Shame. It’s probably one of my least favourite words, yet it has been on my mind for the last few months. The reason, I think, is because I am currently feeling it more than I ever have in my entire life. It is a scary thing for me to see these words typed out on my screen, but it’s a truth I need to talk about because I know I’m not the only one who has dealt with mental health issues and felt ashamed over it.
This constant feeling of passive shame is something that has been building for the past couple of years. As a woman, I have definitely experienced short-lived bursts of large and small shame throughout my life, but this has been completely different. This feeling is now something that has become so much a part of who I am and I think part of the reason I wanted to share this is so I can finally face it.
For context, this all began in 2016 where things in my life started to very slowly, but surely spiral in a way I had absolutely no control of. I had multiple family members die in quick succession, I was moving around a lot for work and also dealing with a long term relationship break-up. At that time I would have said that I was managing things ok, but I wasn’t. I was depressed without even fully realising it and even though I was able to carry on as “normal” for the most part, I remember feeling increasingly sadder and disillusioned as the months progressed. Then of course the election happened and I cannot pretend that this did not affect me because it did and still does today.
With everything going on personally and globally, I suddenly found that I no longer felt like myself. I looked around at my life and my world and I just could not believe what I was seeing. Every day I tried to tell myself, “tomorrow I will feel better” or “next week will be different”, but I never seemed to be able to get to that sunnier place. I wrote about my struggles a few times last year in The Serious Side of Self-Care, Time – The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself and 28,000 Retweets Later: Letting Go and Looking Forward and it has been interesting to look back at those articles now.
Re-reading the last one in particular, I have to laugh a little bit. Besides not giving up my Twitter addiction (I’m currently at just over 41k retweets), this year has somehow managed to be worse than last! I don’t know why I find that funny, but in this moment I do. I think it’s because I remember having all these grand ideas about how to make this year a good one (I’m an eternal optimist), but it all went wrong from the first second as we rung in the New Year at the hospital because my mum badly broke her wrist three hours before midnight.
If I thought last year was a challenging one, 2018 has superseded that in spectacular fashion. Besides all the global/political events, I now feel worse than I ever have, but not just mentally, I’m also physically ill (it relates to the reproductive health issues I dealt with a few years ago) and have been since March. This year has been a blur of weekly hospital visits and doctor’s appointments, first for my mum and then for me.
As a result of my health and everything going on, this year I have worked less (shame), missed birthdays and weddings (shame), avoided social gatherings (shame), struggled with my skin (shame), haven’t made time to dye my newly sprouted grey hairs (shame), watched too much Netflix (shame) and not really done much of anything “normal” (shame) as well as more things I’m not comfortable mentioning (shame, shame, shame), which has lead to a lot of awkward conversations with friends and colleagues about what I’m “up to” (more shame).
This has also been my most unproductive year ever and of course I can’t help but feel ashamed about that. I have let a lot of people down and said yes to things in the hopes that having an activity or getting back out there would help me feel better, only to find myself unable to go through with them. Home has been a source of safety and comfort for me, but that has meant that I have increasingly withdrawn from socialising both online and in real life.
On the beauty related side of things, I have the longest list of unfinished blog posts and unreviewed products. I know that I am not a professional blogger, but I do feel a sense of responsibility once I accept a product. I hate the idea that I am letting the brands/PR agencies down as well as my readers by abandoning my blog and Instagram account. I also haven’t been able to produce an article for every newsletter this year and when I have done, they’ve usually been late, which I always feel ashamed about when it happens.
I am disappointed in myself (more shame) on top of all the other things I already feel and overall I think I feel ashamed that I can’t just snap out of it. In this fast paced world, having a problem for more than a week feels like a lifetime. I hate how much time I have “wasted” feeling like this and a recent conversation with a colleague just reinforced how impatient we can be when others are struggling. When asked how I was I mentioned that I was still not feeling great and the response was, “oh, you’re still sick?”. This was accompanied by a confused look that instantly made me feel ashamed, which then made me angry for reacting in that way over something that is happening to me.
Society does not give women enough credit for the things we have to deal with on a daily basis and one of them is managing our reproductive cycle and how it relates to our mental health. Depression affects more women than men, but not only that, our monthly cycle affects our hormones and thus our moods, thoughts and emotions. Linked to that, we have the pain associated with our reproductive system like cramps, endometriosis (please read the brilliant article Endometriosis And Me by the lovely Bianca Presto), cysts (what I’m dealing with) or heavy bleeding. Often times we are not facing the world as whole, healthy, happy people, yet we are too ashamed to admit it. I know I was.
I have never been comfortable speaking about private subjects publicly, but that reluctance to open up has also led to more shame and stress as I evasively try to explain my social absence or lack of communication with people without getting too personal. Saying that, those I have spoken to have been immeasurably helpful with their words, support and understanding. If you find yourself in this position in any way for whatever reason, please talk to someone. I truly believe I got as sick as I am now because I tried to hold in everything I was thinking and feeling.
In the end, what these past couple of years have taught me is that I need to communicate more and also be kinder to myself. These things happen and putting so much pressure on myself to carry on like normal just made things worse. I’ll likely (and hopefully) never have a period of time like this again where everything goes wrong all at once, one after the other for so long (coincidentally at the same time as a two year series of eclipses in my sign and opposite sign for all you astrology buffs out there), but if it does, I will not feel ashamed about whatever I am dealing with or for needing help.
Shame is a word I hate because it is almost always unfairly assigned to women and for unjustified reasons. We will all struggle at some point in our lives and that has to be ok because it’s happening to so many people out there right now. Collectively we all need to do better, for ourselves and each other. More kindness, compassion and understanding and less commitment to the wildly outdated and impossible to live up to societal measurements for happiness and success.
I don’t know if I have fully made it out of my “shame spiral” yet or if I can say I feel like myself again, but I am doing some really interesting metaphysical work that has been extremely enlightening and I will talk more about in my next article. I am slowly getting better and I will say that talking does help so if you can, please confide in someone. From the people I have chatted to it is clear that I am far from alone in feeling this way and if you’re feeling the same right now, then you’re not alone either.