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The Covert Pain of Shame




David - Beach Trip.


These dreaded words pop up on my calendar once a year, and reading them always creates a pit in my stomach that I just can’t shake.


Every year since before I even met him, my husband has rented a beach house on the Texas coast with some of his friends for a few days to fish, crab, play cards, whatever. The group of friends has changed a little over the years, but the same core group always goes. My husband leads the planning of these trips, and he looks forward to going.


I, however, do not look forward to these trips. I dread them with probably every fiber in my being, which maybe seems dramatic. And that is actually the real point of this essay today: the drama.


I have been reflecting a lot over the past few years on why these trips are so difficult for me. Sure, it seems normal to miss your husband while he’s away, but why am I so devastated? Despite my feelings about the matter, there’s also a part of me that is happy for him that he has friends and has such a fun trip. Each year feels like I’ve been peeling away at the layers of an onion of this issue (Yes, I was a Shrek fan as a child, and I will always use the layers of an onion to describe a person), but I haven’t reached what has felt like the core yet.


Until this year, when actually David isn’t away on his beach trip, but at a work conference. In some ways, this trip made it a bit easier for me to process because he was going away for work, and I felt less like he was leaving me for something more fun than me. Regardless, I think I found a pretty big, stinking onion under a couple more layers.


What I think I’ve discovered is that the truth is that I just miss my husband a lot. And missing him feels kind of painful. Seems harmless and completely understandable, right?


Here’s the onion: I’m ashamed that I feel that way. Shame.


Shame is a funny thing in that way. For years, I’ve been reflecting and searching and thinking about this issue, and I couldn’t quite identify exactly what it was that was causing me so much pain. But all of a sudden, it hit me. I’m ashamed that I feel so sad when David leaves.


Shame is covert. It isn’t easily identifiable because it feels like a mess of anger and bitterness and sadness and grief. It feels a little different for everyone, and it’s rooted in something different for everyone. It’s difficult to find because it takes a lot of self-reflection and self-awareness. And even for those of us who spend a lot of time reflecting on emotions and on ourselves for our (literal) living, it’s tricky to name.


Which is why I thought it was important enough to write about today. As soon as I recognized that I was feeling ashamed of something, and I could name what I was ashamed of… it almost seemed silly. Why would I be ashamed of having a feeling, especially a feeling that I’m sure most anyone would have? And when I decided to try to let go of that shame, I felt a heck of a lot better.


Is it gone completely? No, of course not. I still feel pretty crappy that he won’t be back for four more days, and I certainly don’t want to publish this blog until he’s back so others won’t know I’m suffering. There’s no shame off-switch. This is clearly an ingrained issue that I will need to continue to face, not only while David is gone on trips, but probably in tons of other avenues in my life as well. Feeling ashamed of my own emotions probably has echoes of repercussions that I’m not even aware of yet. But what matters today is that I found it. I see it now.


Shame is covert, and when it’s found, it loses a little of its power over us. And that feels like an amazing first step towards healing.


 



Ally Kennedy, LPC

Ally Kennedy works primarily with neurodivergent people of all ages (including Autism, ADHD, learning differences, etc.). She also enjoys working with adolescents and adults struggling with anxiety. Ally serves as the Clinical Associate at our center, working behind the scenes to help develop and maintain new programs.

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