate my woman-ness, my body, with all its imperfections.  I release the shame of not being a raving beauty.

I am ashamed at not having a fantastic career that is saving lives every day.  It sounds ridiculous when I write it down, but this is a real shame for me.  I live in a society where being a stay-at-home-mum is not particularly valued.  However, I grew up in a stay-at-home-mum environment, so it was very valued in my family – being a working mum was not.  I had a dilemma.  I could not work full time (in my mind) and still be the domesticated SAHM that was expected of me.  Eventually, with the birth of my second child, the dilemma was removed for me.  He has autism and try as I might to be formally employed, it proved impossible meeting his needs and those of my employer.  I had to become a full time SAHM.  But here is the kicker.  I have a very intelligent brain.  I needed to feel a sense of purpose in my day.  So, here is the co-existing shame with this one:

I am ashamed that being a SAHM with my son who has autism is not enough fulfilment for me.  It is a real shame when I consider how very lucky I am that I get to be at home with my children and watch them grow.  I am there to be able to satisfy their needs, to give cuddles exactly when they are needed, to provide for my family.  But, shamefully, it does not fulfill me one single bit.  I have no choice.  My role as mother, first and foremost, dictates that I be there for my son who cannot be anywhere else, whose daily anxieties far outweigh my need to work, my need to express myself outside of the family home.  Formal employment is at this time not viable.  However, there are options.  I can work from home, I can work later on in life (although the thought scares me).  Whatever it is, there are ALWAYS options.  I chose to study psychology at the age of 45.  I release the shame of not having a fantastic, identity-defining career and feeling unfulfilled at being a SAHM.

Last one for now:  I am ashamed at not being a domestic goddess.  My mom was a domestic goddess.  When she got married, she had not been trained in the art of domestic goddess-ness, not even able to boil an egg, but by the time she passed away at the age of 62, her meals were legendary and she was running a diamond star rated bed and breakfast.  Being a domestic goddess and SAHM was her purpose.  Sadly, it is not, nor ever will be, mine.  For 25 years, I have tried my best to dig deep to find the gene that had clearly passed me by.  All to no avail.  I have every cookbook ever printed and yet, I really don’t like cooking.  I watch Nigella Lawson with avid interest, wishing like hell I had some interest, but nope, it is just not there. 

I loathe housework.  I gain no satisfaction from having done the housework, only to find a crumb left on the floor two seconds later by my teenage son.  I am not one to whip out the duster buster to clean it up either.  Having spent a few hours tidying the house, I shamefully want to pursue more brain-stimulating activities like writing, researching, studying for my degree, rather than whipping out anything to put right something I only just did.  After 25 years, I gave in and recently hired a cleaner.  On her first day she gleefully told me what a great job she felt she had done especially since the cleaning had obviously been neglected for some time!  I was tempted to fire her for her insubordination, but I couldn’t.  She was right.  And she had done an amazing job, which is allowing me to write this today.  My husband is not happy.  He feels I am at home and I should be doing the job.  He’s going to have to live with it, because I release the shame of not being a domestic goddess.

Have a go at releasing your own shame.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  Just shine a light on that puppy, and you will see it isn’t so bad.  It is just you saying to the world, hey, this is me, like it or lump it.  I know that it is scary.  But you can do it.  Go on, I dare you.

Categories
Uncategorized

Shining a light on shame

The oxford dictionary defines shame asa painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behaviour”.

I have come to the conclusion that a lot, most, if not all, of our personal demons are as a result of shame that we feel to some degree or another.

I became aware of this concept reading Brene Brown’s book, The Gift of Imperfection.  She studies shame and studied the correlation between how happy a person was and their level of perceived shame – and it is down to perception – shaped largely by how much they bought into their families’ ideals, the media’s rhetoric, society’s expectations, and how much they chose to live their lives to the beat of their own drum.

Today I am shining a light on my shame.  I believe that shining a light on the darkest parts of us enables us to heal, to let the shame go and become whole again.  It allows us to forgive ourselves for our self imposed shame and to find a way through the mire, to finally walk tall and free of the shackles that shame imposes on us.

So, this is my shame.

