For much of my life I have had overwhelming feelings of fear and shame. I’ve survived with those feelings even as they consumed my being. They’re powerful feelings and a potentially emotionally crippling combination. I’ve given some thought to this subject recently and the inspiration for the thoughts came from an interesting source.
I was recently watching a reality show, WWE Legends’ House to be exact. And before you start judging my taste in programming or dismiss what I’m saying because of the apparent stigma attached, just keep reading. During the last two episodes of the show, the eight WWE Legends sat around a table a few times and opened up to each other. I watched them tell stories of tragedy, horror, and anguish. On more than one occasion during these scenes, I saw at least one of them apologize for crying and being emotional.
Another big thing I saw in the last episode of that show was when I watched a 70+ year old man announce publicly that he was gay. And while that was one of the worst kept secrets in the professional wrestling world, I wondered why he had to “announce” it if we all already knew. And then it hit me, when he actually said those words publicly for the first time, he let go of a massive burden. His secret, as poorly kept as it was, was indeed a weight on his shoulders.
How do those two things from a reality show apply to me? Well, I’ve noticed that when I write things here or talk to someone about my issues that I am also unburdening myself. I’ve realized that many depressed people have also been keeping their depression to themselves for a long time. Why did I do that, and why do they?
Fear and shame. That’s why.
I was always, and in many cases still am, afraid to ask for help. Even in minor instances, I feel like I don’t want to bother people. But why is it like that? What’s there to be ashamed of?
On that TV show, why did I witness men in their 60s crying and feeling ashamed to show emotion when talking about things as significant as the death of one of their own children?
Fear and shame, that’s why.
In other blogs I’ve written, I’ve mentioned my “programming” as a child. I was programmed to be ashamed to show emotion, because crying was seen as a weakness. As a result of that, I held so much in for years. I’m sure that added to the overwhelming burden of depression that weighed me down for so long.
I realize now that my programming was wrong. I realize now that the kid that was picked on, bullied, and made fun of in high school was not strong for keeping it in. I realize now that the kid that was pushed into walls in school and had such little self esteem that he apologized for being the in the way of the person that pushed him was not strong to keep that in. However, that little kid’s weakness was not the weakness that the bullies saw. The weakness was the fear of not being able to ask for help and the fear was due to shame.
Yes, the kid I’m speaking of there was me. But what was I afraid of? What was I ashamed of?
Why did I grow up ashamed of myself? Why did I feel so poorly about myself? Maybe I could break it down with two simple words, “words hurt.” Maybe it’s not THAT simple, but regardless, no matter how much you tell your kids to ignore insults and taunts, it doesn’t make a real difference. Words do hurt.
While thinking about this entry, and it’s been in the works for a while now, I’ve thought about how sometimes I was the one taunting or picking on kids that were perceived to be weaker than me. I said insulting things to some kids. I am not defending that behavior by saying this, but it goes back to the programming. There was a pattern of behavior in the culture I was in, and unfortunately, I didn’t break the pattern. This is one thing that I do feel shame about. I feel shame that I may have contributed to the damage done to someone the way I was damaged by my own experiences.
I once wrote that I wanted to stop using the word “can’t.” That word is too negative, I now prefer to a challenge as something I’m “not yet capable” of doing, and not something I “can’t” do. My programming has always taught me to believe I can’t do things. My programming has also taught me use words viciously. I try my best to choose my words well, especially when discussing important issues. I have tried to remove various words from my everyday conversations.
I no longer want to say that I “hate” something or someone. That word is too powerful.
I don’t want to call anyone “crazy.” After dealing with my own issues over the last few years, I realize the negativity attached to that word in many contexts.
Recently I heard a friend discuss how a few kids taunted her for not being as thin as other girls in high school. She made a comment about how they think she’s “the cute one” now, but it doesn’t matter as much, because they still damaged her perception of herself. She felt shame over that, but if they didn’t say anything, or even complimented her once, she may not have felt that way.
The name of my blog is “Unpacking the Baggage.” And it’s what I do in the majority of the entries I write. I unpack my baggage, and in some cases I unburden myself and erase some of the unneeded shame I had in my life. I do this now because I now know that people that show emotion don’t show weakness, they show strength. The men in that reality show were showing strength when they were talking, my friend showed me strength when she shared her story, and I’m showing strength now, and that’s something none of us should be ashamed of.