This is How to Deal with Shame

Godzilla is Coming!

I have decided to go to school to get a degree in Psychology.  I work as a Community Service Officer and Police Dispatcher at our local college so my tuition is covered, and I really like learning what makes people tick.

One of my favorite authors is Brenè Brown.  I just finished listening to her book “Men, Women and Worthiness.”

Worthiness is “A need and yearning to belong.  To be a part of something.  To believe that who we are matters and that people want to be with us.”  To our ancestors, there was deep importance to belonging and fitting into a group, it meant survival.  We are “hardwired” to need to belong and be worthy of being part of a group.  Damn my DNA!

“Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging.”

Brenè Brown introduced me to the meaning of shame.  I had no idea there was name a for the monster within me; my own personal Godzilla.  Shame is the feeling that “I am a bad person.”  This is a feeling I have struggle with for years.  Shame is what prompted me to start this blog.  I was trying to find ways to get Godzilla out of my chest where he was tearing me up, inside out.

Godzilla, Your Name is Shame!

My Godzilla has lived with me for decades.  I battle him constantly, never really winning the battle, just hiding him from the world.  I felt it would be shameful (ironic, huh) to let anyone know that there was such a fierce battle going on inside me…no one would understand.  I felt alone, trapped by my Godzilla and powerless against it…and in pain.

The problem with not knowing there was a real name for Godzilla, shame, is I could not effectively fight against it.  Thank goodness in her book Brenè also acquaints me with some strategies to build “shame resilience”.

First was to identify my shame triggers.  I found my triggers were many…motherhood, appearance, weight, financial status, employment and even cookie skills.  These can all trigger feelings of failure and unworthiness for me.

Second was to know what it felt like to be in shame.  Shame causes the same “fight, flight or freeze” response associated with danger.  For me that was severe anxiety, sweating, and rapid heart rate…panic.  This is a limbic system reaction to shame, which over-rides the prefrontal cortex which is where we think, rationalize and solve problems (mine I think must be pretty darn flabby because it does not get enough exercise and is frequently over-ridden by the limbic system).

Third is to normalize our shame.  Not “I am a bad person” but “I made a bad choice.”

Fourth is to reach out to others.  Shame thrives on secrecy.  If we do not share our pain by reaching out we feel alone and shame keeps its control of us.  Believe me, I have about 30 decades of experience in secrecy and it got me NO WHERE.

Finally, is to speak shame.  There are several actions people take when they are in shame similar to “fight, flight or freeze”.  Fight would be acting out with rage, anger, attack language such as belittling.  Flight would be dropping of the grid, hiding and secrecy (my MO).

Shame on Me…

As mentioned, I started this blog before I knew my Godzilla had a name.  But I was definitely in shame when I started it.  I knew that this month I was going to come up short on the rent.  I have been struggling, and slowly sinking financially for a few months.  This was escalating my feelings of shame.  I felt like a failure and I was hiding that from everyone.  So all that clutter in my head was Godzilla stomping around and trashing my self esteem.  It was sort of a vicious cycle.  I would start panicking about how I was going to come up with the money and sinking deeper inside my own head.

After finishing Brenè’s book this morning I promptly sent an email off to my landlord explaining the situation.  I even outlined that I was shamed and why.  I am not sure what her reaction is going to be yet, and the scary part is my lease is up for renewal in a few months and if she does not renew my lease that brings a whole new set of problems to deal with, and yes, shame because I not only fail myself, but several of my family members.  But secrecy is not going to solve anything and so today I name my shame and prepare to do battle…at least a battle I am confident I can fight effectively now.  I am win the battle, the war…not so sure yet.

Comments, thoughts?

Working Moms

I was a working mom before divorce, and I worked very hard while married, working a full-time job and a part-time job at times.  I always provided the medical benefits for our family during our marriage so a full time job was necessary.  There were times that my husband was unemployed, so I would work two jobs to make ends meet.

I had worked as a police dispatcher for 6-1/2 years when I was younger. I left that and started working from home as a medical transcriptionist, which helped me to earn money while raising my family.

That created some unique issues for me.  I spent about 16 years at home with very little social contact other than my family.  I became a homebody, and not in a good way, in a shower-once-a-week, never-wear-makeup, always-in-sweats sort of way….hmmm, maybe that had something to do with the demise of my marriage too?

After my divorce I was forced by financial need to get out, meet people and find a job to make some real money.  I found I suffered from social anxiety and actually would have panic attacks at the thought of going out in public alone, but financial need and my motherly instinct to provide for my children forced me to learn to put on makeup (looking back, there were some funny makeup mishaps I can laugh at now), do my hair and look presentable.

After the divorce I continued to be a working mom, working even harder because now I did not have his full paycheck to supplement mine yet now had a large financial burden. Yes, there was child support regularly coming in. My ex has always been good about child support, but I was struggling to make ends meet because child support is never the same money you are use to having access to while married.

I tried working as a server. I loved having cash in my hand when I ended a shift, but I was a failure at it. I was not good at getting guests in and out quickly, something my 2 oldest daughters (who were experienced servers at the time) had explained to me was necessary to earn good tips. I liked talking to the guests and getting to know them. If you ask my daughters, they say I talk too much, but I see that as a positive thing, not the embarrassment they view it as.  I loved getting to know people because after working from home for 16 years, people were a new experience for me and I was enjoying it.

I was easily overwhelmed when things got really busy. Go figure, since serving my large family, I thought for sure, would prepare me for the rigors of serving…NOT!  I screwed up orders, I cried…I got my feelings hurt…was not pleasant.  Looking back, I was just like a kid…not attractive for a 40-something woman!

