Tag Archives: shame


I think it’s the feeling trapped that’s worst for me.  Feeling like I can’t get out and I can’t say no.

My NP was not insensitive or ruthless.  I think my post yesterday made her sound that way, and she wasn’t.  It just felt that way to me, and my feelings do not always reflect reality.  In reality, she was kind and understanding.  I know she recognized that the discussion about an exam triggered me.  I mean, we went from joking about Star Trek and debating the merits of particular knitting patterns (seamless sweater patterns FTW) at the beginning of the appointment to me staring at the floor and giving one or two word answers.  She knows I have a history of sexual abuse, although she doesn’t know the severity.  (She may have guessed from the severity of my reactions that it was pretty bad, but we haven’t discussed any details.)

She tried to make me more comfortable with it.  She said she wouldn’t do an internal exam because she knew I couldn’t do that (yet).  She said I could bring someone with me, and they could stay with me but not see anything.  (I didn’t tell her I’m so pathetic I don’t have anyone to bring.)  She said some people take Valium or Ativan right before the appointment.  She even said that if I couldn’t do an exam, we could just talk about how things were going with the Nexplanon.  She said it was my choice.

But for me, it never feels like what happens to my body is my choice.  I lose the ability to say no to people in positions of power and authority.  It feels like they’re going to do whatever they want to me anyway, so it’s better to agree to it.  Then they don’t get mad, so they don’t hurt you as bad.  So I say yes and okay when what I mean is I’m so scared you’re going to hurt me, and I really need you to be kind and gentle with me, and I need you to make me feel safe.  Since I can’t say what I really need to say, it never feels safe.  It never feels like my choice.  No choice, no voice.

I felt trapped in that exam room yesterday.  I guess I could’ve said, “I’m sorry, I just can’t deal with this right now.  I need to go.”  Or I could’ve said, “I’m feeling really overwhelmed, and I’m starting to dissociate.”  Or I could’ve said, “I’m trying to work with you, but I need you to slow down even more with me.”  Someone could’ve said those things, but I don’t think I could’ve.  It was taking everything I had not to go into a total dissociative shutdown.  My vision kept going blank, and I kept blinking over and over to bring it back.  My ears were ringing.  I couldn’t be articulate; one or two words or a nod was all I could get out.  And then she wanted me to look at her when I said I’d come back in three months, and I don’t think she understood why I couldn’t make eye contact.

People who don’t live with the extreme shame can never quite understand it.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  They don’t understand the intensity and persistence of the shame of someone else abusing me, even once I’ve accepted and come to believe that it wasn’t my fault.  Then there’s the shame of having a body, which is impossible to explain since everyone has one, and I don’t find other people’s bodies shameful.  The shame of not having anyone close or trusted enough to bring with me for an appointment.  I couldn’t explain my shame that instead of being my normally intelligent, articulate, adult self, I couldn’t help shutting down and turning into a terrified, barely-verbal child.  None of that makes sense to normal people.

I was trapped.  In my reality, I couldn’t leave or say no.  I couldn’t even communicate the depth of my distress, so I was completely alone with it.  And now I’m alone with the aftermath.  The acute trigger has subsided, but I’m still feeling raw and vulnerable.  Body memories, phantom touches, intrusive thoughts and memories, severe anxiety about an appointment that’s not for three months.  A feeling that I was violated, even though I know I wasn’t.  And the incredible shame crushing my chest.


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Avoiding Awkwardness

Last week when I saw her briefly (she brought me homemade vegan pumpkin cheesecake!), C mentioned wanting me to try internal family systems therapy.  Apparently she’d gone to a seminar about it, or a seminar where it was discussed, or something.  She mentioned she’d met several therapists from my town that do that kind of therapy, but all of them were men.  She’s going to try to find out if they can refer us to any women.

Of course, I don’t know how the hell I’d get there.  My city councilor is still trying to figure out the bus issue for me, but they’re telling him my street never had a stop, which is bullshit.  I’d qualify for paratransit, but it costs two to three times what the regular bus does.  Sorry, but how is that equal accessibility for disabled people.  I literally can’t afford those few extra dollars.   (I’m too embarrassed to tell my city councilor that, though.)

