I’ve been pretty quiet on social media since I posted daily for mental health awareness month in May. I found it difficult to post, tussling with the shame I felt around having been mentally ill for quite a number of years, but also felt it necessary to post seeing I had recovered from a seemingly lifelong condition. Comments I received positively helped me see the value in sharing. I also know for myself how connected I feel to others who authentically find their true voice and share.
But despite that, I closed down after posting for the month. I assumed it was the classic self-saboteur in me – something in me that has shut me down over and over again, in all areas of life. We all know that one right? In our hearts we want to do something but the saboteur in our mind kicks in telling you ‘I can’t’ or telling you the time isn’t right, you're not good enough, you have to wait till the kids are grown up, when I retire, then...etc. It can even be so automatic we don’t even realise we are doing it, right!
But what my chat with Samantha Houghton (ghostwriter, mentor, author) today highlighted for me is how the saboteur in me has been to do with a sense of shame regarding my 13 years within the mental health system. Even writing those words and I can feel a protective heavy part to myself trying to stop me – no you mustn’t speak out because … Because what? Because I might be pinned down and jabbed, because they might increase my meds, because they might take my kids away from me, because they might lock me up, because they might tell me I’m this or I’m that. Or is it because friends and family might not like what I’m saying, might judge me as getting ill again (as one friend did earlier in the year). Or because I might offend someone by speaking my truth. Whatever the ‘might be’ is, is irrelevant.
Shame seems to be a generational energy that is prolific. After all a lot of shameful things have been done by human beings – rape, pillage, abuse and war are obvious examples. But the way out of shame is by going inward – seeing what we are each ashamed of and voicing it – to ourselves – to another – to others. Talking about shame frees it's sting on the world and liberates each and every person that does so. And it can help others then release their shame too. It’s the only way positive change can occur.
As Samantha does, through helping people to write their stories, the taboo is made less taboo, and the commonality we share - being human, can be refreshingly seen. Stories change lives. Be rest assured – if you’ve thought it, so has everyone else!
Generational, cultural, societal and individual shame is one of society’s main problems. We hear it in politics – The media bringing to light the hiding away of embarrassing cock-ups, a treasure trove of shameful actions and lies. We hear about celebrities, we hear about it at work, at home, in the pub say. Trying to hide our shame away doesn’t make it disappear – it’s still there – bubbling away inside, getting bigger and bigger. We hide our shameful stories away for fear of being found out. We hide them away for fear of getting in to trouble and/or upsetting the apple cart! But the only ones we are kidding are ourselves. Shame stops us in our tracks from being truthful with ourselves, from being in tune with our intuition, gut instinct. It stops us from speaking our truth time and time again.
So I’m voicing shame. I’m voicing shame for the 32 year old exhausted mother of three version of myself who felt ashamed for not winning the supermum award! I’m voicing shame for that 32 year old version of myself who felt ashamed even asking for help. And thereafter the treatments I received as a result of asking for help added a sess pit of shame to boot.
Really she needed a hug, a listening ear and hands on support. Was she mentally ill or was she just plain old exhausted? I guess I’ll never really know. But I do know the mental health system did not help me at all, in fact I worsened year in and year out under their care.
How many people are out there right now, I wonder, who are loaded with meds, who have no voice and are falsely labelled? How many people are struggling at work too ashamed to let their boss know how they feel? How many people are too ashamed to admit something to a loved one even?
I’m voicing shame, not only for the 32 year old exhausted version of myself, but for all the exhausted young mums and dads out there who are already in the system, or who might reach out for help and end up in a system that fails them time and again.
A shift is needed within the mental health system and being able to voice our stories and our shame can go a long way towards helping this shift.
I’m so thankful I got out the system but I didn’t do it due to the mental health team’s help. Quite the contrary. It only happened when I started facing my shame and listening to my true self.
And my book is coming out in 2023. Maybe read it before you embark on a journey within the system.
Message me to preorder.