Monday, October 22, 2012


It's a funny thing about shame. So many people don't feel it when they should and in so many innocents it crops up where it's been neither earned nor warranted. It seems unfair, doesn't it? Shame has a bad track record on checking those who need checking but it's managed to linger as the constant companion of those people's victims.

Oh, shame.

I wonder how long it's going to take me to stop being ashamed of things that aren't my fault, to acknowledge in my heart the things that my logical brain knows to be true?

Maybe never.

That would suck pretty badly. And it would make me frustrated with myself.

Because whenever my former illness is brought up in a derogatory manner--and that's the only way it's ever brought up--I know my first reaction should be one of righteous anger at the two people who, twenty-four years in, continue playing the role of bullies. The fact that I still shrink away, that I still draw in on myself and still have the urge to apologize, is something that causes me further shame, shame at my own cowardice.

I've gotten better at hiding this fragility, of course, and tonight I was quick on my feet.

"When we have our Halloween party this Friday, BB, you and your father are not going to get into politics," my mother commanded this evening. "I'm not going to have that discussed."

A legitimate concern, I grant you; with the presidential election two weeks away and my father regularly referring to the President of the United States as a "dumb nigger," the policy debates between us have been heated. But had I just heard someone tell me what was allowed to come out of my mouth?

"Okay, first of all, why do you think I'll even be here?" I asked. "And second of all, don't tell me what I can or cannot say. I'm twenty-four years old. That's not your place."

There followed a roaring argument wherein my mother essentially posited that she could dictate anything at all to anyone under her roof and I essentially told her where to plant her lips.

"Oh, honey, you are cute but you're not that cute," I said during one exchange. "And you are fucking with the wrong bitch. I pay you to live here, which means that this is my house, too. And in my house, I'm the only one who decides what I say. Not that I want to hang out with your forty-year-old engineer friends, or whoever the hell they are."

"Really?" she countered. "Because our whole lives have been you right there, not knowing where the fuck you are half the time, asking us what's going on!"

There it is. It's never far away when we fight. And I suppose that for someone who's entitled enough to think she can mandate what topics other adults are allowed to speak on, bringing up a childhood illness to score some emotional gouging points probably isn't that big of a leap. But it still hurt.

"Oh, really?" I countered with a quickness that I hoped belied how deep the wound had sunk. "You mean when I was twelve? Well, I'm sorry that when I was twelve and you weren't getting me the help I needed my disorientation was annoying to you. But I'm not twelve anymore. And twenty-four-year-old BB doesn't take this shit. Try me."

And then I went downstairs and got in my shower. And cried. And then felt shame over my shame.

And tried to remember what my therapist had told me several days before.

"You know," she said. "I almost wonder if the diagnosis was wrong. All these things you tell me about, exploring new places with your friends, driving around, flying out to Pacific State by yourself..."

"'With your friends,'" I smiled. "That part is key, though. The instinct to panic is still there. I focus on the people and it keeps me grounded."

"You went to Pacific State by yourself," she pointed out.

"Oh, I know that," I acknowledged. "And it really doesn't present a problem anymore. But what I'm saying is that the tendency to sort of lose track of what's happening to me in new surroundings, to freak out, remains. The diagnosis wasn't wrong. The symptoms are just very controlled."

"Very controlled," she said. "More than I've ever seen. Which, given your lack of treatment, is pretty incredible. I've actually used your story, without divulging anything too specific, of course, to give other families hope."

I couldn't help but laugh.

"That's pretty cool."

So I know I'm better. I know that sick little boy is not the person I am anymore, and I know that I can't be taken advantage of the way I was even at eighteen and nineteen years old.

But with a few words the pain and the mortification can come back so easily.

Will that ever end?

Maybe the only thing for it is distance, distance from them and from illness and from the undeserved shame that all victimizers rely on to prop themselves up.

I want that distance. I can't wait to make that distance as big as possible.


naturgesetz said...

I have no idea whether that shame will ever be entirely, 100% gone and buried so deeply that nobody can ever dig it up again no matter what they say or do. What I do know, from this post, is that you're doing very well. And what I think is that you'll do well to focus more on the progress you've mad (and treat it as a sign of hope for the future) than to worry about what is in store.

I mean, even if progress were to stop right now, you're way better than you were. And it's highly unlikely that the progress will stop. It looks more as if you're on a roll.

Anonymously Me said...

I've been wondering about shame lately too. It's too bad that we feel it when we shouldn't.

Anonymous said...

Keep making progress, BB. It's the only way to get over the shame. You've come so far, and now is a critical time in your life what with the new job, and all that. The therapy is making you think and that's pretty good in and of itself. Hopefully you can make the break and get that distance you need.
Peace <3

laura b. said...

Of course no one should feel shame about any sort of illness. To my way of thinking shame should be reserved for those times when you know you have deliberately treated someone unkindly with no justification.

I hope you are able to get out from under your parents' roof sooner rather than later.

dawn marie giegerich said...

You're 24 years old, shame shouldn't be in your vocabulary. Get out, get out, get out, get out . . .

Arizaphale said...

I love the way you reflect on shame. So perceptive. I personally would like to take your parents in for a quiet 'chat' about how to assist people in recovery....I mean do they know NOTHING?????? Lately I have been reading/hearing a lot about the way our earliest experiences affect our cognitive and affective development. I think I can safely say, given the apparent history of emotional blackmail in your adoptive family and Lord knows what other traumatic experiences in your birth family, that your OCD and whatever else you suffer DEFINITELY not your fault. And as someone who's done the therapy shuffle, I can tell you there IS a point where you can move past shame. You keep looking for that point.It's so important you find it.

Jason said...

I loved this post, I'm buoyed by your strength here, even if you had to cry in the shower, you showed some terrific self control and strength, so well done you.

I wish you well this week.