Anyway, yesterday and today, we had two volunteers, husband and wife, come in for some shifts, and the wife mentioned that they’re both therapists.  Because I’m a little bit of a creeper, I Googled them–and he does IFS therapy.  Given that this is a small town, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he was one of the ones C met at this seminar.

How fucking awkward would THAT be?  I mean, the guy called me brilliant yesterday.  I really like working on the campaign because it makes me feel competent.  I can be someone other than fucked-up, broken, dysfunctional, crazy Kyra who can’t get her life together at all.  Instead, I’m smart and competent Kyra who can run an office full of volunteers for 14 hours and keep it all together.  I like that role better, even though I know it’s a very time-limited role.  (Not because the election’s almost over, but because I know I can’t sustain it for very long.)

So I can’t let my work life and my dysfunctional life intersect at all.  This campaign is almost over, but in a small town, you run into the same volunteers on campaign after campaign.  It’s a big part of why I blog anonymously–I need to keep these parts of my life separate.  I think I’m going to email C, give her this guy’s name, and ask her not to use my name if she calls this guy to ask for a recommendation for a female IFS therapist.  I’m probably being slightly paranoid, but still….


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Feel like I just can’t do this anymore.  Life is too much.  I’m not cut out for it.  I was never meant to survive in the first place.  Even my own body keeps trying to kill me.

I fly home on Saturday.  All I can think is that then I’ll be able to kill myself, and I’ll finally have relief.

I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t even be saying any of this.  But if I don’t say anything, it’s even worse.  But when I do say this, I feel immensely guilty.  You’re worrying people.  You’re stressing them out.  You’re making their lives harder.  You need to just shut the fuck up.  Shut up shut up shut up.  You’re a monster.

I can’t survive this.  I want to.  There’s so much more I want out of life, so much more I want to do and give.  But what I’m doing now is not living.  You can hardly even call it surviving.  Constantly on the knife-edge, the cliff-edge of disaster.  Our minds are not meant to live with this constant stress.  We evolved to survive the brief stress of a predator attack, to escape and survive.  We are not meant to live with the constant threat of disaster

I want somebody to fix this.  I don’t want that much.  I don’t need luxury, just the basics of comfort.  A small apartment–I’ll live with roommates, that’s okay.  Enough food I can eat.  Good doctors.  A good therapist.  A few friends.  A sense of purpose.

So why do I feel like a monster who’s asking for so, so much more than she ever deserves?  Why do I think it’s better to be dead than to beg for help?

I think it’s mostly that it’s easier to be dead than to have to realize every day, over and over, that I don’t matter enough to the people who could help for them to actually help.

I just want to go home so I can die.  I’m sorry.

I don’t think I’m even making sense.  I’m sorry.


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I’m so angry right now I can’t think straight.

A “friend” of mine who I was stupid enough to trust and tell how much I’m struggling has been on my case about going to the hospital.  I said being shamed and treated like I’m less than a person was not what I needed to get better, and she asked why I was so opposed to getting “help.”

So I told her.  I told her about how I’ve been yelled at for self-harming or being suicidal.  How a doctor refused to suture a cut that clearly needed it because he had “real patients who didn’t cause their own problems.”  How I’ve been strip-searched.  How I’ve been watched while showering and using the toilet.  How I’ve been forced to take medications that made me sicker.  How I’ve been threatened with restraints and worse “treatments” if I refused.  How my attempts to get help have been written off as “attention-seeking” and “manipulative.”

I told her about being in the state hospital.  I told her that one night, another patient came into my room, grabbed me by the throat, and hit me in the face over and over again.  Staff refused me any medical attention (I later found out the woman had broken my nose) and told me to “forget about it and move on because she didn’t know what she was doing.”  No attempt was made to protect me.  I told her that one of my roommates repeatedly sexually assaulted me, but I didn’t tell anyone because I knew they wouldn’t care and wouldn’t help me.

And this “friend” blamed me.

