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guilt v shame.

i’ve been thinking a lot about a lot of things. but specifically, brené brown and her research on shame and vulnerability have been on my mind. stress is as foreign to me as the skin on my body, and this time every year i feel it on a molecular level. i can recognize it quicker than i can guess my favorite song by the first two measures. but stress, like everything else, does not exist in a vacuum. 

i have anxiety and depression. both affect me in different ways but can very easily lend themselves to the other. and i’m reminded of brown’s distinction between guilt and shame. to paraphrase: 

guilt says “you did a bad thing you did a bad thing” while shame says “you’re a bad person you’re a terrible, no good, very bad person”

in the simplest terms, that is how my anxiety and depression work. my anxiety causes me to think, “i did a thing why did i do the thing?” my depression, however, has me thinking, “i’m a bad person. i am not worthy of good things because i am bad.”

when i’m stressed, majorly, supremely, über stressed, one bleeds into the other. me doing a thing, not even a mistake, just a thing that someone else doesn’t like, i focus on the action. more times than not, thankfully, i know the action is not a reflection of who i am or my worth. i don’t gain or lose validation because of it. 

but when i don’t get a chance to catch my breath, the shame creeps in. “selah, you did a bad thing so it obviously follows that you’re a bad person. you. piece. of. shit.”

the downside to being the dependable one for those around me is i’m not allowed off days. i don’t get the space to be problematic, honest, human, me. i’m a helper. i’m a fixer. i am a “whatever you need me to do, i’ll do it” kind of gal. i’m good at that and it’s a position i actively put myself in, i know. but if i am not given the agency to have that off day, it turns into me having off weeks, off months. 

i used to take medication for my anxiety because generally if i can handle the anxiousness, i can battle the darkness. after a certain point my doctor and i agreed that in the longterm i would be better off learning coping mechanisms so i’m not taking something for years and years and years. while we weaned myself off the medicine i learned something. it’s not a cure but it helps and it’s fairly simple. 

feel. 

feel whatever is happening, the good, the bad, and the indifferent. instead of bottling stuff up inside, face it. process. deal with it head on so you can move on. i still have my bouts of existential crises – it’s honestly like clockwork – but i tend to be pretty level. 

unless i’m not allowed to feel. like how i’m working three jobs and volunteering as a director of a children’s theatre and trying to keep every little task that i have to do straight and still managing to have some sembalance of a personal life. and while i have this nifty talent for self-destruction, i really do try my damndest. often at the expense of my social life. yeah.

it seems like people in my life just can’t grasp this about me because all i keep hearing is “it’ll be okay”, “there’s no reason to get upset”, “why are you letting this bother you?” which on the surface are easy peasy phrases you pull out of your pocket when you don’t want someone you care about to bear the burden of stress. but to someone like me, it comes across as an act of violence. i am literally being told that my emotions are invalid at this juncture due to others’ lack of interest in them. 

and that’s fine. i would rather suffer in silence than let myself be vulnerable in front of anyone. in this case, an auditorium of almost 130 anyones. but when person after person after person – i swear it was three different people in the course of twenty minutes – deny me my right to feel, well, selah has a meltdown in front of those people and a week or so later she’s still in recovery.

so here’s my formula.

guilt + feeling that guilt = resolved emotions. but guilt – feeling = shame, all the shame, so much shame.

and i appreciate those close to me who allow me that space. who get it when i need to be alone and not talk much. who aren’t waiting for my rants to end so they can have their turn to talk. my best friend is my best friend for a reason. lots of reasons and not just because she took me to the wizarding world of harry potter this past weekend.

i suppose my hope, like always, is maybe if i put it out in the universe, people will start to understand. believe me, i’ve been explaining this to them until i’ve gotten blue in the face. 

*shrugs* going to finish this glass of wine and go watch twin peaks now…

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