I have a sinking feeling as I begin to write this blog. The shame that arises around health challenges and ongoing illnesses is tough.
In my 20’s, I had a lot of health challenges. Most of them were centered around digestive issues, irritable bowel syndrome, and an eating disorder. However, as you may know, when digestion is compromised, it causes a lot of other problems as well. I became extremely sensitive to computers and EMFs, which made it impossible for me to work in front of a screen for more than a couple hours at a time. Try getting a job in today’s society when you can’t work in front of a computer! It’s difficult.
Seratonin, dopamine, and other neurotransmitters which help you feel happy are made in your gut. Therefore, if you don’t have healthy intestines, you’re probably also battling depression, fatigue, and hopelessness. I certainly was.
I don’t mean to put all of this in the past tense. I still have challenges in this area, but after years (and thousands of dollars), I’ve become a lot better at managing my sensitive system. I’m able to function in the world— with a lot of self care needs that still sometimes drive me crazy.
Why am I sharing this?? I’m sharing because as difficult as the physical challenges were, there was an aspect that caused even more suffering:
I was ashamed that my body didn’t function the way I thought it was supposed to. I felt like my body inherently wasn’t good enough and I didn’t know why. I had a plethora of shame that I couldn’t heal everything. My internal voice jabbered, “If I only ate vegetable soup forever, I’m sure it would heal.” “I just need to find the right practitioner or natural remedy that will cure me.”
I was sure that I wasn’t doing enough, and I tortured myself for not being able to do the right things that my body needed.
On top of that, I also had shame about not being the productive, happy, spiritual girl that I thought I should be. I felt shame about the jobs I needed to take that weren’t in front a computer. I felt bad for the amount of rest and sleep I needed. I had shame that I was depressed even when I knew all the right “spiritual advice” for being fulfilled and content.
Blah! It was a mess.
Even with a few supportive people in my life, I couldn’t reconcile the shame because I wasn’t giving it a voice or directly addressing it. The shame seemed accurate enough that it was personally dangerous. I felt I had to hide it from others to be accepted at all, even if it was as the damaged girl that I was. I had to pretend that I wasn’t as broken as I felt.
Unfortunately, the impact of this strategy was that the shame covered up the real wounds underneath that needed true healing. I had childhood trauma that I hadn’t even looked at. I had pain that desperately wanted self-love that I stuffed deep down inside myself.
Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to allow shame to control us and make us hide our true self from others. How do we do this? We give our shame a voice, share it with others, and allow ourselves to heal within community. If we realize that this shame is not personal and not the all-knowing authority on our worthiness in the midst of health challenges, then we can inquire about the deeper layers of healing that are so desperately needed. We can also open to the soul growth and opportunities that may give divine purpose to our illness.
I know it takes so much courage to be seen in what feels to scary to show. Health challenges are hard on so many levels. However, I encourage you to share your shame with others in similar scenarios who can model the compassion and belonging you desire. It allows a massive layer of unnecessary suffering to fade, so that you can focus on what really matters— the true healing for your body, mind, and spirit— in whatever form that arises.
Join us on October 17 to heal shame within supportive community.