Quarantine queries, #4: How can I talk back to my shame?

We are coming to the end of week 7 in quarantine. Every day I am grateful for many things, but today I felt Not Ok. I’m learning that when I struggle, the struggle itself usually pales in comparison to the shame that is close on the heels of the initial problem. Some days, it whispers and I can dismiss it without too much effort. Today, it was loud and insistent.

Today’s quarantine query is: How can I talk back to my shame?

Shame says, “You should be better than this.”

Love says, “I’m so sorry you’re hurting.”

Today was a really difficult day in the O’Connor household. For seven weeks, I’ve ridden the ebbing and flowing waves of anxiety and mostly felt like I was handling life well enough. Today, the illusion was gone. My child’s shame spiral fed into mine and they played off of each other like a dizzying tangle of slinkies. I had one of those moments in parenting where I had no idea what to do, other than to be present, despite the emotions I could not hold in.

After a physically and emotionally draining day, I saw a sunny post of a mom with her happy children, and the shame hit hard. “Your kid is not ok because you are not ok. You should be better.” This is what shame says, but I’m learning to talk back.

I reached out to someone who loves me very much because that’s the first step in exposing shame for the lie that it is. My loved one helped return me to myself. As I criticized myself for “checking out” and not engaging more with my children, he said, “Dissociating is a sign of trauma and stress. What can you do to take care of yourself?”

And then I wept. I wept for the little girl in me who is struggling more than she thought. Shame had said I should be better, but when I could step outside of myself and gain a new perspective, I could love myself by saying, “I’m so sorry you’re hurting.”

So if this is you, if you are struggling with “not enough” or “too much” or the terrible burden of both, I just wanted you to know that you’re not alone. Shame says you should be better, but I see you, and I hope you’ll let me help you talk back. I just wanted to say that I’m so sorry you’re hurting.

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