A Word on Shame

Shame Quote

As Brene Brown would say, this weekend I suffered from the worst vulnerability hangover ever. After my unfortunate Friday night experience, all I wanted to do was go and hide. I replayed the events of that night over and over and over again and could only think one thing – “Lord, have mercy.”

You see, not only did I feel bad about how things went, my mind led me to a place that went beyond embarrassment to pure shame. I totally passed over the thought of “Oh, well, maybe it will be better next time” and headed straight to “See you are not good enough. You really are a fraud. You can’t do this. You are bad.” Continue reading

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A Word on Worthiness

I am WorthyI was asked to be a part of a Good Friday service by a woman who I greatly respect and admire. I am growing as a preacher – am very good with content and am working on delivery because I want to appeal to black church communities. That being said, I was equal parts nervous and excited about this opportunity, which featured seven women in total who were from various faith traditions.

I prepared for the sermon like I do any other sermon. I took time studying, praying, reflecting and writing. As I crafted my message, I felt the Spirit move over and through me. This is a sure sign that I’m operating in my gift and as the words came to life on my manuscript I felt confident that the message that I was given was the one that God had intended.

Then came Friday. Leading up to the worship service, I had fleeting thoughts of insecurity, but I brushed them off. However, when I arrived at the church, every feeling and thought I ever had about not being worthy, not being good enough, not belonging came roaring to life. I literally hid in the bathroom after I arrived because I felt so out-of-place. The anxiety was rising and I though to myself, “How in the hell did I get here? Why do I think that I belong here? I can’t do this.” Continue reading

YOU.

Hey You…

Yeah, you. The one with the sad eyes. The one that carries shame. The one whose heart is is broken. The one who can never believe the good because she’s always waiting for the bad. The one who has no patience with herself. The one who wishes she could be more, do more, love more…always more.

YesYou001

You, the one who feels so alone, even when you are surrounded by people, sights and sounds.

You, who wears a mask so as not to alarm those around you.

You, who hides from
yourself because of a reality that causes you pain.

You, who seeks out ways to run from that which hurts you, from those who know you, from things that can heal you.

Yes, you.

You, the one who was created in the image of the Divine.

You, the one who was molded and shaped and formed by hands and a heart that knew you before you were you.

You, who is gifted and loved and powerful beyond measure.

You, who just wants to be loved.

Yes, you.

Love,

Me

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Sunday through Saturday, September 8-14, 2013 surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2013. The theme this year is: Challenging our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911. 

Secret Shame

This piece was written for ShePreaches Magazine, an online publication for african american women for which I am a columnist. In honor of suicide prevention week, I will be posting daily in order to provide information and inspiration. If there is something that you would like to share, please contact me. Thank you for being the loyal readers that you are. We, not one of us, are not alone…

Love,

Me

Secret Shame Image

On August 19, 2013, actor Lee Thompson Young was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment. His cause of death was ruled a suicide. Lee was a twenty-nine year old black male who seemed to have a bright future ahead of him in Hollywood.  Lee died due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A suicide note was not left behind and his family, friends and co-workers were all shocked by his death.

On June 13, 2012, the body of writer Erica Kennedy was found in her Miami Beach, Florida home. Erica was a publicist, fashion and entertainment writer and book author who also happened to be the best friend of Kimora Lee Simmons. Erica was a forty-three year old black woman who was a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College. More information surrounding her death was never released but it is believed that Erica committed suicide, most likely because of an ongoing, secret battle with depression. Much like Lee Thompson Young’s death, Erica’s death sent shockwaves through her community of family and friends.

Suicide is rarely spoken about within the black community. One might say that discussing it is taboo. I think it goes a step further than just being taboo. It is a secret shame….

To continue reading, please click here to see the whole piece that was written for ShePreaches Magazine.

National Suicide Prevention Week is the Sunday through Saturday, September 8-14, 2013 surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10, 2013. The theme this year is: Challenging our Assumptions and Moving Forward Together. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please call 911. 

The Danger of Self Loathing

Trigger Alert: If you are someone you know is contemplating suicide, please seek help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a free and anonymous service. Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-273-8255 or visit http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org. 

Selfhatred (also called selfloathing) refers to an extreme dislike or hatred of oneself, or being angry at or even prejudiced against oneself.

