Trigger Warning: This post discusses concepts of guilt and shame. We are not always in a headspace to explore our own experiences with these emotions, check in with yourself before continuing below.
Walking a patient around the gym, I hold onto the gait belt loosely as they rock on all corners of their feet. A baby deer shuffling on ice, this patient speaks about a strained familial relationship they're mending while here for rehabilitation.
"Everyone has a chapter they don't read aloud," the words, profound and complicated, breeze easily from their lips as they struggle to manage the cane, their leg braces and thinking through each step.
The words loom around us and I spin them into order, making sense of a simple sentence.
In front of me, a chilling truth. There are pieces of ourselves we may decide to conceal to survive, and to someday thrive. While I am aware that the gift of life is tainted with negative thoughts, grief, regrets, shame, guilt etc, it had never been made so blatantly clear to me that each of us have this/these chapter(s). Moreover, though they are not in the table of contents, these chapters are never fully redacted from the story. Our story.
For myself, so many questions come up in consideration of these chapters. Should I share it? Should I burn it? Why doesn't it get read aloud if it's my story? Something lovely floats down from the rafters -- choice. And the knowledge that each of us holds these secrets close to our chest, or perhaps our on our sleeve, or weighing down our pockets.
In earnest, when I think about the chapter's I'd redact from my reading, I am enveloped with moments that I regret centered around shame and guilt. These heavy concepts are some that I don't often explore for they are anxiety provoking and I have yet to learn quite how to handle them. I offer only what I've learned recently from Chelsea Handler's Podcast, Dear Chelsea, where a caller simplified the concepts of guilt and shame. Guilt: I did something bad. Shame: I am bad. I have yet to open the wounds of my past to better understand these experiences, however this knowledge has provided me power already. As I continue to grow and unfold, I'm trepidatious of what may spill out. But held by the knowledge that I have choice to label these experiences.
I do want you to know that sharing your story, if you so choose and when the time is right for you, is uplifting to others who may be experiencing what you went through. And it may be healing but it may not be for you. It is a great burden to shelf those pieces of yourself, and it is a great burden to know we are all doing the same.
I believe you are good, worthy, smart and kind.