Embarrassment is my strongest kryptonite.
When I am shamefully embarrassed I can go straight from happy go lucky to suicidal with no in between time.
I’m okay with mild embarrassment about lots of things, ie acting like a dickhead on the internet, wearing my hair brightly coloured – you know, controlled embarrassment, I chose to put myself in that situation and I’m ok with people judging me or laughing at me because of it, I’m expressing myself and not everyone will like that, but it’s part of the territory, right?
For me, soul crushing shameful embarrassment occurs when something I do, think or believe is beyond my conscious control occurs because of me or I do something accidentally to cause people to believe I am a horrible person when I didn’t intend to be and it kicks me square in the head, I find it all consuming and very difficult to separate myself from the situation or issue.
For some stupid reason, or even a bunch of reasonable reasons dating back to various childhood traumas, I deeply care about what others think of me, the real me. Not my silly YouTube persona or my blue hair- primarily I don’t want them thinking I’m mean or attention seeking.
Due to some deep seeded childhood issues, to be either one of those things makes me feel completely unworthy of being alive.
Yes, I am an extrovert by nature and well yes, I write a blog, so perhaps I am a bit of an attention seeker, (remember to follow & like 😉) but that’s okay with me because I can rectify it in my mind by admitting that I like getting comments and feedback and interacting with people, besides if they don’t like it they don’t have to read it. But I guess then I am a slightly closeted attention seeker because I don’t share these things with people in my ‘real life’.
I don’t cope well when I am embarrassed about doing the wrong thing, if I am depressed then that is multiplied by a million, if a car beeps its horn at me for taking too long at the traffic light I feel like my world has collapsed a little, the shame and guilt for inconveniencing or upsetting someone overwhelms me and I can end up with an anxiety attack from it, when I get really bad if I had a gun handy, it would be enough of a final straw to get me to pull the trigger. I have taken the blame for two car accidents that weren’t technically my fault because I was so embarrassed and shocked that I assumed they must have been. (One of them I was in a parked car. – Yes, my insurance company hates me!)
The embarrassment I am most fearful of these days is, I am ashamed to say, still related largely to mental health or social stigma. Fear of being judged if I ever spoke about depression or having suicidal thoughts, fear of being labelled ‘crazy’ or ‘weak’ by friends, relatives or even as “just attention seeking” by doctors. Perhaps when I was younger it was thinking that I was a middle class, straight, white girl from a good suburb that made me feel unworthy of feeling sad therefor unworthy of seeking help, I felt sure that if I asked for help people would just see my ‘great life’ and assume I was a spoilt little girl wanting even more. “There are starving kids in Africa you know!”
I decided early on in childhood that if I made a suicide attempt, I would make damn sure that it would be 100% affective so nobody could taunt me. When I finally decided to enact one of the thousand suicide plans I had whirling around my broken brain and while I did that to the best of my ability and available resources, circumstances beyond my control meant that my attempt failed. When I came to in the ICU department days later and slowly got my bearings I felt a combination of numb nothingness and guilty embarrassment but thankfully nobody accused me of just ‘attention seeking’.
The other major cause of embarrassment in my life is having these psychosomatic physical symptoms that I whinged about incessantly here. These make me feel ashamed because I feel like I should bloody well be able to just STOP it, although I am learning I can no more talk myself out of that than I can talk myself out of bipolar disorder, it’s hard because I feel like an attention seeking fraud when I reach for the heat pack, complain about my aches and pains or struggle to hand write a letter. It infuriates me that natural childbirth came easy to me yet I can’t seem to cope with a pain that I have essentially “made up” in my mind. Because I never know if anything I feel is real or not, frankly unless I’ve got an obvious physical issue, like a bone sticking out of my skin then I really don’t want to go anywhere near a doctor because they will just roll their eyes and assume I’m attention seeking.
That fear of particularly doctors, a profession I grew up having the greatest respect for, judging me, looking at each other and thinking I’m a fraud or a liar just makes me feel humiliated and stupid, I want to crawl into a hole and die making sure of course to die ‘properly’ so that I cannot be revived and accused of attention seeking! The symptoms might not kill me, but the embarrassment and shame connected with it has come close a couple of times!
As I am learning to understand myself better I am also slowly learning how to forgive myself, particularly learning to forgive that young me, the little child who was just doing the best she could with what she had. I am learning that the coping mechanisms she used such as using self hatred and self harm were a paradoxical form of protection from fear and embarrassment. (Hate and belittle yourself before someone else does then at least you get perceived control over the situation) I now know that they served their purpose fairly effectively at the time but they are not healthy and no longer necessary and I am learning new tools and healthy coping methods.
I am also learning and better yet starting to believe, that things that go wrong aren’t automatically my fault. I still have a way to go with this embarrassment anxiety issue, but for the first time in my life I genuinely feel that it’s something I can conquer and something I deserve to conquer, and that already feels like a win.
How well do you cope with embarrassment?
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Sarah K Reece
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