Not_Good_Enough_by_graphiqual

I thought I’d never get to that point again. I guess that’s the danger of thinking you’ve overcome something. I still have a lot to learn and realize that my family’s involvement in AA* (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA* (Narcotics Anonymous) has a lot to teach me. Never stop thinking that you are an addict. You are an addict. You might be in recovery, but the moment you think you’ve conquered your addiction is the moment you fall off the wagon. That being said, I thought I was over feelings of wanting to die.  Until last week.

Self loathing and shame are powerful emotions, ones that lie and lead one to think that they are worthless. And truth be told, they are the two emotions that I have battled much of my life. I don’t know where it comes from, but I have constantly thought that I was unworthy. I could never make a mistake. I was never good enough. All of these thoughts have fueled my desire to further my education and constantly seek to be better. All in all, these aren’t bad things to seek but I’ve learned that the motivations – self loathing and shame – are deadly.

My desire for to be perfect leads me to have zero tolerance about making mistakes and I am inherently ungracious towards myself. More about this thing called grace later…

This past week, everything that I feared became a reality – making a public mistake, disappointing people that I care deeply about, engaging a man in an unhealthy relationship, scaring my closest friends – you name it, it happened. Basically it was one of the worse weeks of my life. And the feeling of wanting to disappear, to leave and never come back, to die, returned.

I didn’t think I would ever be there again. I didn’t think that I would make decisions that would put me in danger. But I am realizing that the longer I go trying to cover up rather than embrace the dark side of myself, the easier it is for me to slip back into thinking that I am worthless. My tendency during these moments is to withdraw, to shut out loved ones and crawl into myself. I’ve found that my thinking is flawed during this time because my mind leads me to wonder why anyone would care. At my lowest moments, I believe this to be true. And this is dangerous.

I am thankful for the community of support that surrounds me in spite of myself. I am thankful for the women in my life who push through and don’t take no for an answer. I am thankful that my decisions did not lead to a point of no return. I am thankful that God’s grace abounds even as I struggle with it and can’t fully comprehend it.

I am continuing on this journey of healing – meeting with my therapist, taking my medication, getting back in shape, taking care of my body – but I realize that there will be setbacks.

My prayer is that feelings of worthlessness disappear as we look them in the eye and declare that they don’t have the last word over our lives.

My prayer is that I grow in grace and compassion towards myself and that you do the same.

My prayer is that love abounds – love of God, love of self and love of others – as I continue to realize my self worth.

Love,

Me

*Alcoholics Anonymous is an international mutual aid fellowship founded in 1935 by Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith in Akron, Ohio. AA states that its “primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety”. Narcotics Anonymous describes itself as a “nonprofit fellowship or society of men and women for whom drugs had become a major problem”.

For Everything There is a Season…

Today is Mother’s Day in the United States. It is a day that we celebrate our mothers. I have expanded my definition of mother to not just include my biological mother but also include the women in my life who “mother me” – those who provide guidance, encouragement, love, discipline, conviction and never-ending support. For me, these mothers are women of faith who care for themselves and their families. I am so grateful for each and every one of them.

Mother’s Day also brings out some darker emotions in me. I am a 31 soon-to-be- 32 year old divorcee who has yet to conceive a child. The assumption by most people is that I will have children at some point. I’ve always struggled with this because I am terrified of physically carrying a child and thoughts of what might happen to my fragile mental state paralyze me. I know now that I am at high risk for postpartum depression and other mental health issues because of my history. Pregnancy and the subsequent birth of a child will exacerbate these issues. However, there is something that happens this day each year, something that I’m quite ashamed to admit. I get a twinge of longing for the role and title of mother and feel like I’m not woman enough because I haven’t born a child. Then I feel guilty for focusing on myself on a day when so many others focus on the amazing women in their lives. And the cycle continues…So, I decided to write about my feelings today.

I had a glimpse of what it might be like to be a mother when I was married. My ex-husband has an amazing son from his first marriage and I was privileged to get to know this amazing child from the time he was three until he was ten. While he lived with his mother on a daily basis, he spent his summers and holidays with my ex-husband and I. During these times I fully embraced the mothering role and was amazed at how naturally certain things came to me. I began to care for and love this boy like he was my own. It was quite surprising to me and I lament that this relationship has been severed. I’ll probably write more on that later…

I’ve always struggled with what it means to be a woman. Is it defined by my gender? Is it defined by my participation in heteronormative relationships? Is it defined by certain characteristics? Is it defined by my role as wife? Is it defined by my role as mother? Is it defined by my desire to want to be a mother, wife or any other role that is lifted up as ideal?