I am ashamed that I am not a perfect mother.  I felt that I had a less than perfect childhood that I blamed for the imperfect adult I became.  I pushed myself to be a ‘perfect’ mother so that my children would not feel the shame of imperfection as I do.  This, of course, was impossible.  There is no such thing.  I looked for what I believed to be perfect mother traits in women I met and tried to emulate those in  my own life.  Because I was not living my own authentic truth, the plan backfired.  I became stressed and somewhat cranky (not great mother traits, to be frank).  Rather than looking at myself and allowing myself to accept all of myself (warts and all, the good and bad) as a mother, I berated myself, blamed myself for my children’s foibles, and took all the blame.  This was an injustice to my children.  It took responsibility away from them and also gave them no credit for their journey in life.  I release the shame of not being the perfect mother.

I am ashamed that I am not a raving beauty.  In a world that is obsessed with how a woman looks, which has grown to unsustainable proportions, the shame I feel at being 30 kilograms overweight, not having a glistening six-pack stomach, having female pattern baldness, wearing glasses, not being able to have beautiful long nails without resorting to artificial means and not having a glowing tan, is probably understandable.  But I have to take responsibility.  I am an intelligent, well read woman who has had a wealth of life experience.  I have a choice.  I have the ability to choose not to buy into the media obsessed, male-driven version of the perfect woman.  I have a choice to stand tall, celebrate my woman-ness, my body, with all its imperfections.  I release the shame of not being a raving beauty.

I am ashamed at not having a fantastic career that is saving lives every day.  It sounds ridiculous when I write it down, but this is a real shame for me.  I live in a society where being a stay-at-home-mum is not particularly valued.  However, I grew up in a stay-at-home-mum environment, so it was very valued in my family – being a working mum was not.  I had a dilemma.  I could not work full time (in my mind) and still be the domesticated SAHM that was expected of me.  Eventually, with the birth of my second child, the dilemma was removed for me.  He has autism and try as I might to be formally employed, it proved impossible meeting his needs and those of my employer.  I had to become a full time SAHM.  But here is the kicker.  I have a very intelligent brain.  I needed to feel a sense of purpose in my day.  So, here is the co-existing shame with this one:

I am ashamed that being a SAHM with my son who has autism is not enough fulfilment for me.  It is a real shame when I consider how very lucky I am that I get to be at home with my children and watch them grow.  I am there to be able to satisfy their needs, to give cuddles exactly when they are needed, to provide for my family.  But, shamefully, it does not fulfill me one single bit.  I have no choice.  My role as mother, first and foremost, dictates that I be there for my son who cannot be anywhere else, whose daily anxieties far outweigh my need to work, my need to express myself outside of the family home.  Formal employment is at this time not viable.  However, there are options.  I can work from home, I can work later on in life (although the thought scares me).  Whatever it is, there are ALWAYS options.  I chose to study psychology at the age of 45.  I release the shame of not having a fantastic, identity-defining career and feeling unfulfilled at being a SAHM.

Last one for now:  I am ashamed at not being a domestic goddess.  My mom was a domestic goddess.  When she got married, she had not been trained in the art of domestic goddess-ness, not even able to boil an egg, but by the time she passed away at the age of 62, her meals were legendary and she was running a diamond star rated bed and breakfast.  Being a domestic goddess and SAHM was her purpose.  Sadly, it is not, nor ever will be, mine.  For 25 years, I have tried my best to dig deep to find the gene that had clearly passed me by.  All to no avail.  I have every cookbook ever printed and yet, I really don’t like cooking.  I watch Nigella Lawson with avid interest, wishing like hell I had some interest, but nope, it is just not there. 

I loathe housework.  I gain no satisfaction from having done the housework, only to find a crumb left on the floor two seconds later by my teenage son.  I am not one to whip out the duster buster to clean it up either.  Having spent a few hours tidying the house, I shamefully want to pursue more brain-stimulating activities like writing, researching, studying for my degree, rather than whipping out anything to put right something I only just did.  After 25 years, I gave in and recently hired a cleaner.  On her first day she gleefully told me what a great job she felt she had done especially since the cleaning had obviously been neglected for some time!  I was tempted to fire her for her insubordination, but I couldn’t.  She was right.  And she had done an amazing job, which is allowing me to write this today.  My husband is not happy.  He feels I am at home and I should be doing the job.  He’s going to have to live with it, because I release the shame of not being a domestic goddess.

