I am shrouded in shame. It is a heavy cloak that I wear over me. I feel shame because of all my deficiencies. I feel shame because of my brokenness. Because of my mental health issues…depression, anxiety, PTSD. My weird quirks that have been produced by abuse and rejection. I am plagued by a lack of self-esteem and have no sense of worth. Yes, I wear shame wherever I go and carry it into every interaction of each and every day. I am never free of it. Not even for a second. Shame makes me feel the need to hide who I am…because who I am is unacceptable. I can’t show myself in the light of day. Not the real me. I’m like a vampire who must hide from the light. I live only in the darkness, though I hate it. I long to be genuine. To be real. But the real me is not worthy of life. I am forever wishing I were not one of the undead. Wishing I could be free. Wishing I could step into the sunlight. Wishing I could be wanted and valued and loved. But cold dead things like me will never be cherished. We are feared. Cursed. Rejected. The pain of the rejection is deep and tears my soul apart. There is no comfort in the night. No respite. No warmth.
I realize no one is perfect. No one is totally whole. But I am so desperately broken, there is no hope for redemption for me. No one can love the mess that I am. No one can even get close to me. I’m a toxic wasteland. Everyone runs from me. They must stay their distance so as not to be infected or poisoned.
Every day, all day, I walk through each moment feeling not good enough. Feeling defective. Feeling ugly. Deformed. I wear a mask to try to hide my deformity, but you never can, really. People sense there is something amiss. It radiates from me. Shame is a very good conductor. And my lack is transmitted to everyone who comes into contact with me. Producing more shame.
I walk with my head down. Eyes lowered. I automatically move to the side when people are approaching me on the sidewalk. Or I move to the wall when people approach me in a hallway. Others do not do this, I’ve noticed. Try as I might, I can’t help myself. I am the inferior one. I give way and let them walk by me unimpeded. I go out of my way so others won’t have to.
I dress in things that make me feel as good as possible about myself so I can at least venture out into the world; go to work. I don’t want to stand out too much. I don’t want to be too dowdy. Stylish, but not outlandishly so. The goal is to appear normal. Fun normal. Together normal. With it normal. To avoid looking like a person with mental health issues who has a broken soul. Who hates life and who fights depression with every eye-averted step.
I work very hard to remember to laugh and smile. I joke with others frequently. I make light of practically everything. It is my disguise. And if I wear my disguise well, hide well, appear normal enough, no one will ever look close enough to see the person beneath the cloak of shame. No one will ever see me…the real me. No one will ever realize how truly awful I am…here in the core of my being. They may feel uneasy, but they won’t know why. If I can only keep the mask from slipping. If.
I will eat my pain for breakfast. I will consume my anguish for lunch. And I will drink my tears in the evening. Then I will slumber beneath the quilt of shame that holds me in its arms everywhere I go, guiding every step I take…and those I don’t. Shame is my constant companion. My closest friend. My worst enemy.