***Submitted by Judy, who blogs at Get Unwrapped
I just finished reading a post by my friend and fellow-blogger Ellie at One Crafty Mother, a post which has spurred me to talk about something that I don't often discuss. Especially not in a public forum.
I must admit I'm a little daunted. Especially because the first thing that popped into my head was something that I'm still going through and which I don't see any way out of except through it. (Wow. That sounds familiar.) But ... there's something that resonates in me with this concept - that truth makes people free, even if it's not pretty. That ugly things like shame and evil lose their power when brought into the light, when their soft underbelly is exposed.
So ... here goes.
Last fall, I e-published a book about my journey from the bondage of control-freaking and door-mat-itis into a lifestyle of freedom, passion, and purpose. It was a huge deal for me to have made the journey, and I wanted to write about it!
The response I've received has been rather sporadic, actually - definitely not what I had hoped. To be sure, I didn't expect to make much money from it; it was something that I wanted to do so that if even one person is helped by it, then it would be worth it. But I had thought I would receive just a smidgen more recognition than the large round of indifference I've gotten.
Except from one quarter: my birth family and extended family, and anyone who is friends with them.
For, you see, I did mention a couple of members of my family-of-origin in the book a couple of times. I did so to highlight the "before" picture and some of the things I went through to be free of the things certain people did and said to me: things which scarred me my whole life long. I took great care not to make that the focus, though. I wanted to talk about the "unwrapping" that happened as a result of a day-by-day relationship with God, with myself, and finally with others. (For more information on the book, see my "About Me" page.)
But by talking about their part in it even once, I broke the cardinal rule that was hammered into my psyche as a child: "What happens here STAYS here - we don't talk about it outside these four walls."
The truth about my childhood has always been a source of great shame for me. I always thought - until I was well into my forties - that if anyone knew that I was abused as a child, they'd not want to have anything to do with me. I'd lose everything. Fear had me by the throat. I thought people would blame me. I thought that my family would disown me. I thought that I would never be able to look anyone in the eye again.
But for the most part, people outside of my birth family have been kind, if not just tolerant. And I've experienced a great deal of healing from those traumatic experiences.
Yet, I am still ashamed. Not for the horrors of what happened to me - God has healed me from that shame - but for telling the truth. Ashamed for (even though it is the last thing I intended) appearing to be disloyal, ungrateful, vindictive. For exposing the deception and no longer keeping "our little secret." For being honest ... and being called a liar. For having my motives judged and for not being able to explain to their satisfaction why I would cast such a shadow on the reputation of someone who - to friends and family - is the closest thing to a saint that they've ever seen.
I wish I could say that it's been resolved. That would be nice, nice and pretty, all tied up in a bow and a "wonderful testimony." But it hasn't. This is a process. I struggle with these feelings of shame, of feeling exposed and vulnerable to what others think, nearly all the time. There have been many nights - even in the last six months - that I have cried myself to sleep because of the fallout, the pointed fingers, the broken relationships, the constant criticism and the lack of any kind of attempt to understand what I'm trying to accomplish. Grief over lost contact, lost favour, lost relationship, is something I deal with daily. All too often, the weight of shame and the crushing, smothering feelings of loneliness, fear and anxiety overwhelm me.
I fight to keep in the moment; it is the only way I can survive.
I don't know how to get past this wall of misery. I don't know if I SHOULD get past it. I don't know if I'm doing any good to anyone - or if secretly I WANT them to suffer. (Am I really that horrible? How can I ever look at my reflection in the mirror? When will this end? HOW will it end if it does?)
I don't know. I really don't. I have wrestled with saying goodbye for good, with writing them off, with closing the door on that part of my life and never looking back.
More shame. More vulnerability. More feeling like I want to crawl into a hole and disappear.
I am exposing my soft underbelly here - in the hope that shame has a soft underbelly too. My friend Ellie says that shame and vulnerability hate the truth; they hate compassion.
I hope so. I really DO hope so.