Have a go at releasing your own shame.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  Just shine a light on that puppy, and you will see it isn’t so bad.  It is just you saying to the world, hey, this is me, like it or lump it.  I know that it is scary.  But you can do it.  Go on, I dare you.

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Depression Uncategorized

Depression, celebration and hairloss

I emerge from my psychologists’ office feeling really low.  I wonder if these sessions are helping at all.  I wonder if there is any point in talking to an absolute stranger about my life and the issues within it that constantly dog it.

Rewrite your script.

The words from Stephen Covey’s book “Seven habits of highly successful people” filter into my brain.  I need to rewrite my script.  I know this to be true.  I have no idea where to start.  I cry.  My sense of hopelessness has reached an all time low.  Dying crosses my mind, but in truth I’m too much of a coward, and I could never do that to my family.

My phone pings.  I look down at my phone.  A Facebook notification from a woman who runs Goddess workshops and also provides a community of like minded spiritual individuals to get together.  She is an awesome person.  I used to frequent the workshops often and in truth I have never felt such a connectedness.  But then I lost my belief – belief in the after life, belief in anything supernatural.  I became an atheist.  Not a happy atheist mind you.  there is no joy in believing that you only have three score years and ten on this earth and then that it is it.  Adios amigos, lights out, to be never more.

I look at the notification.

Come and join the Celebration Revolution.  Take the 30 day challenge.  Post a video of yourself for 30 days talking about what you are celebrating this day.  This is more than gratitude, this is CELEBRATING.  By the way, it’s a closed group.

I humph.  I have NOTHING to celebrate.  I have put those people, that life, behind me.  I am an atheist now.  Not a happy atheist, I grant you, but what can you do, you can’t force belief!

Throughout the day the notification dogs me.  It can’t hurt to join the group and at least see what others are saying, can it?  I join the group.  The videos are amazing.  Such a celebration of life.  I miss celebrating life.

It isn’t long before I decide I want to post a video.  I am afraid.  I am overweight, hairless, miserable.  People will think I am ridiculous.  I am not in a happy place and everyone sounds so damn happy.  Will it be okay to post a celebration of where I am at?  I decide to sleep on it.

I wake up knowing I am going to take the plunge.  I get showered, dressed and put on some makeup to at least look half decent.  I carefully place the cap and scarf that I am now using to conceal my baldness onto my head.  I could not feel more unfeminine if I tried, but I push the self-depracating thoughts aside.  I want to do that video.

I get everything ready for the morning and finally sit at my desk.  Much to my annoyance, I discover that my new computer’s video quality is totally crap.  I have to use my phone.  I’ve been thinking about what I am going to say.

Hi Everyone.  I suffer from clinical depression and so it was kind of hard for me to find something to celebrate.  What I am celebrating is the fact that despite my depression, no matter how dark or horrible it gets, I can never give up on myself.  I think I am genetically hardwired to just always have hope.  So that is what I am celebrating today – the fact that I can never give up on myself.

I press send and pray that it hasn’t posted to my facebook page.  I don’t want my friends seeing this.

It hasn’t, but somehow I have posted it twice to the celebration revolution.  Almost immediately I get three comments of support, how all the women have been in the same place, how brave I was and how there is light within me that will shine through.  I cry again.

I watch more videos in the car before I go for my morning coffee.  I am in awe of these amazing human beings.  I go in for my coffee.  Coffee and raisin toast, my morning constitutional.

My phone rings.  I look at my phone. It’s from California.

Bloody sales people. 

I go to cancel the call, but then decide to answer it.

Sarah speaking.

Hi Sarah, it’s Michael speaking from Farrell Hair?

I pause.  A second passes as the penny drops.

OH MY GOD!!  I can’t believe it.

He laughs a full belly laugh.

I never tire of the shock people get when I phone them – all over the world.

We chat – about the time difference, the upcoming fourth of July celebrations, about the weather.

So, you obviously know that I am phoning you because you emailed us about your hair.

I nod, even though he can’t see me.  I’m holding my breath.

Well, Richard is going to be in Melbourne on the 5th and 6th July and he would like to invite you for a no-obligation consultation to see how he can help you.  It is free.

