Erasing Shame

Dusk settled onto Santa Monica’s streets as I hung up the phone. Everything inside me cringed as blood rushed to my face, tears welling up in my eyes. I tucked my phone into my pocket and briskly walked, pretending to go somewhere. Confusion stammered each thought as the dark smog of shame hedged over my heart whispering the subtle lie, “You’re crazy. This is your fault. You are such a screw up; after years of therapy, you still cannot get a relationship right.” My stomach hurt, so I sat down and began to weep.

I had a blowup of the worst kind: a reenactment where my unearthed past collided with my present, pulling my heart and the others involved into an oblivion. It resulted in the end of a friendship with a woman with whom I shared deep community. I bore the responsibility for the breaking and the harm caused to others involved. Debris from the wreckage trailed back to my childhood, a familiar tale. As I recognized this connection, shame gripped my heart because I feared people I hold dear would see me as tainted and as crazy as my mother.

I was raised primarily by my mother, who stayed home with me after birth. My father spent his days working at his pharmacy. With no other siblings, it was just me and her. We shared moments that brought her enthrallment, where her imagination would come alive. She’d see things others could not and take me on frivolous excursions. Time did not concern her, so we were always late. She would flip on a dime: one moment kind and laughing, and the next moment violent, yelling and blaming me for something that never happened. Though I knew her face, there was no trust in the certainty of her thoughts or direction.

Sometimes I wonder if my entire childhood was just a part of her make-believe. Maybe she brought me into her hallucinations each day because those were her reality, and I was merely a part. Knowing little difference, I assumed all little girls’ mothers were like mine. Schizophrenia was not in my vocabulary at the age of 11, and I had no ability to associate such symptomatology to my primary attachment figure.

Normal is normal until belief is shattered. Mere minutes in the school pick-up line brought all childhood fairy tales of my mother to a screeching halt. Her internal world unraveled before the eyes of parents and classmates as she rudely shouted at my best friend Casey’s mom. Casey did not go home with me that day, or any other day after that. I cried in the backseat, pleading with my mother to apologize, but her anger only increased as she sped away. My friendship with Casey was never the same.

Years later, I can connect the two stories, and for the first time, I do so without the presence of shame.

I continue to wrestle in the fray of walking in friendship with women, which often includes a tug-of-war with shame. Once the wool was lifted from my eyes, however, I could see the truth of my past, which brought a finale to living the fable. Now, in processing this reenactment, I can look at my younger self and bend a knee to understand. My trauma history, once triggered, elicits a caveat of shame. Yet, I’ve found repentance is not letting shame win; instead, I walk the hard road of choosing kindness with my story and opening my heart to redemption.

Anna SmithAnna is passionate, a lover of God and sunrises. She is a wanna be poet and pour over coffee connoisseur. And in her garden she grows Drift Roses (of all things). She is a Master Level Social Worker and a 200 Registered Yoga Teacher. In 2012, along with her husband Chris, she co-founded Restore One, an anti-trafficking ministry that serves men and boys. Journeying through her own recovery process, she understands that healing is a painful yet beautiful path we must take to receive freedom. Anna believes healing is possible for everyone. Anna enjoys throwing pottery, writing and teaching yoga and spending time with Chris.