***Submitted by Anonymous:
Ellie's statement for Truthful Thursdays said this:
Once you've identified a time when you have (or are) experiencing shame and vulnerability (almost always accompanied by their evil cousin fear) I want you to write about it. If you don't have a blog, crack out pen and paper, or a word document, and just let it pour out. Try, if you, can, to write about it in narrative form. Close your eyes, picture yourself in that moment, or in that period of your life, and write it like a story. Tell the truth, every part of it, especially the little nuggets of shame, fear or guilt you have mentally edited out because thinking about them makes you feel small.
OK, this is going to be hard. I have thought about it before, and many times when Ellie writes something I almost, but almost, email her. Or go to confession (I'm not Catholic) or write something. Somewhere.
Partly I don't know where to start. Partly, the biggest part, is that shame. The guilt. The knowing that I feel so bad about it, that others would think the same. I am writing anonymously, and will be emailing anonymously. Not even Ellie should know it was ME. So where do I start? The shame is now, the event was six years ago. Or maybe seven.
And yet, every time I read something like Ellie's post, the guilt gnaws at me. Remember? You did that. That was you. How could you open that up? No one must ever know. That can't be forgiven.
You can confess to God as much as you like, but it still happened. And YOU did it. I try to be kind to myself, to be gentle with the person I was then; but it just sounds like excuses. And the voice of shame and guilt comes back, and the knot in my heart tightens.
So, where do I start? With the bald fact? I had an affair. There, I have said it. You can stop reading now. Turn away with the "How could she? Didn't she know? What an awful thing to have done."
The shame, the disgust, the GUILT.
Or do I start with how it happened? But is that just making excuses? Excuses for something that never SHOULD have happened. Ever. Black and white. But did happen. To someone who claims to be, no not claims to be, IS a Christian no less.
I don't know. But unless I write it out, I may never find out. Can there be forgiveness? CAN I move on? Not have that memory lifted up EVERY communion? EVERY post about shame? Acknowledge and be kind?
So, where to start? At the beginning, I guess. You already know the ending.
I am keen, desperately keen. I want to get on in the world, to do the best I can. I am not ambitious in the traditional sense but I want to do more, to explore the possibilities. And I am terrified in my job that I will get found out, that I will get put in my place. I know I can do it, but I don't have the confidence to stand up to people. Then an opportunity comes up to go on make-or-break course.
If I am successful, then there is so much out there for me. If not? No, there is no option of that...I HAVE to do well.
And the course is exciting. There is so much to learn, I am bubbling over with enthusiasm. And all the fear and lack of confidence is overtaken with excitement. Too much so, I guess, because it doesn't go down so well with the others.
I become the outsider. Again. But I can't go back, I HAVE to stick it out. I do my best, but it hurts. I get pushed around, bullied in fact. One of the course directors understands me, he can see through the fragile veneer around me, and reassures me I am OK. Fundamentally, I AM an OK person, just too quick, too abrupt, too fragile for others to cope with. Apart from the old technician. He just takes it in his stride. If I cry, he just hands me a tissue. If I get left behind, he waits for me. If the camp counselor bullies me (Oh, yes, that didn't help) and the group turns on me, he gives me a hug.
My husband? He complains about the state of the house. When I say I am in distress, he tells me about the tough time he is having at work.
When I ask for a hug, he complains that I am not having sex. He says I am frigid, cold, that he doesn't know what works for me.
When I say he can ask and we can work it out, he says he tried that and nothing changed. When I am exhausted, he pokes and pats me til 4 in the morning. He puts me down.
When I pluck up the courage to say that I was hurt by a particular comment, even though he may not have meant it, he says that he did mean it. That the only way he can feel good about himself is to bring me down a bit if I get too high - it's like a teeter totter, only one can be up.
I try, and try. Perhaps if I can clean the house better? Have sex more often? Be careful about what I say, or how I say it? He is a good man, he has the confidence I admire, he has passion and drive. But he is not always kind. If I cry, he complains that I am trying to manipulate him.
