A Hellish Year, Part 1: Shame

This year has been the year of the violent metaphor. When J first announced to me that he “wasn’t sure he wanted to be married anymore” (yes, that is the way he put it), it was a bomb exploding on my lap. No. He was the bomb and I was caught in his blast radius.

I have been Dorothy’s little farmhouse getting thrown around in a spinning, violent vortex as he hemmed and hawed, became more distant, where “I need more space” became “I hate the word hope”. Where my world was spinning out of control so fast there was no anchor, nothing to ground me from spinning away myself.

The knives in the back. The shrapnel to the heart as more bombs exploded.

The anvil on the chest. The drowning in hurt and grief and anger.

Then came the final blow, the definitive “I don’t want to be married anymore” and I became a used kleenex: thrown away and completely forgotten.

All of these metaphors describe this experience as something done to me, that it was a violence that I could not control, that I did not ask for, that it was a storm buffeting me around.

Yet in my head there was a sharp counterpoint to these metaphors, a voice I thought I had left behind a long time ago, that told me that I was the cause, that all of this was not happening to me, but caused by me.

You are unloved the voice said. At first it began as a bewildered whisper. You are unloved. Huh. But it is J. I know he loves me.We love each other. That is the one constant in my life.

No.  You are unloved. Get that through your thick head.

And then it gained momentum. As I struggled to not fall apart at work. You are unloved. As I tried to keep it together for my children. You are unloved. I would go for long walks and runs to get away from it. You are unloved. But it only got stronger, became a chant, a mantra, a rhythm to which I began to keep pace, began to move through my day. You are unloved you are unloved you are unloved. 

And then it began to elaborate. This is your fault. There is a piece missing in you that makes you unlovable. You have been found out. You can try and try and try but it won’t matter in the end because you are defective you are unworthy you do not deserve love. You are unloved and will always be unloved because you are not a complete human being.

The trouble is, for the first time in my life, I couldn’t figure out what I did wrong. My marriage was something I was proud of, that I diligently worked at. I actually thought (stupid me) that it was the one thing I did right. I believed we could get through anything as long as we had each other.

Because I was so desperate to figure out how I was to blame (because if I had done something wrong then I could fix it, right?) I think I scoured the darkest, dustiest corner of my subconscious and unearthed my greatest fear: that if anybody ever got close to me, they would find out who I really am and realize I was not worth the trouble.

Ouch. That was hard to write.

And also, according to Brené Brown, the very definition of shame.

As an aside, the only book that I have ever come across that reflected so accurately this feeling was Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld.I just re-read my blog post about it and realized that that voice has always been there, ready to rear its ugly head.

To continue the violent metaphors, I feel like I have been flayed alive. Like angry Willow has turned her black eyeballs to me and blasted all my skin off. All the little maggoty ideas and thoughts about who I am are now exposed to the light and they are wriggling uncomfortably in the glare. I am hoping that instead of trying to bury them again, if I concentrate my magnifying glass on their pallid, soft bodies, if I observe them long enough, they will burst into flame from the pressure.








4 thoughts on “A Hellish Year, Part 1: Shame

  1. I really hear you on this one. I still carry that fear around, I am sure so many of us do. It took me many years and lots of unhappiness just to identify the ridiculous assumption. But even knowing it’s ridiculous doesn’t make it go away. I think it never goes away, it just hangs around in the dark corners waiting to return like Voldemort, waiting for its chance to feed on whatever situation of misfortune or fragility presents itself, eager to roar back to menacing strength and wreak destruction in the soul. Seriously, admitting of shame is so hard. Big kudos to you for saying it. And much strength to you as you battle it. If it is any help at all, you are certainly not alone in the battle.

  2. It is very hard when one’s inner voice is whispering (or shouting) a lie, not to listen and believe. You are very brave to share this. Your strength and your voice is helping others to find their own. Once again, powerful writing, Lina!

  3. You and me both, all year, and pursuant to your previous post, you are definitely writer enough to do this, and I suspect whatever else you might like to write

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