Epiphanies of Shame

I’ve started and stopped this post repeatedly over the last few weeks. I can only describe this particular difficulty with posting as the writing equivalent to avoiding someone’s eyes. As I stated in March 1’s post, this relates directly to the same reasons I was physically incapable of controlling my eye contact with my therapist when we pinpointed a particularly painful memory.

The basics of the memory are described in that post. However, since my therapy session, a few other experiences kept poking at that same set of emotions, choices and actions. This repetition is what caused the epiphany. And, like many such revelations, it hit like a Mack truck.

It’s been so hard to face that epiphany that I have had anxiety attacks just about looking closer at it or dealing with the understanding.  I’ve been having to focus on things that deal entirely with mathematics, even though my ability to do so has been seriously retarded by my cognitive issues. Dealing with pure equations — even though it takes me at least 10x as long (in fact, almost 70% of the last two weeks has been spent creating a completely math-based set of data collection for my physical and mental health). Before my breakdown, the data collection set up for simple data entry would have taken at most 8 hours).

I realize one thing in that post that I was completely and totally wrong about. Not surprising, actually, since it is very easy to blur internal motivations to justify making a certain choice.  I said: “It isn’t me ‘dumping him before he can dump me.’”

And it is the root causes (because nothing ever has just one cause) of why I make that choice that has shaken me deeply into my soul.

I’ve stated before that during my teens and 20s, I was sexually assaulted, stalked, sexually harassed. I’ve said that I kept it inside, convinced at best I would simply not be believed and at worst told that I was lying simply because “no one does that to fat girls.” This was supported by my first experience in sexual assault, because I reported it to my parents and they didn’t believe me and actually punished me for it because one of the boys’ family came to complain to my parents that I beat him up. (sadly, my parents don’t necessarily remember it, or don’t remember it in the same way).

It is normal to have confusing experiences in adolescence. It’s normal to take risks and have some of them fail spectacularly. But when those failed risks are piled upon a bedrock of those experiences, a person becomes in many ways unable to give a relationship the kind of trust it requires.

Trusting is an issue I have had since a very young age.  I could go into assorted different reasons why it is that difficult for me, justifying that lack of basic trust.  Hell, my therapist and I have discussed quite a lot of them.  In fact, it is rare that she doesn’t wonder — in the context of the session — how I can still be sane (for assorted definitions of  “sane” of course).

That’s a whole different bunny-trail that I could go down.

Adding sexual assault and sexual harassment (or rape and molestation for that matter — even if I did not experience those) to the mix of normal adolescent issues means that not only does trust become a major obstacle so does shame.  Shame that we should have somehow done something different (which, of course, our culture encourages, because OF COURSE it is the woman’s fault for those things happening). Shame that we somehow deserved to be treated like this. Shame that there must be something basic wrong with us.

And all the Gods forbid that the person involved is not a culturally accepted body size.  I’m not just talking fat chicks here, people. I’m describing women who are “too small,” “too skinny” or “too masculine.” I’m describing men who may have a bit more pudge or who just aren’t able to build muscle or who are too short or too effeminate even if they aren’t gay.  Yes, even they can be raped and sexually assaulted.

No one wants to admit that these activities are about power and NOT sex. So those who don’t match the culturally approved model get disbelieved when we speak up.  We have to be lying, because that just doesn’t happen to “people like you.”

But, it is a balancing act when you are trying to change those habits of shame inside yourself.  My last post is an example of this. My instincts were all screaming at me that this was NOT a healthy man.  That there was something sincerely wrong with him. But, because I had so recently had that emotional breakthrough in therapy, I second-guessed myself. I told myself I had to give him a chance. I’m just lucky that I did eventually follow my instincts.

I’m still reeling from the multiple breakthroughs I have had over the last two weeks. But, some of those unstable foundational beliefs needed replacement.  It is just going to take me a bit to recenter myself on healthier ones.

Categories: Feminism, Mental Retraining, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Epiphanies of Shame

  1. Pingback: Defining Your Terms | The Demonized Other

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