Tag Archives: secrets

Calling Out Shame

I recently watched Brené Brown’s TedTalk “Listening to shame.” As she described some of the messages shame tells us, I got noticeably uncomfortable and started to feel like I might cry. I am very familiar with feeling “not good enough” and questioning, “Who do I think I am?”

To thrive, shame needs “secrecy, silence, and judgment.” It can be terrifying to call out and name shame, but it can also be freeing and empowering.

My entire childhood was defined by the shame that my father was either in jail or running from the law. I felt shame that, according to my father, my mother didn’t want me and tried to abort me twice. I’ve felt shame that I wasn’t white like many of my friends at school. I was the youngest and smallest in my class every year.

I often tear up when we have parent teacher conferences. That stems from my fear that I’m not a good mother. I’m ashamed that I’m overweight. I feel guilty that I’ve indulged too much, too often, and I’m ashamed of my lack of self-control. I feel ashamed about scraping up my skin.

I know that when I buy in to the things shame tells me, I’m harder on myself and everyone else. I hold unrealistic expectations and judge people ruthlessly, even my husband and children.

Brené Brown says that, “empathy is the antidote to shame,” and “the two most powerful words when we are in struggle [are], ‘Me too.'”

Intellectually, I’m aware that some of my friends also worry about being good mothers and aren’t happy with their weight (some over- and some under-), but I think I’ve still been buying in to shame’s contention that I’m the only one.

A friend recently told me that she’s stopped doing a negative behavior. She was uncertain at first whether to tell me about it, worrying what I might think of her, especially if she relapses. I told her how proud I was that she was taking care of herself. If at some point she relapses, I’d rather be there to support her than be left in the dark.

We all have shame, and we all have the capacity for empathy. When we feel bad about who we are, or who we aren’t that we wished we were, perhaps we could access the empathy we’d have for a friend or other loved one and remember that we are not alone, we are doing the best we can with what we know, and we are worthy of love, forgiveness, and compassion.

How do you stop shame from clouding your judgment or keeping you from being courageous?

Depression: A Secret No More

“…as soon as you have a secret, something about you that you are ashamed to have others find out, you have given other people the power to hurt you by exposing you.” – Ayelet Waldman

I used to have the secret that my father was running from the law. He got arrested for cheating at gambling when I was 14 years old, and then he fled the country when he was supposed to go on trial. He first got arrested shortly after I was born for embezzling money from a company he worked for. I think the only time in my life he was legally in the country was when he served time for assault with a deadly weapon when he shot a drug dealer who owed him money.

It was a lot of pressure for me to keep his presence here a secret. I remember once meeting him at a hotel and fearing I had the wrong one, I asked the person behind the desk whether my father was registered there. I asked for him by his real name, and the person said there was no guest by that name. I felt embarrassed and terrified about what to do next. I sat in the lobby, and when my father came to meet me, I told him what happened. He looked furious and glanced at the hotel employee but thankfully said nothing. I was scared for a long time that my father would get arrested because of my mistake. I was probably about 16 years old at the time.

Some secrets are kind of fun to keep, like when you’re pregnant but less than 12 weeks pregnant. It’s something special for you and your spouse to know that no one else knows. Of course, I totally couldn’t wait to tell people. I think I waited maybe 5 weeks to tell people during my first pregnancy, and maybe 7 weeks during my second pregnancy.

I tell my son that things you’re not telling right now but are planning to tell soon aren’t secrets, they’re surprises, like the presents we buy for his friends’ birthdays.

Real secrets are things that eat us up inside, that tell us that something is wrong with us. My worst secret was when I really deeply believed that my family would be better off without me. I started making a mental shopping list of what to buy before trying to commit suicide. I even chose a place. Luckily, I told my husband, and he and a psychiatrist I had recently started seeing got me admitted me to the psych ward at a local hospital.

I often read tweets about people who are struggling with their depression and sadly, many tweets about people’s relatives and neighbors who recently committed suicide.

I watched Kevin Breel’s Ted Talk “Confessions of a Depressed Comic,” and I agree wholeheartedly that we need to change our culture so that no one ever has feel that they need to keep their depression a secret.

I think The Bloggess has done a lot to de-stigmatize depression and anxiety. Wil Wheaton and Stephen Fry have also written about their own experiences with depression.

There’s a Twitter hashtag #depressionlies where people write about their fight against depression, and other people offer their support.

I’m going to keep writing and saying it openly, I suffer from depression.

What will you do to help yourself or other people know that they don’t need to keep their depression a secret?