on shame, on grief, on worth
I wasn’t planning on writing this. And I’m not even sure if what I’ll write is going to align with the title of this post. But, often, how I write is about what feels right. What gets caught in my throat. What needs to come out, when it needs to come out.
I mentioned yesterday that I’ve been struggling in the last few days with some emotions and that yesterday’s events brought up some emotions that felt super uncomfortable. I wanted to be easygoing–to be the roll with the punches girl who acts like water–as I actually usually am. At least–at work.
But, as the day progressed, as my boss shared my leaving the team–as I shared my leaving the team–I felt myself grappling with some damn shitty emotions. Some made sense. Some didn’t. Others surprised me by what they triggered.
Anger. A lot of anger. The passive aggressive kind. Sulkiness. Cheerleading. Uncertainty. Cynicism. Sadness. Agita. Anxiety. Fear. Abject fear.
And then, I realized–“Oh, shit. This is a PTSD response.” And: “OH, SHIT–this is so related to what happened this fall.”
My blog entry yesterday was me trying to work through it–being aware of it–but not yet connecting the dots. Me trying to convince myself I’d be alright.
After writing that blog entry, I emailed my therapist:
“Hey, Emily. Hope the road is treating you well, and the trailer is at least warm by now. And that the kitty is okay, and that your heart is beaming. Just wanted to let you know something interesting.”
And I explained.
“I think I’ll be able to keep our appointment, but may need to move it depending on what calls I have to be on. I should know more next week. But I also wanted to say that this event has seriously triggered some big emotions that I think are related to all kinds of things, and I definitely think we’re going to need to make some time for it. Maybe we should do a double session.”
Emily responded saying–“Oh, that sounds pretty chaotic. I hope you are being gentle with yourself and giving yourself lots of space. I can’t wait to hear about the connections you’ve made.”
So, what were the connections, exactly?
Well, hold on. It’s going to get bumpy.
The last few weeks I’ve been sort of confronting some BS. Well, actually, I’ve been confronting this shit since, well, forever, but it really kicked in when I moved to California.
I’m going to share some shit that I haven’t really shared before because I was protecting people or I was trying to keep the peace or I was trying not to feel what I was actually feeling.
But I’m just fucking done with that.
Because I have this thing…this horrible thing I learned when I didn’t know who I was. When I was just a small child. This thing that makes me feel like everything on fucking Earth is my Goddamn fault, and that I am responsible for fucking fixing all of it. That I am wrong and broken and shitty because I let these things happen. Because my goodness was not enough to rescue every other broken, forgotten thing ever. Which led me to live my life as a constant apology for decades. That made me question if I had the right to exist to the extent that I did everything I could to be invisible and forgotten. That I still, in fact, push people away because they will leave me. That I still try to buy people’s love and approval and value by being perfect. That I am absolutely tired of this constant treadmill of never ever enough.
And I could say that it’s just me. That it’s my broken heart and my effed up brain filling this in, but actually no–there are people who have done this to me. Actively invested in supporting those fucked up things because they needed to control or manipulate me. People who claimed to love me. People who so-called supported me. Friends, lovers, whatever. People I needed to be better than that and who just weren’t. Who abandoned me when I needed them most. As I knew they would. People who continue to maim me with their abuse. Who I allow to maim me.
This past summer, during the hellfire that was packing and moving the hell out of Denver, a lot of things were said and done by people who were–for all intents and purposes–my family. They knew how hard this was for me. They knew I was struggling. And because this shit was stressful, they decided to blame me for a lot of their choices and a lot of the circumstances that we both got into together. I’m saying all of this quite diplomatically. Because, mostly, I get it. I’ve almost forgiven it, too. But needless to say, it was pretty abusive and not the way I needed this new chapter to start.
When I got here, it was like I was shedding my skin–like I was going through some massive healing crisis. Not just from the last several years of grief and loss and on and on–but from that move and all that other crap.
I was miserable. Had pneumonia and hives so bad it lasted for months. My ears didn’t pop for weeks. I was so itchy and uncomfortable. I hated everything about this place. Except one thing. The apartment.
When I moved into my last apartment–the one we left finally last year–I felt like an adult. Maybe for the first time ever in my life. Isn’t that odd? Deciding my mother’s treatment–life and fucking death–didn’t make me feel that way–but having that apartment did. And it’s so goddamn silly because that apartment was not that wonderful. It was so full of stress and I did not enjoy living there–not one bit. For me, it was a lot like Denver was the last few years I lived there. A burden.
But this place–this place looks like an art gallery. It is beautiful and posh. Everything is new. There is space and privacy. It’s all the things that other place wasn’t. This is the apartment of an adult. But not just any adult. This is an adult who not only survived, but thrived. A successful person. A privileged person.
I couldn’t afford this place without my roommate. And that’s scary. So, there was fear there coming here–especially after the whole move debacle. Everything changed for me in terms of how I interacted and who I became. I’ve become much more distant for a reason. I have clear, assertive boundaries. And with that, I’ve isolated much more. I feel comfortable in my room, but not in the common areas. I don’t love San Jose. I don’t enjoy California. The things I wanted to do–the things I need to do–I just didn’t do–just because I was feeling so overwhelmed and allergic to life–quite literally.
