Shame, Community, and Recovery

By Anastasia BelJuly 7, 2016

Shame: (n.) a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.

From the time I was 16 until I was almost 23, shame ruled my life. How could someone who was given so much in life feel so hopeless? How could someone who seemed to have it all together be struggling with addiction?

No one can know I’m struggling.

Is this pain ever going to end?

I am beyond help.

No one will care if I’m gone.

These were the thoughts that ran through my mind the week leading up to my suicide attempt. When I thought I had adequately pushed my friends away and convinced myself that they would be better off without me, I locked myself in my house and attempted to end the pain.

When I felt like I would soon be closing my eyes forever, I got a text from a close friend saying, “Open your front door.” I had texted her one-word responses all night hoping she would leave me alone. My inebriated self couldn’t fully grasp this text.

Why is she here? I can’t open my front door; it’ll be synonymous with opening the door to my secrets. If I open the door, my lies will come flooding out.

My friend texted me again. I began to panic but stumbled to the door and opened it.

Shame said, “Don’t drag anyone into your problems.”

Shame told me, “You’re not worthy of hope.”

Shame whispered, “You are never going to get better.”

Shame screamed, “You don’t deserve help!”

Community: (n.) a unified body of individuals.

She said we needed to talk. I tried to build another wall as fast as I could and acted like everything was fine, but she already knew about my self-injury. Everything I had struggled with for the past seven years was on the table, and I felt exposed. She made me promise her I would start going to counseling.

That night I learned that your community doesn’t leave you when you’re hurting. When you hurt, they hurt with you. But your community doesn’t only empathize with you; your community also supports you while you fight for freedom.

Community said, “No one is ever truly alone.”

Community told me, “You impact people’s lives.”

Community whispered, “You are important.”

Community screamed, “You are loved!”

Recovery: (n.) the act or process of returning to a normal state after a period of difficulty; the return of something that has been lost or stolen.

For me, recovery started with talking to one friend. Then it involved seeing a counselor and a psychiatrist. Now I know recovery will be a lifelong adventure, and the more I learn about my ability to recover, the more I understand how important it is to be outspoken about the reality of mental illness. I am not alone in my fight, and it’s important for others to know that as well.

Recovery said, “Mental illness is not a character flaw.”

Recovery told me, “Your story is significant.”

Recovery whispered, “You shouldn’t be ashamed of your past.”

Recovery screamed, “Your story is one to be shared.”

Shame told me I could never change. Community proved my friends and family were there for me. Recovery taught me the importance of speaking out about mental illness.

I hope you know you are not alone.

I hope you know you are loved.

I hope you learn to let go of stigma.

I hope you let your community embrace you.

And I hope you learn to believe that recovery can be yours.

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Comments (8)

  1. Alexis

    What a beautiful and inspiring story…thank you for sharing it. Humans are more resilient than they give themselves credit for.
    Anyway, I was naturally drawn to this wonderful article because my best friend is deeply depressed and suicidal, and despite the help she’s been given, she remains depressed. I truly hope that one day, she can come to the realization that you’ve come to, because she doesn’t deserve to feel so ashamed about her existence. I care about her very much, and it’s painful to watch her convince herself time and time again that she is worthless, that she is unlovable, that she deserves and wants to die…but ultimately I can’t fix the situation. I should probably elaborate. What I mean is that I can be there for her, I can check up on her, I can hug her and I can call a Suicidal Hotline as I have in the past, but if she attempts suicide without my knowledge, I can’t save her unless by chance – that’s how much she wants to end her life. I’ve learned in the past couple of years that if someone is desperate enough, they will do practically anything to reach their goal. Sometimes I see myself as this friend figure you describe – the person who came to your door and, in a very profound way, saved you – but other times I perceive myself as not strong enough, not capable enough, to ultimately do anything to help when it’s all said and done. Depression, despite being a very common illness, is also very misunderstood and, when it becomes chronic, it’s nearly impossible to heal. I know that’s a cynical perspective, but depression and suicidal ideation thrives off of constant rumination, self-hatred, and sometimes even years of despair, and unless the sufferer actively decides to survive and hopefully even live life again, it will continue to persist (luckily, you have reached that conclusion, and I’m glad that you did – what an amazing story…that’s great). But realistically, I don’t see my friend healing any time soon, if at all. I’m sure that’s my resentment, sadness, and resignation talking, but she’s attempted suicide four to five times in the past nine months (she tried a few times at a mental ward she was sent to, but of course she was stopped before she could even begin, but that in itself shows how determined she was to kill herself). I don’t know what to do anymore. It becomes more difficult to will myself to be hopeful about such a hopeless and dire situation.

    Reply  |  
    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Alexis,

      We’re so sorry to hear about your friend’s struggles. Would you mind emailing us at [email protected] and include this comment? We’d love to send you some words of encouragement and see if we can help.

      Reply  |  
  2. Nate

    Thank you for writing this. Shame effects all of us especially when we deny its existence.

    Reply  |  
  3. Anayah

    Very beautiful written 🙂
    So glad to learn that you found your light. Let this light always shine for you and for everyone else who is in need. Pray for hope.

    Reply  |  
  4. Darla

    For me, “Shame’s” voice is usually the loudest. But, “Community” is turning up the volume.

    Reply  |  
  5. Northstar

    I had suffered from depression and anxiety for many years and I kept it to myself. One day I told someone who I though was understanding and I was told that it is all in your head and get out of it. That’s community for you.

    Reply  |  
    1. Bellla

      Hi northstar
      I’m sorry your feelings and experiences were so belittled. Everyone deserves to be met with compassion, kindness and love. Unfortunately lots of people have experiences like you mentioned. However, that’s the wonderful thing about humanity, people are individuals. Yes some sucky person reacted badly, and the consequences of which can be hideous, but not everyone is like that person. I’m not. I bet you’re not. I know it’s hard, really hard, but I really hope you can find a way to not judge everyone by that one person. You deserve support and friendship.
      I send you love and prayers
      God bless

      Reply  |  
  6. Josefine

    i told my mom a story about a youtuber who had struggled with depression, and how that had inspired me, and all she sais was: “do you really think it’s heathy for you to hear someone talk about that when you tell us you are hurting that much?!” and all i could think was that she were a bitch for saying that, but now i get it… she were afraid… afraid of me going back to that dark place, afraid of finding me in the middle of a breakdown again… afraid of me… afraid of my mental illness

    Reply  |  
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