Today at Shekinah Chapel, I heard a message that felt like it was meant just for me on this day. The preacher was a woman who preached on Proverbs 31. I must confess that this is one of my least favorite texts in scripture because of how it’s lifted up as how woman should be. I have always felt like if I’m not the Proverbs 31 woman, I am not woman at all. As the preacher began her message, I told myself to sit still and listen. And I am so glad I did.

The preacher talked about the text and connected it to the hats that we as women are expected to wear. She even used imagery at one point and placed six or seven different hats on her head. It was a powerful illustration because it showed how it’s not only impossible to wear more than one hat at a time but that it also looks just plain ludicrous. I appreciated this sermon on so many levels and my spirit resonated with the struggle that so many women face – to try and be all things to all people at all times and still maintain a certain attitude and character, which is often how Proverbs 31 is lifted up in communities of faith. Towards the end of the sermon, the preacher quoted Ecclesiastes 3 (see below) – For everything there is a season…

Before I knew it, tears started to fall. Even as I write this post, the tears well up in my eyes. But they are cleansing tears not tears of sorrow. I realized in the preached moment today that I am living in a certain season of life, one that has not called me to be a mother or a wife. I feel like I have always fought this reality and made apologies for why I was not living into these roles. Today, I felt like I had permission to shed any and every expectation of me that was not God given. God has blessed me in many ways and I know that I am walking in a season where I am called to be an advocate, a friend, a mentor, an aunt, a leader and a visionary. I am not called to be a mother or a wife right now. And for the first time, I truly believe that it’s ok…

For everything there is a season…

For those who have lost mothers…

For those who have had terrible relationships with their mothers…

For those who long to be a mother and their body’s won’t let them conceive…

For those who have suffered one or many miscarriages…

For those who feel like a failure because they have not become a mother…

For those who will never be mothers and don’t want to be…

For all women who struggle to define themselves against the ongoing tide of societal, cultural, familial expectation…

I pray. You are not alone.

Love,

Me

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:

seasonsOfLifea time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time…

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-11

It’s Time to STOP Planning

So I’ve failed miserably. Once again, I set the bar so friggin high and when I realized that I couldn’t reach it, I just stopped trying. You may remember at the beginning of Lent I had this amazing plan of reading and reflecting on Not Alone by Rev. Dr. Monica Coleman. I downloaded the book, set up a reading schedule and began what I thought would be an eye-opening Lenten journey. The last post I wrote was on Day 2. It’s now Day 20 something of Lent. Needless to say, I am behind.

I felt guilty. Once again, I feel ashamed. I’ve been here before. And I’ve written about this before. Damn…

I had an epiphany today. I am a HUGE Dr. Brene Brown fan. Like HUGE. Today I watched her with Oprah on the series Super Soul Sunday. As I am watching and tweeting and being blown away, I realized that I am continuing with patterns that are not serving me well. While I think I have this whole abundant living/embracing my shadow/being vulnerable thing down, I realized that I continue to self-sabotage by not being true to myself. How so?

I mapped out my Lenten plan and decided to take on the tasks of daily reading and reflecting during the craziest time of my life. I was hired for a new position, moved across the country, began a new job, am still looking for housing and am trying to stay on top of all of my wellness tools to make sure that I don’t head back to depressionville before my 10 year cycle is up. So why on earth would I take on one more thing? How unrealistic can I be? And that’s when it hit me – I set myself up by taking on too much and creating grandiose plans instead of living in the moment and embracing my reality.

Even as I had this thought I was like, but plans are important. If I don’t have a plan I won’t get things done. I have to dream big. What will people think? I’m realizing that for a person like me, with the issues, challenges and realities I face, planning and being unrealistic can be crippling and lead to a continued cycle of shame, depression and isolation.

So here’s what’s going to happen dear Shadow Lovers. I’m going to stop talking. I’m going to stop planning. I’m going to lean in and just be. That is the best thing I can do for myself. Join me?

Love,

Me