She said I should’ve reported any doctor who treated me poorly.  She said if I’d fought back against the woman who beat me up, she would’ve stopped.  She said I should’ve told someone I was being sexually assaulted and they would’ve stopped it.

She blamed me for all of it.

I’m trying to hang onto believing she’s wrong, believing I did the best I could to survive, believing it wasn’t my fault.  But I’m not doing very well.  Not hanging on very tight.

I want to hit her.  I want to beat the shit out of her.  But that turns almost instantly into wanting to slice myself to ribbons and then kill myself.  This is the hardest thing for me–I try so hard to stop blaming myself for all the traumas, but when someone I trust blames me, I fall apart.  I blocked her email and cell number, but her words keep replaying in my head.  I can’t stop that.

I’m really not okay right now.


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From my journal

Yesterday it took 5 hours to get to A’s.  I was cold and wet and couldn’t get warm, and I was crying because I couldn’t deal with my life and the rain was getting harder.  She kept trying to take care of me.  I let her give me a couple of blankets and a mug of hot water, but I purposely “forgot” about the water, never even touched it.  She asked if I would let her take me home.  It took me a minute, but I nodded.  Then her car wouldn’t start, so she called me a cab and gave me the money to pay for it.  She wanted to make me some soup while I was waiting, but I said no.

Now I feel almost unbearable shame and guilt.  I feel like I manipulated her.  I could’ve gotten home on the bus; it wouldn’t have killed me.  Did I cry to make her feel sorry for me?  I wanted her to rescue me.  I always want somebody to rescue me, but I’m not supposed to want it, I’m not supposed to let anyone actually do it.

But I couldn’t have known what she would offer, could I?  She’s a grown-up, so she can make her own boundaries and decide what she’s willing to do.

But you cried on purpose, didn’t you?  You know you wanted her to feel sorry for you.  You wanted her to save you.  You’re supposed to be a fucking grown-up.  You know you could’ve made it home on your own.  So you would’ve been in pain, so what?  Lots of people are in pain, and they don’t make people take care of them.  You should’ve said no.  You didn’t even argue.

But it should be a good thing that I let her help instead of saying no.

No, you manipulated her.  You were suddenly fine once she said she’d take you home.  That proves you weren’t really upset, you were just being manipulative.

I was relieved.  That’s normal.  If I was suddenly fine afterwards, then why am I such a mess now?

You’re making excuses.  You’re manipulative, and now you owe her.  How are you gonna make that right?

I can’t.  All I can do is be grateful.

You should be ashamed.

I am.


The memory that keeps coming up is from 2nd or 3rd grade, shortly after my parents divorced and my mother’s rages really got out of control.  Stupidly, I told her when she yelled, it scared me because I was afraid she’d hurt us (me or my sisters).  She said she’d stop yelling and told me if she did yell again, tell her I was scared and she’d stop.

The next time she yelled, I asked her to please stop yelling because I was scared.  Instead of stopping screaming, she got angrier.  She said she never hurt us, and I just said I was scared she would hurt us to control her.  She screamed and threw kitchen stuff at me.  I remember standing with my back against the wall across from the kitchen door, too scared to move, praying nothing would hit me.  I was so hurt and confused by her accusation.  I hadn’t lied, and I wasn’t trying to hurt her or control her.  I was terrified, and I didn’t want to be anymore.

I ended up even more terrified, with shame and guilt added in.


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Therapy, Help, Shame

I find myself not wanting to write about therapy today.  I don’t even want to remember it.  So much shame–though on some level I know I don’t deserve the shame.

On Tuesdays, my appointment is at 1:30.  I left home a little after 8:00.  It was cold and rainy, and I haven’t yet dug my umbrella out of whatever box it got put in.  I put on a coat and a hand-knit hat and hoped that would do it.  It’s a two-mile walk to town, and a mile and a half of that doesn’t have a sidewalk.  You either walk in the deep mud between the river and the road, or you walk along the railroad tracks on the other side.  I opted for the railroad tracks.  I was walking across uneven gravel and railroad ties, fighting bushes and trees that look like they haven’t been cut back since the Civil War, hoping no train came because then I’d have to jump down into a ravine to avoid getting run over.  I was already in pain before I even got to town, and then I had to take two buses (with an hour and a half layover in between and nowhere warm to wait) and walk half a mile up a steep hill to get to A’s office.