Currently, I work 2 part time police dispatch jobs and make a little extra money selling custom cookies from my website.  Things do get busy, bordering overwhelming, but I have developed coping skills that help me to push through productively during that time, not meltdown into a sobbing puddle of uselessness.  I do not have time for useless behavior, I need to make money and be productive.

Some of the things that I have found to be truly helpful with keeping me from getting overwhelmed, are:

1.  Lists, to-do, every day I try to make a list the night before of what I need to get done the next day.  This is so helpful to give me purpose in the morning and not waste time.

2.  I put appointments, cookie orders, my work schedule and kids events in my iPhone calendar with reminders.  This keeps me from forgetting where I need to be and when, and from getting caught of guard.

I would love to hear how you keep yourself organized and on task!  Please share in the comments below!

Mother’s Day Mania

Mother’s Day is quite meaningful all on it’s own, but when you are the mother of 5 daughters, the grandmother to 3, and 1 more on the way (grandbaby, no more kids for me thank you!), it takes the meaning to a whole new level. Throw in the mix work, a first prom and a birthday, and you have a superstorm of activity.

Yesterday my day started at 5a getting up and ready for my shift as a police dispatcher.  I got off at 3p knowing I needed to rush home to change out of uniform and into regular clothes to rush my daughter Karyn to her date’s house for pictures for her first prom, then rush home to start dinner for my daughter Kiona’s birthday.  Of course, nothing can ever go smoothly.  As I got ready to leave work I could not find my keys.  In the office I pawed through the contents of my purse, no keys.  I recalled when I got to work in the morning my hands were full, it was possible I left my keys in the car.  Walked out to my vehicle, peered in through the windows, no keys.  Back inside it is now 3:15p and I am beginning to feel stressed.  I dump out the contents of my purse on the file cabinet and I hear the jingle of my keys, but I do not see them.  Reaching in I realize there is a tear in the lining of my purse that has swallowed my keys, REALLY?!

Keys in hand, purse all askew, I rush to my car, jump in, text Karyn that I am on my way.  Get home, rush up the stairs to change clothes and use the bathroom.  While I am in the bathroom Karyn starts telling me to rush.  Geez…can’t a girl even pee around here?  Guess not.

We make it to her date’s home 30 minutes behind schedule.  Story of my life, always behind schedule.  As I stood on the lawn of her date’s home for pictures I felt sadden that while both her date’s parents were present, it was only her mom who was there for her.  Sigh.  My new normal, gotta get use to it still.

Karyn's Prom 05 10 14

Karyn & Matthew – Prom 05/10/2014

No time to chat or enjoy my daughter’s beauty…gotta rush home to tend to dinner and start the birthday festivities.  The joys of a large family, and I mean that sincerely…I love having a large family.  As I drive home I struggled with the thought of whether I should text my ex-husband, their father, to remind him of the birthday like I did when we were married.  I had continued to do that since our divorce, but decided earlier this year that it was not my job anymore to act as his secretary and remind him of important dates in our daughters’ lives.  But as the day wore on and he failed to wish our daughter happy birthday I began to feel horrible.  I know she felt forgotten by him, because he had wished her sisters happy birthday in January and in March (I had reminded him), but I hoped that he would prove me wrong and had not forgotten.

Kiona's Birthday  - 05/10/2014

Kiona & me – Birthday – 05/10/2014

Since my divorce, this is when I feel the most sadness, when I see what my ex is missing out on in our daughters’ lives.  I struggle with the idea of just letting him fall on his face in their eyes by failing to wish them happy birthday, happy graduation and even just letting weeks go by without speaking to them.  Or should I protect my girls from that pain by constantly reminding him to reach out to them and fill him in on the important events coming up.

I love being a mother.  My daughters are my greatest accomplishments.  I feel very successful at being a mother.  Since my divorce I have made mistakes as a mother, but they are behind me.  Today I am reminded of my strength as a woman, having given birth to 5 beautiful, unique young women who are smart, funny, and caring individuals.  They have proven to be my saving graces.

I would like to hear your opinion, do I keep reminding him of important dates and events, or no?  Leave a comment below.

Moms, THIS is your truth, embrace it!

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Once a Mom, always a Mom

Divorce does not change that fact *

I have been divorced 3-1/2 years after a 23-year marriage.  Like so many others before me, I never thought I would actually find myself divorced.  My marriage was a struggle, but my life had always been a struggle of one sort or another, so my marriage was familiar dysfunction.  We are both responsible for the demise of our marriage, I am not going to make the mistake of trying to place blame.  I can only speak for myself here, and I know I did the best with what I knew at the time.

During the divorce and for about 2 years following the finalization of the divorce, I made mistakes…emotional, behavioral, moral, parenting, employment, financial…you name it, I can guarantee I screwed it up during this period.  Now that I some what have my wits about me, and I say some what because I know there are those close to me that would argue I have my wits about me at all, EVER…jokingly I’m sure…I just want to improve.  I want to grow and be happy, and have my daughters be happy.  I want to improve my financial situation, my employment situation, my future and my relationships with my daughters.

This blog is going to be about the journey from damaged and destructive to empowered and productive.  I will try to keep looking forward, because that is the direction I am heading.  My goal is to hopefully relieve the pressure in my mind, my heart and my soul by getting out all the thoughts that clutter those spaces and put them out here to wish them well and let me move on.

In looking back over my journey to this spot here and now, over the last 3-1/2 years, the one constant is me…I made the mistakes, I made the bad judgement calls, and I tripped myself up.  So I need to be the one to get out of my own way and start moving towards my dreams and goals…a healthy, happy, prosperous me.

Please feel free to share your comments and thoughts with me…I would love to hear your story.  Check back, because it’s going to get interesting from here on out!

* borrowed from a fabulous blog