One therapists’ ongoing fight with shame

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Sometimes I can be my own worst enemy.

*Shaking my head* So, I bought a concert ticket to go see a show about two hours from my house. The ticket was $50. As someone who still struggles with social anxiety it is not uncommon for me to make plans and then rationalize not going. It was a big deal to buy one ticket and know that I was going alone, but I was really looking forward to this show.

I woke up feeling happy anticipation and put their music on my ipod as I started getting ready. Now, this is Los Angeles and it’s Thanksgiving week and President Obama was in town (for those of us with anxiety, all of these factors build up into a big deal). I decided to leave early in the day and get past all of the traffic traps on the 405 before rush hour started.

I walked out to my car and it wouldn’t start. If you have never experienced shame anxiety, I cannot possibly describe the heart-wrenching feeling that came next. In that moment I did not experience just the car not starting. I experienced every loss and every failure I had ever had in my whole life…in one moment. I quickly thought that I could call roadside assistance or I could call a cab to a rental car company. However, I also figured how much that would cost and could not justify spending more on a cab and a rental car than I did for the cost of the ticket. I came back in the house defeated and overwhelmed.

Initially I tried to call my husband who seems to be a magician in situations like these, but my unwillingness to spend more on transportation trumped my knowledge that he would insist I get in a cab and go to a rental car company. Instead I became my own worst enemy. I stopped functioning and just thought about NOTHING ever works out for me and how EVERYTHING always goes wrong. Even though I knew it was true, I allowed myself to go down the “Everything is bad” Highway. Nothing good ever comes from this, ha ha. 🙂

After my self-induced pity party I called my husband, the magician. He immediately sprung into action, but with Los Angeles traffic I could not meet his enthusiasm. I was in full eyeore mode. My husband’s compromise was to buy another ticket for tonight’s show over in Las Vegas. Now I have $90 ticket for a show 5 hours away and still no transportation, ha ha ha. As I write this my mind is computing 10 hours worth of gas, the cost of a cab to get a car, plus the cost of a rental car the day before Thanksgiving and making a five-hour drive from Vegas to LA in the middle night. Man, that’s worse than yesterday’s problem. But that is the way shame and social anxiety work.

Shame convinces us that we aren’t worth it and that our lives are crap and that the problems aren’t fixable. The anxiety that comes with shame prevents us from reaching out to others who could help us. The anxiety silences us because even to talk about shame hurts and talking about anxiety hurts. Then we feel isolated and alone, which hurts even more. We do not have to suffer in silence. There are others out there who would care about us if we let them.

If only I had moved into action earlier in the day while I still had time to fix the situation.

If only I believed I was worth the cost of a silly rental car.

If only ______________________.

I’m tired of saying, “if only”, how about you?

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