We try counseling. The worst time, I am in the car with my mother and she is giving me a lift to the counselor because he has taken the car to go to his parents for an event. I phone to ask if he will meet me there, or will we go together. He is two hours away. He got drunk the night before so had a lie in. I have to phone the counselor myself and cancel. 15 minutes before the appointment, with my mother in the car hearing it all.
Looking back, we now know that he was suffering from depression. It didn't manifest itself classically, so we didn't recognize it. But I still had to live through it. And battle with my own.
I remember sitting on the floor, rocking, stuffing my face with chocolate. Every bite made me feel worse, and I knew it. And I still couldn't stop. That technician? Turned out he was an alcoholic. He understood. He responded to me text for help, and talked me down.
Alcoholic. Uh-huh. Can you say co-dependency?! But he understood. We had similar ways of thinking, similar sensitivities, and we would talk for hours on the phone, trying to make sense of the world we found ourselves in. Me battling with my course, my life, ME. And trying to get this friend to see he was killing himself. Of course, I now know that an alcoholic can suck you right in to their drama. A spiral of drama, soul searching, trying to make connections.
All I wanted was someone to understand me, to help me to understand myself, to function in the world as I saw other people doing so. WAS I cold, frigid, unresponsive? I didn't think so. I could talk and bare my soul. Even though my husband was not interested in listening.
Was I insensitive in some way? Was I not picking up on cues? No, if anything I was TOO sensitive to micro-emotions in others. That raised issues of my childhood, trying to make things right for my mom. Trying to do it RIGHT so I wouldn't trigger her. I talked to counselors in my church. Tried to do things RIGHT at home.
The only place I didn't have to watch my tongue, to backtrack and say it wasn't how I meant it, a place where someone was interested enough to actually remember what I said, was with the alcoholic. My friend.
It was inevitable, in a way. And yet, why didn't I just walk away? Say no? Cut it all off? I try to be kind to myself, to see that I was tangled in a web. And then the shame tells me that the web was of my own making. Was it? What else could I have done? Not have an affair, for a start. Yes, I know. To my endless shame, I KNOW.
But what could I do to make the world RIGHT that I hadn't already tried at the time? How much more could I, SHOULD I have tried? But how much more strength did I have? Without ANY support, would I have imploded? Was there anywhere else I could have looked for support? The church? But how could I tell anyone that the man who looked the ideal husband wasn't always kind to me? Besides, it was my fault anyway, wasn't it? No, you don't talk about things like that.
Don't open the cracks for exposure.
So, for three months I did the unthinkable. A physical affair. And it ripped me apart. I did start getting more help. And started to put myself back together from where I had been shredded. The comfort that I had experienced was now tainted, coated, with guilt. But where did my heart belong? Where did I belong? Where did I go from now? A few things happened, and my world shifted slightly. Just a bit, but enough. I was strong enough to say no, to deal with the loss of support, to back away from trying to fix my friend, from making it right. And to try again to make it work with my husband. And again. And again.
Eventually? Yes, it worked. His depression got treated. As did mine. I grew stronger, learned more skills, built my internal strength rather than stronger barricades. I stood up to my husband, and he respected it and me.
Now, it is well. Really well. Far, far better than ever before. Before anything, but definitely before THAT.
But is that an excuse? A way of saying, See, everything happens for a reason. It was all OK.
Maybe, but having written this out, I can see that although it was not the RIGHT thing to do, it was what happened. I did what I did, because of the situation I was in at the time, with the internal resources I had at the time. I did my best and, no, it wasn't good enough. And, yes, there were some choices I could have - should have, even made differently; points in time when I DID have the ability to choose differently, but didn't.
But it is done. It is gone. I am trying to build my life, REBUILD it perhaps, with what I have now.
And what I don't want is to try and build my life with a rotten cornerstone, with a sense of shame and guilt crumbling way at me.
I don't know if that is possible, but I am making a start here and now.