Recently I have embarked on an important and, what I hope will be, a life-changing introspective journey into the world of shame. As I learn more about shame and how it affects my life, I realize that shame is probably one of the biggest and most debilitating mental construct that affects how I live my life. In the short amount of time that I’ve actually been on this journey I feel like my mind and my attitude are already beginning to change. And for this reason, I have decided to try and document my journey into the depths of my shame.
There is no other place better for this documentation than right here on my blog. I originally started this blog because I needed a place where I could come and say whatever I needed to say without fear of being judged. This blog became the place I felt comfortable talking about myself and my life and I began to realize that what I had to say was meaningful to someone. As I began learning about shame, it occurred to me that shame is really the underlying reason I started this blog: When I come to my blog I feel no shame because I don’t actually “know” anyone here and no one here “knows” me. I have no reason to be ashamed when I blog.
In the few short weeks since this project has started for me, I feel like I have already made some interesting realizations and changes in my perception. For this reason, I only wish I had decided to start documenting this journey when it actually first began. I will, however, do my best to start from the beginning:
Some of you will remember my initial visit with the student health and wellness psychiatrist a few months back. It was my conversation with this woman that first introduced me to the concept of shame. It’s kind of funny because I remember the physical and emotional reaction I had when I heard her say to me: “it sounds like you carry a lot of shame.” I actually felt ashamed in that moment because of that comment. I felt humiliated and embarrassed and I think it was probably because deep down I knew that she was right. Needless to say (since I’m here starting this project), what she said really got me thinking. My entire journey through shame started with this initial encounter with the psychiatrist and a few of the recommendations she gave to me.
The first recommendation she gave was for me to consider using medication to help manage my anxiety. I knew she was right and I admitted to her that I would probably benefit from using medication. I left that appointment with a six-week supply of samples for the medication we thought would be best for me. I thought all day and all night about using that medication and it seemed like the right thing to do; after all, I would have nothing to lose by using it. The only reason I could think of for not using the medication was that I didn’t want to feel like I couldn’t manage things without it. I didn’t want other people to think that I was incapable of living my life without using a medication that is meant to treat anxiety and depression. So, the first step I took on this journey was to push that shameful and judgemental thought out of my head and start the medication. That was almost 8 weeks ago and I can say with reasonable certainty that I am starting to notice a difference in my levels of anxiety – and it is probably contributing to the changes I am making on my journey through shame.
The second recommendation she gave was for me to look into some books by two authors. The first author is a man named Jon Kabbat-Zin and he specializes in mindfulness based stress reduction. She recommended his resources to me because of my tendency to get ahead of myself and worry and stress about everything that has yet to happen. His whole philosophy is based on being mindful of the present moment, even when the world around us is a catastrophe. I haven’t gotten too far with his resources yet because I have gotten caught up in the wonderful resources of the second author she recommended: Brene Brown.
I have blogged a little about my experiences reading Brene Brown’s book, I thought it was just me, but I have also been reading her blog, watching her Ted talks, and doing the exercises in her books (these are things I hope to post in this project). As I listen to her speak and read her books, I feel like she is talking about my life, exactly. She describes an incident or emotion or feeling and I can think of a handful of the exact incidents/emotions/feelings from my own life that I’ve experienced and I suddenly feel enlightened. She puts names to the feelings and the behaviours and she talks about ways to deconstruct them, and it makes it easier for me to undersand myself and to know that I really am not alone in this battle. I can’t really express how amazing I have felt by reading this one book (and I’m only half way through and then I have 2 more books)! I really hope that in the coming weeks I will have some time to elaborate more on the specific things in the book that have made a difference for me.
Overall, I am certain that a combination of factors has brought me to this point where I feel like things are changing in my head for the better. In the upcoming entries for The Shame Project, I hope to share some specific examples of the differences I have noticed as well as some of the exercises that I’ve done from Brene Brown’s books. While my goal is to document and share my journey through the shame that has constructed and controlled my life for so long, I hope that it will be something that is thought provoking and inspiring for all my fellow bloggers to read.
Please stay tuned to my blog for more entries about The Shame Project.