When I finally saw  A, I just fell apart, crying about how I couldn’t manage my life anymore because everything is just too hard.  Her sweet dog laid her head in my lap for almost the whole time so I could pet her.  (I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it before, but A brings her dog, Zelda, to work.  She’s this sweet, laid-back golden retriever who loves to be petted, and we quickly became good friends since I love to pet dogs.)  I was wet and cold and in pain, and I just couldn’t hold it together anymore.  A kept trying to help with practical things–she got me a blanket and a cup of tea–but it was hard for me to let her.

See, I have these rigid, role-defined boundaries: this is what a therapist does, and no more than that.  It’s the only way that I can feel safe allowing someone to help with the emotional stuff.  If they offer anything beyond that, I feel guilty.  I feel like I manipulated them into taking care of me.  That’s my mother’s legacy–when I asked for things like food, money for school field trips, new clothes, etc., she accused me of manipulating her.  If anyone else was kind to me, particularly if they gave me material things she didn’t think I deserved, she accused me of manipulating them into giving them to me, too.  So now I’m always afraid when someone is kind to me–afraid they’ll realize I manipulated them, conned them into giving me things I didn’t deserve, and then they’ll hate me.

At the end of the session, it was raining hard.  A asked if I’d let her take me home.  I had to fight the voices screaming at me that it’s against the rules, but eventually I nodded.  That was hard enough.  But then her car wouldn’t start.  I said I could take the bus home, but she called me a cab and gave me money to pay for it.  That’s what I feel the most ashamed about.  I feel like that was completely wrong of me.  I should never have let her give me money.  I feel like I’m evil for letting her do that.  Part of me was relieved, and that makes me feel even worse.  The introjects are using that as proof that it was wrong and I’m bad.  They’re telling me I can never go back to therapy because now A will now how manipulative and terrible I am, and she’ll hate me now.

I feel like my abusers sabotaged my mind.  Everything is a trap, and no matter what I do, I’m going to get hurt.

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Round and Round She Goes

Today T accused me of being a Republican.


Those of you who’ve known me for a while know that I’m loudly liberal, but I come from a very conservative family.  I worked on the last Presidential campaign as well as the campaigns of two Democratic senators from my state.  I’m about to start a political organizing fellowship for a liberal lobbying group.


“You’re secretly a Republican,” T told me.  “But only in regards to yourself.  You think you don’t deserve any help.”


Shit, I thought.  She’s right.  I’m secretly a Republican.


She’s right: I don’t accept help well.  I feel like I don’t deserve to have needs at all, so I definitely don’t deserve to have those needs met.  And the worst of all is when I need help to meet those needs.  When I need help, I’m slammed with massive amounts of shame.  I feel worthless, needy, manipulative, incompetent.  I feel like it would be better to die than to need help because if I let myself need, I’ll become a black hole that swallows up everything and turns it into nothing.


I’ve gotten slightly more comfortable with having needs.  At one point, I nearly starved myself to death to prove I didn’t need anything.  I pushed everyone away from me and wouldn’t let them care about me.  I took care of everybody else because if I was busy it was easier to deny my needs, and if I was helping other people, it gave me permission to exist (but only a little bit).  I’ve improved and gotten a little more comfortable with my needs–but I’m more comfortable with it in the same way I’m more comfortable with getting attacked by a mountain lion than by a grizzly bear.


It’s so tied up in guilt and shame, and it’s now become an endless chicken and egg situation.  In the beginning, though, I think the shame and guilt came first–but the shame and guilt that comes to mind with this is from failing to meet my sisters’ needs, so I’m not entirely sure the guilt and shame came first.


