How Do You Deal With Shame?


Puerto Rico, where the sound of competing roosters blends with those of wandering cats, both of which will give way to the lullaby of the coqui frog when the sun begins to set. The people are warm and friendly, and though most speak English well enough, they grin amicably as you stutter your way through Spanish, helping you learn the correct pronunciation. The food is hearty and cheap to come by at road side stands and restaurants that are little more than a room in someone’s house. It’s a place to get away, to slow down and enjoy; a place that I love.

Unfortunately, even here I cannot escape myself. Even here, laying on the beach to let the sun dry the ocean off my skin, I cannot help but remember days gone by: the things I’ve done, the person I once was, and the frightening idea that I’m not the only one who has those memories of me. I think sometimes that it’s that last one that worries me the most, the fact that for all of the memories of me I wish I could forget there is at least one other person (and sometimes many more) that has that memory of me, too. I could come face to face with a living, breathing, reminder of my past life at any time, at any moment. And not just me. Anyone, any one of you, could come face to face with a piece of my past. It isn’t just the shame that I can’t escape, it’s the fear of having to face the things I’ve done all over again, it’s a fear of being found out.

As any of you who regularly read this blog know, the memories of last year’s vacation to Puerto Rico are foggy and regretful at best. San Juan, Rincon, Guanica… each little city has it’s own shameful imprint in my mind, a memory of something I did or a way I behaved that I wish I could forget.

To be fair, it isn’t that Puerto Rico is any more or less difficult than any other place in this regard. While it’s true that I am straight-line walking some of the same steps here that I was drunkenly stumbling last year, it doesn’t make the waves of memories any better or worse than they are at any other time. It doesn’t even take a similar situation to thrust me back into the middle of a vivid remembrance of some terrible thing I’ve done, or said, or been a party to.

Sometimes I wish I could write all of those things here, expose all of the filthy and depraved scenes from my past and leave it here for you to deal with. I wish I could write it all down and be done with it; the things I’ve done when I was drunk, the things I did to get high, the terrible ways I hurt people that never deserved a bit of it. I wish that everyone could know these parts of me so that I wouldn’t have to worry anymore about people finding out. If everyone knew I’d never again have to think β€œwhat if they knew?” If you all knew everything about me, all the dark secrets that I hide, then you’d either stay or go, but either way I’d be free. I would never have to worry again about the truth coming out, the past catching up to me, my secrets being revealed. In theory, it sounds wonderful; it sounds like peace.

In theory it sounds great, sure, but I can’t seem to make myself actually write the words. When I do manage to put into words a flashback, a bit of dark history, it never makes the final draft.

My fear, of course, is that people will go; that if faced with a complete picture of me, people will recoil in disgust, in judgment, and I will be alone. And my greatest fear of all is ending up alone.

How do you deal with a lifetime full of shame? What are the steps to achieving wellness, within and without? Are there answers? What are your thoughts?

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4 thoughts on “How Do You Deal With Shame?

  1. Sarah

    All of us, absolutely all of us live with regrets every day. Few of us are as honest with the World and with ourselves as are you. Our shameful secrets haunt us and cause us to do things to try to forget what we have done, and then when we are doing our best to forget by turning to drugs or alcohol, we end up with so many additional regrets and shameful secrets. No one who is honest with him or herself should judge you, no matter what you have done. Keep whatever you want to yourself, but understand that you are really no different than the rest of us. Understand and forgive others when they make mistakes or when they tell you of the deep dark secrets they have. Know that you are a good person and that who you were and what you did made you the person you are today. Without your past, you would not have this present. You wouldn’t be writing and helping people by your words. When I was in college, I did a lot of things I wasn’t proud of. Things I am embarrassed by. I dread receiving the reunion mailings because I know I will need to make excuses as to why I don’t want to go. I now am a wife, a mother, a successful, strong woman. In college, I was a drunk. A slut. A cheater. I used people to attain my goals and then I left them behind. I hate that I did that. It is not who I am. It really isn’t even who I was. It was how I coped with being helplessly insecure while also dealing with a 3 year long court case during which I had to face the man who raped me when I was a child.
    But, I also know that now, I am the compassionate person I am because of what I did. I have been faithful to my husband the entire time I have known him. I am a good mother to my kids. I teach them to always be kind to others. To respect themselves, and to never compromise their morals. To treat others with compassion and to never use anyone to attain any goal. They are good. They are kind. I am on the PTA, I volunteer in my kids’ classrooms, and I desperately hope that no one who knew me in college ever moves into town.
    I hope that at some point, I am confident enough to be 100% honest with my husband about my past. He has the basic overview, but I haven’t gone into detail. I tell myself that I am not telling him everything because I want to protect him. Because I don’t want him to be hurt by knowing my past. But, deep down, I know I am protecting myself. I don’t want him to see me through my eyes. I hope that you have the strength to do what I regret never having done. Maybe this weekend, I will tell him….

    Reply
  2. Karen Stone

    Hey there my redeemed socialite friend. πŸ™‚ Ever ponder 2 Corinthians 7:10? I struggled in a similar manner for a long time after WHH. I started diligently asking Jesus to make the fruit of this verse real in my life. I knew beyond a doubt that I was forgiven by God, accepted, etc. but certain past sins kept beating me up and nagging at my weary soul. Anyway, long story short, God used this verse (as well as people and circumstances) to bring me into a special season of deliverance and inner healing. It was a hard season for sure….but it cut deep and produced that vindication, indignation, fear, longing, zeal, etc. that this scripture talks about. Hope is the anchor of your soul. There is more healing my friend, so don’t give up. πŸ™‚

    Reply

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