Back then, I went into a big ass shame and worth spiral. I got the worth thing right away. I didn’t feel like I deserved to live here. Like I would ever fit in. Like I belonged here. I felt like a little ghetto girl trying to be a big shot. I didn’t connect the shame part till much later until I realized I was hustling–that’s why I didn’t really feel connected to my success this year. I knew it was false. It was coming from a feeling of needing to prove to myself that I was worthy of all of this–and also it came from a fear that I would lose it. I had to be secure. I had to make myself indispensable. I did the near impossible with work last year. I blew it out of the water.
The shame and the worth thing? I didn’t really understand it. The worth part? I get. It’s obvious to me. But shame is one of those words I don’t connect with. A lot of my issues are supposedly shame based, but I don’t really know if I’ve ever really felt ashamed–at least not in any kind of direct way. I feel like my brain couches it in other shit to protect me because it is so much–too much–to handle.
But I know–without a doubt–that this is key to my healing because of how strongly this feeling hit me last fall. And because of how I reacted. How it pulled up all the control and perfectionist stuff in me–that hustling for worth shit I do. And because of how much I use those actions to numb out from real pain.
I actually thought I’d gotten over whatever worth crap had come up last fall. Haha. As if not actually dealing with it and just acknowledging that–hey–it exists–is enough to make it go away.
I’ve been on the brink of burnout this year. Emotionally and physically. Work has been a non-stop Hell since my move. But finally, about a week ago, there was light. Things closing, things canceling, new things not appearing. But it left the tough stuff. The stuff that made me question my value. The stuff where my hard work wasn’t enough. I needed luck and partnership. The Universe was being mean, and my partners were either absent or assholes. I was frustrated. So, as I do, I hustled even more–so that even though I should have had spaciousness and room to think and breathe and strategize–I went balls to the wall and–UGH.
But when it was quiet–when I finally allowed myself to stop–after being beat up all day–after being pulled at and tapped all goddamn day, every day. After pushing myself to my limit every goddamn day–I realized something. “You are not happy right now, Alma.” It is not San Jose or the people you’re around or your isolation. It is the fact that you never let yourself stop. That you throw yourself at walls. That you don’t take good care. That it’s not a thought you have. That it’s a checklist item.
The truth–but also the harsh critic. The perfectionist even at self-care. And that’s why it never happens. Even that is punishment. Even that is a hustle.
FB has a way of reminding me of shit in my life. And it always seems like it comes back to a blog entry. So, I found myself wading in the worst self-worth year of my life. The year I lost a great love, a great friendship, and a dream–and didn’t fucking know how to exist.
I’d worked really hard–not hustling–to climb out of that–and yet here I was again. And that felt like failure. And the fact that I was now better–but still not good enough–hurt. And the fact that I wasn’t this walking monument to woundedness and grief made me feel like a traitor.
For years, I’ve had this fear of changing too much. Of being so different that–if my mother came back to life–she would not recognize me. Well, now, there was a new thing…a fear of not being the ever wailing daughter. Of disloyalty–of all goddamn things. It brought about a new grief I didn’t expect. A grief of healing. Of actually not struggling.
And I realized it was connected to worth today–mostly because of yesterday. I was given this new client because of who I am. Not just my stats and the hard work I put in–but because of my sensitivity and my humor and my loyalty. Because of the way I mentor new people and help out with training. Because of my ideas. This was decided before anything happened with my existing account. I was wanted. Not for my hustle. Though that was nice, too. It was me. I was valued. I was worthy. They SAW me.
The existing client stuff had nothing to do with it. Nothing. It was just a coincidence. And had it happened before, I would have been chosen to leave anyway. Not because I wasn’t good enough or because I wasn’t liked. But because I could handle it. I am resilient. They saw me. They trusted me.
But the worth demon inside me told me it was because I’m the redheaded stepchild, never fitting in. I’m bad and wrong, always. I’m not the chosen one. And that thing I felt when people were sharing my leaving–that embarrassment–that was SHAME!!
I had done nothing wrong, and in fact, was chosen…but I was ashamed of myself for existing. No one did that. I totally did that. But it was connected to all those other times when people did do that. When I was blamed or scapegoated. And I realized–they did that to me because they were ashamed. And I could take it–or rather–I accepted it…sought it out. Because I’m the punching bag–especially for myself.
Today felt better. Just realizing all of that. I met with my temporary team leaders and got assignments and expectations–and it felt so much better. Felt like maybe I could breathe. Like maybe I could seek the balance I crave. That maybe I can stop punishing and embrace this clean slate.
For the first time in months, tonight–I was me. I was funny and silly and sharing more than I have in a while. Light. Not bogged down by crap.
I know this is going to be a whole thing…a leg of therapy for me…but I feel like I’m finally starting to unpack it and it’s really important.