The cynic in me knows it’s free because he charges around $2,000 for his hair systems.  He can afford it.  But I don’t care.  I’ve seen his hair systems and they give women (and men) their lives back.

Thank you so much.  I would LOVE an appointment. 

Great. (I suddenly love that deep american accent).  How is Friday the 5th at noon for you.

It’s great Michael, bloody well great!!

Yes, that should be fine.

We end our conversation, him clearly buoyed my excitement and me, well, just plain excited.

I do a mini dance of joy by swinging my arms around at my table.  The guy next to me looks at me like I’m a little weird.  At that precise moment I don’t care.

I rush home to do another celebration video.

Sorry for posting a second video so close to the first, but I truly have something to celebrate!  You see, I suffer from what is probably most women’s worst nightmare.  I have female pattern baldness that has become quite bad of late, consistent with being middle aged.  I have taken to wearing caps and scarves as you can see, but I received a phone call from this guy who does amazing hair replacement systems and he phoned me ALL THE WAY FROM CALIFORNIA to invite me for a consultation when he is in Melbourne next week to see if he can help me!  (At this point I get emotional).  It is amazing how a women’s hair is so closely linked to her femininity and I have felt so unfeminine for the longest time.  But now, that is about to change and yes, I’m doing the dance of joy.

Yes, it turns out I have quite a lot to celebrate!

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Teenage suicide – what to do?

The phone rings.  I pick up.

“Hello?”

“Sarah, it’s Bee”

“Oh, hi Bee.”  I sigh, I’m not really in the mood to talk to anyone from JC’s school.

“You know JC has this school excursion into the city tomorrow.  In light of his recent issues, I have been asked to accompany them in an incognito kind of way.  So that he wouldn’t be aware that I was with them, if you know what I mean.  Are you okay with that?”

I would be a fool not to be okay with any kind of support offered to JC, but I can’t help thinking that this is all a little late.

“That’s fine.”

“I have been asked to look out for what signs he might display if he is under any stress.”

I am tempted to say that he is ALWAYS under stress, only you don’t notice it.  I choose not to go down that route.

“He probably won’t show anything until he gets home, but he might become withdrawn, very quiet, look at his phone all the time.  As I said, I doubt he will do anything drastic, just wait to get home for the meltdown to occur.”

“I understand.”

Do you Bee, do you?  Because last week when our son was threatening suicide for God knows what reason, no-one seemed to understand then.  No-one understood that by virtue of the fact that JC got in the car that day and asked to have his medication looked at and begged to see someone because he had been planning his suicide, right down to how he was going to do it, that his condition was god-almighty serious, that his life was in the balance.  No-one understood then.  Now the pressure has passed, due to us keeping him home for a week, now you want to know what the signs are and you tell me you understand.

I think not.

For over a week now, I have been calling psychologists, psychiatric units and other professionals to help me help my son.  At every call I have been told that there is a waiting list (ranging in length from 4 weeks to 6 months!!!!), that until my son commits the act of suicide (which I guess we have to pray he botches up), they can’t see him on an emergency basis.  If I am that worried, of course, I can take him to the emergency department of my local hospital, apparently.

This is society’s solution to a growing epidemic.  Reactionary, rather than proactive, assistance.  Take him to the already burgeoning emergency room.  Have they any idea what that would be like for my son?  Firstly, being in a room that is overcrowded with sick, drunk and drug affected people is just going to totally freak him out.  We would be lucky to be there long enough to see anyone.

What message has been sent my son this week?  Don’t worry son, you are suicidal, begging for help (no mean feat for any child, let alone a child that is on the spectrum), but hey, until you actually go through with it, there is no help for you.  I feel sick just thinking it.

I have to ask the question, is this a cause for the increase in teenage suicides? It’s not real until it actually happens?

I have not been a nice person this week.  I have crapped on two psychologists and told my son’s teachers they aren’t giving the matter serious enough attention.

My son may think that society doesn’t care, but by God, he will know that I care. And I do care, I care very very much.

I have to deal with this crisis right now, but I have suspended my studies and I will be investigating this further.  We cannot have this continue any longer.  6 month waiting lists for suicidal children – it’s just ridiculous!!