Today I choose to write about shame...because for me, it was very much related to tears.
Shame. It's a word that trembles with negative feeling. It's a word that has a lot of power. It's a word that I used to associate with my eating disorder.
I felt shame when I restricted, when I counted calories or felt crazy, when I threw away food that I couldn't bring myself to eat, when I worried my friends and family. But most of all, I felt shame when I cried.
When I cried, I felt so weak and so helpless and so out of control that I was absolutely disgusted with myself. I couldn't fathom someone being as stupid as I was. I couldn't understand how a girl with a brain could hurt her entire family and all her dear friends by continuing on a path of self destruction. It wasn't rational. It was shameful. At least in the eyes of a girl struggling with anorexia.
My shame when I cried overpowered me. I took to crying in private, waiting until doors were locked and my dorm room/apartment/bathroom where empty and I was the sole occupant. I cried in the shower. I cried in bed at night, in the dark, silently, when my room mate was but feet away in her own bed. But sometimes--when my life and my emotions and my pain became too much--I cried in front of someone. And that was when the shame flooded my face with heat and made me wish I were dead. If I cried in front of a friend, I would instantly apologize over and over again. I would shake my head and cover my face as though to say, "Don't look at me!" If I cried in front of my parents, it was worse still. I had to walk--no, run--away; the shame was just too great.
Once, I cried in front of an eating disorder therapy group of which I was a member. All eyes were on me. I was explaining something or telling some weekly tale, and out came the tears in a torrential cascade. I was mortified. And the therapists and participants alike were stunned--because they'd never seen me cry before. I couldn't SPEAK for the rest of the group session; I was so overcome with shame. Shame had in me in a fierce and unyielding grasp.
I'll never forget the time I cried in front of my former therapist. I had been going to her for about 2 years at that point. One particular day, she was prodding me about something that was a tender point. I was getting angry. I was getting upset. I was getting... overwrought. I was becoming a mess. I let go. I cried. I bawled. I couldn't stop and I couldn't speak for a moment or two. I played my old game of covering my tear-sodden face with my hands and apologizing. When I looked at my therapist again, she was smiling. No, grinning. I was dumbstruck. But I'll never forget what she said to me: "I can finally see YOU. The real you." I questioned her with my disbelieving eyes and she said, "Finally you are giving me something. You're not closing off or holding it in. You're crying. Sometimes you need to cry." It had a real effect on me.
I've since transformed her words to mean: "Sometimes you need to cry in order to get better." I've learned that being ashamed of something real serves no purpose and will only keep you from gaining ground. I've also learned that by crying, you can get out some of the bad that's inside and make room for the good. I applied this whole concept and attitude to my eating disorder in general. So much shame enveloped me that I couldn't get past what was going on inside me. I had to come to terms with the shameful behaviors and feelings in order to move forward.
Shame is a dirty word. An anagram for shame is: has me. And have me it did. I think of that when I feel shame about something. I don't want to be had by anything. I want to turn it around. If eating disorder = shame, then it stands to reason that if you get rid of the shame, you are that much closer to getting rid of the eating disorder. It certainly was an important step for me.