With S, my middle sister, who’s 2 years younger than me, the guilt is for not saving her from our father.  I remember a number of times when he abused both of us together or made one of us watch him hurt the other, but the memory I can’t get rid of is from the summer I turned 11.  He wanted me to choose whether he’d hurt S or me.  I couldn’t choose, so he held a gun to my head.  I wanted to tell him to hurt me because then S wouldn’t get hurt, but I was already in a lot of pain and didn’t think I could take anymore.  I chose S.  He made me watch him rape her, and I’ve never forgiven myself.  I know on a logical level that there was nothing I could’ve done, but I still feel like I should’ve saved her somehow.  In my mind, this is THE representation of my father’s abuse, and if I could’ve saved her in this one moment, it would’ve saved her completely.


With E, my youngest sister, who’s 6 years younger, the guilt is for not saving her from our mother’s verbal and emotional abuse.  When all three of us were living at home, I was the bad kid, S was the perfect kid, and E mostly got ignored.  When I left, E became the bad child, the focus of our mother’s rage.  My mother put her in a different high school every year, so her GPA was crap even though she was smart, and then my mother sent her to a wilderness “treatment program” because she didn’t accept the way our mother treated her.  E hasn’t told me much about what happened there, but what she has said sounds pretty horrific.  She wasn’t allowed to speak for the first 2 weeks, they took her asthma medication away, she got double pneumonia and was still forced to do a lot of physical activity outside in the winter.  One of the other kids there lost a toe to frostbite.  If I hadn’t left, I would’ve kept being the target.  I spent years shielding her from our mother’s abuse as much as possible, but then I left her there to deal with it all alone.


In both cases, I put my needs above theirs.  It’s human nature, the biological imperative for self-preservation, I know.  I would never judge someone else for doing those things, but the rules are different for me.  If I hadn’t prioritized my needs over theirs, they would’ve been safe.  I didn’t abuse either of them, but I feel like I’m not much better than our parents.  In both cases, I knew they’d both be abused, and I let it happen.  Yes, yes, I know I was only a child and probably couldn’t have stopped my parents from abusing them if they wanted to…but I was never really a child.  I had to be the grown-up in our family because my parents sure as hell weren’t being adults.


I feel guilty for putting my needs first, so I try not to have needs.  I have needs anyway, which fuels the guilt.  Then I feel even more like I shouldn’t have needs.  Round and round she goes; where she stops nobody knows.


And on top of all of that, now I’m a secret Republican!

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Illness, Silence, Invisibility

I’ve got to find some better ways to deal with the UC symptoms. They vary in intensity, but they’re always there.

And I’m about to have a sobbing meltdown about it.

I just feel like my life is so restricted now. There are days I can’t leave the house because I can’t be sure there will always be a bathroom immediately available. When I’m not having diarrhea, I’m farting. A lot. Loudly. So then I’m too embarrassed to go out, and then I feel stupid because it sounds like such a silly thing to be upset about.

When I do manage to get out, I’m still limited. Going out to eat is a common social thing, but it’s all but impossible now. I was already vegetarian, but now I can’t eat dairy, eggs, gluten, nuts, corn, raw fruits or veggies, cooked veggies with seeds, caffeine, or artificial sweeteners or dyes. When I go to a restaurant, I have to quiz the server in detail about the ingredients of anything. That makes me feel like an asshole and a freak.

I also feel like I talk about it too much. Part of me needs to talk about it because it’s new and scary and life-altering, but another part wants me to stop talking about it and just deal with it on my own. No one wants to hear about your colon, Hope, so would you please just shut up already. Everybody is sick of listening to you whine.

I believe my illness should be so invisible no one even knows I’m sick.

Wow, okay. Starting to notice a theme here: I feel ashamed and guilty for my illness.

I guess it makes sense. When I was a kid, my mother got angry at me for getting sick, like I did it on purpose to inconvenience her. She often accused me of faking. When there was proof that I was sick, she’d tell me I was exaggerating it for attention. Guilt and shame right there, ladies and gentlemen.

But do you think you’re free?

I think I recognize the patterns of my nature.
But do you think you’re free?

–Louise Gluck, from “Mutable Earth”

I think I recognize the patterns of my nature, but I do not think I’m free.

What do I do with that?


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