Shame

It’s taken me 40 years to be able to actually locate and be brave enough to feel the ridiculously heavy cloak of shame I’ve carried on my small frame since I was young. I’ve read many books on shame, watched dozens of YouTube videos on it, listened to speeches about it and so forth yet nothing actually clicked for me to realize “Amie” was completely suffocating underneath it – barely breathing until my late 30’s.

All those years I was oblivious to it, I kept “busy” and productive. Unbeknownst to me, this was my way of keeping myself from feeling anything at all.

I was too numb to hear my own thoughts.
Too anxious to sit myself down for a minute.
Too paranoid to say No to someone and heaven forbid, actually focus on myself and my own wellbeing.
Too overwhelmed with the unresolved loops of emotional pain that often felt like lightning
ricocheting throughout my body.

And yet I wondered why I felt so empty inside despite doing everything “right”: eating clean whole foods, taking my supplements, etc.

I had heard the word shame casually tossed around a bit since high school when one woman would judge another for the “walk of shame” and then again I heard it in my 20’s and 30’s when friends discussed how they were attempting to tackle their shame, anxiety and depression, yet I never knew it was lodged inside of me.

It was hiding.

And I couldn’t feel it.

It was completely out of my conscious awareness.

From my perspective, when an emotion is hiding and on top of that, the mind and body are numb, there’s really no chance we’re going to feel anything at all. And this is pretty much how I lived my life up until my late 30’s. Mostly because I didn’t know otherwise and I didn’t have the consciousness to be able to see any of this going on inside of me. I was so full of trauma and confusion that I couldn’t stop to even attempt to tackle what I felt inside.

So, I just went on with my life trying to “fix” myself – “fixing” the physical symptoms and “managing” the anxiety and depression, which also took many years to become conscious of and feel, but which felt so familiar – like my own electrical grid that kept me alive and alert. And I never questioned it. I lived wrapped inside this constant buzzing state of chaos everyday (and night) – I had no idea I was living this way because everyone and everything around me was moving just as fast and keeping just as “busy”.

To talk about any of this or even write about it is so tricky. Not because I’m ashamed of the shame but because gosh, writing about emotional pain and the steps I’ve taken to heal from it feels like I’m swimming in a school of a million fish trying to find Nemo. For me, the healing happened in such thick, intense layers and it was not linear.

I’ve found it difficult to explain what it feels like to come out of the deep layers of shame – mostly because those layers were all tangled up with anxiety, panic, paranoia, depression and a lot of other things that I’m not even sure there are names for. Also, because it has taken me many years of dedication to healing to fully see the light at the end of the tunnel. Still to this day, when I look back at my journal entries from when I started this journey in my early 20’s, it feels impossible to explain how I trucked through the muck and made it out alive.

So, while this article is about shame, I’m here to say I don’t have an answer or a magic pill that makes shame disappear but my intention with writing this for you today is that by sharing the confusing parts of the healing journey, you can hopefully recognize yourself in these words and in my own past struggles.

What I do know, however, is that for me, healing the shame that bound me to my home, kept me afraid of literally everything in life, kept me in a state of anxiety and catapulted the agoraphobia I struggled with for two decades – too terrified to leave my home (unless I put on my “armor” by going 100 mph so I didn’t have to feel anything), has been revelatory. Now, it feels as though I’m in a completely new reality without the shame and subsequent emotional pain and I’m still trying to wrap my head around living without the chaos of what felt like “Amie” for so long.

So, this article is more of my way of saying, hey, it’s taken me a really long time to realize:

a) I carried shame…

b) the shame was deeply contributing to the physical ailments I experienced and kept me from fully healing my mind and body…

c) I felt so lost and confused with all of the unresolved emotional pain inside of me, I didn’t even have the awareness to know anything I was feeling was “shame” because it all felt like one giant fiery ball of overwhelm and…

d) while traditional methods have proved to be extremely helpful in many situations, I had a gut feeling I needed to go beyond the linear models of talk therapy and Western medicine to access and heal the PTSD and subsequent pain I was carrying. This is what sparked my curiosity to go beyond the route we’re programmed to take with our mental and physical health. I found various healers who helped me connect the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of my being – bringing me into wholeness and health. All of this blew my mind and made me realize there’s so much more going on here than we’re programmed to believe. There isn’t one way to heal. Being brave enough to trust ourselves and our intuition when it’s time to veer off the programmed path and into uncharted territory, in my experience, has been pivotal in healing.

In closing, I do want to share what’s helped me and what I continue to do each day. I will preface with this: I pretty much kicked and screamed like a little child inside because I didn’t want to do what I’m about to share for years until the emotional and physical pain became so unbearable I had to surrender and start doing this practice daily. Please know you are not alone if you feel the same way. I suggest reaching out to a healer or therapist if you are in need of extra support.

Okay, here’s my daily practice.

Each morning, whether it’s for 30 minutes or 2 minutes, I sit with myself in silence. Now, let’s be clear here. I live in Manhattan so there are horns and sirens and construction at all times yet I haven’t let that deter me. I sit and I listen. And I watch.

I watch my thoughts. I feel my feelings. I listen deeper. And I watch more.

I become the observer of what’s going on inside of me instead of letting those neural pathways and feelings run me.

I become conscious of the unconscious loops of unlovability, rage, shame, grief, envy, etc. that have been looping in me completely out of my awareness for ages – keeping me in a constant state of fight-or-flight, keeping me anxious, keeping me away from intimacy with friends and family, keeping me completely disconnected from who I truly am.

This is my daily practice and it has transformed my life. It’s simple, yes, but it’s not easy to start – it’s terrifying and as you discover more suppressed emotions, it feels so overwhelming but know this: feelings cannot hurt you. Ever. They’re just feelings. The more you feel them, the more they dissipate and release. They’re just pockets of old emotional energy pent up inside of you.

It’s taken many years and many, many hours of sitting with myself (and all of them have been incredibly uncomfortable) but it has been profound for helping me become conscious of the shame and everything else inside of me. For me, this was the first step in tackling my internal world and the long-term effects on my physical symptoms were shockingly beautiful.

I’m sharing my experience with feeling our feelings in another article in case you want to go deeper and here’s a shorter one with an audio clip from my former website if you want to dive in but, for now I’m going to repeat myself and say that it’s okay if this all feels terrifying. We live in a society that doesn’t teach us how to feel our feelings – instead we’re taught to suck it up, toughen up and push forward acting strong, which, as I’ve learned the hard way – often manifests physically as symptoms at some point.

Lastly, if you plan on sitting with yourself and following this practice, as I’ve mentioned above, I suggest working with a healer or therapist before you start because heavy emotions can feel extremely overwhelming as they start coming up. You can do this. xx

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