“Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage, and confidence in the doing.”
What about yourself makes you feel so ashamed, so scared, that you would go to any length to hide it?
The one thing that you think you’ve succeed in forgetting, until it returns to haunt you again in some unsuspecting moment.
I know it’s in you, because it’s in all of us; just under a different name.
Maybe yours is called a childhood memory, or an affair that you are hoping will never re-surface, the guilt that won’t fade away, a compulsive habit that you are trying hard to control…
Or maybe it’s your sexual identity or the gnawing sense of emptiness in your marriage.
Whatever it is that you are running away from, you are not alone.
You’re probably wondering how I am so sure. I’m sure because I ran away from it too.
I am 36 years old and I spent the first 26 years of my life trying desperately to convince myself and my family that I was heterosexual.
I was so scared of being gay, and so ashamed of my feelings, that I literally thought I must be a weirdo. The fact that I was raised in a culture where even thinking this was a huge sin, added to the shame and disgust I felt for myself.
So what do you do when you are a first born in an Indian family and your mom is dead and everyone is looking to you to be the torch bearer of the family?
You stuff it all in and get married right? Well that’s what I thought. So I did. It is the single biggest regret of my life.
Long story short, I couldn’t run away from it. Finally breaking down, I went to a therapist and learnt about myself, let go of the feelings of shame, and slowly, painstakingly became whole.
And what I want to tell you is: You can do it too. However much it scares you, the only way to find peace is to face it. If you don’t, it will find you in your worst moments and you will regret, like I did, not having faced up to it sooner.
Are you thinking “Well what if MY thing is something that no one will ever understand? What if it’s so terrible that were I to admit it, it would destroy my life?”
Trust me, even if you have the scariest impulses, or have done something truly horrific, the burden of carrying it secretively within you will kill you faster than the pain of admitting and seeking help.
Because your fear is more soul crushing that the actual thing that you are afraid of.
Begin the healing process today, using these lessons as a guide.
1. YOU ARE NOT ALONE
This was a huge revelation to me. When shame or fear takes over, it creates an invisible bubble around you, making you feel different, alone and unable to connect.
After all, everyone else seems so… “normal” right? And you have to live in this world, full of normal people with normal lives, feeling so isolated, sure that no one would like you, or even understand you if they knew your secret.
I totally get that feeling, I lived with it for years too. But it’s a lie.
Whatever you are ashamed of or scared of, YOU ARE NOT THE ONLY ONE.
This world is huge and EVERY story, every impulse, every thought that you fear, is being experienced by hundreds of other people too. Likely even thousands.
And you now something else? Someone whom you admire likely carries a secret of their own too, and may even be jealous of your seemingly “normal” life.
There is no such things as normal. Appearances are deceptive. We are ALL human and there is no need for you to pretend that you are not.
So even if you are plotting the murder of someone (I hope you’re not, but even if you are), YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
It’s not the impulse that separates you, it’s what you choose to do with it.
Which brings me to the next lesson.
2. Find a good therapist
“Fit” is important in therapy. And there are so many ways to find a therapist who is a good fit for you, that I am working on an e-book about this, but these are some highlights:
- Ask your PCP (Primary Care Physician) for referrals.
- Call your health insurance company, describe your struggle in very general terms and ask for names of providers who work with such issues.
- If you have trust worthy friends, ask them for suggestions.
- Many therapists now have websites/blogs where you can read and learn about their training, areas of expertise and basic philosophy.
- Be open to some trial and error.
- Ask for a “consultation” meeting first, so you can both assess the “fit”
- During the consultation interview, make sure to ask the therapist about his/her views on topics that are important to you; like religion or cultural norms or parenting styles or sexual identity issues etc; (The worst thing would be to work with someone for weeks only to discover that he/she is an atheist while you are deeply religious or vice versa).
- At the same time, be open to being challenged on your thoughts. That’s where the growth will come from.
- Don’t feel like you have to spill the beans right at the first meeting. Get to know the person and get a feel of how good a “fit” it is. Ask questions about what areas of specialization and what “type” of therapy he/she is trained in.
- Never ever lie to your therapist. It’s absolutely okay to say “I don’t want to talk about XYZ right now”, rather than lie.
- Once you have begun working with someone, be as consistent and open as you are able to be.
3. Come clean with those who are affected
Through your struggle with the “thing”, if you have involved other people in any way, get help form your therapist to come clean with them. Gathering courage, when I finally spoke to my then-husband about my true feelings, it was both the hardest and the most liberating thing I had ever done. And it helped me respect myself again.
Don’t let your fear take away your integrity.
4. Stay in the moment
During those long lonely days in between therapy appointments, you will be alone with yourself and your thoughts.
In those days, the thing that I found most helpful was to stay in the moment. It sounds simple, but can be very hard to do, especially as your mind is busy churning out a thousand worries and emotions.
If classic mindfulness feels hard, I highly recommend this article and this one to find variations that work for you.
Learning to stay in the moment has been life saving for me.
5. Keep reminding yourself that what you are doing takes a heck of a lot of courage.
If you choose to face your inner struggles and better yourself, you are AMAZING and even the Gods will tremble before you.
I am not kidding. It is easier to face anyone or anything external, than it is to look within. What you are doing is rare, and beautiful. And even though the road is hard, it will lead to peace.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
6. Do something that gives you pride and connection
This is not a 100 meter dash, it’s a marathon. And just like in a marathon, it’s vital to nourish yourself along the way.
What is most important to you? What do you most like about yourself? What are you good at? What activities make you feel connected and needed?
At the intersection of these four things, is the activity that will nourish your soul.
For me, it was volunteering at an animal shelter.
For you, it may be taking your niece to the park every week, or serving at the local soup kitchen, or reading to people in hospice care or writing a book…
Whatever it is, push yourself to find it. And once you do, make it a regular part of your life. Self care is crucial to this journey.
So there you have it. A simple guide to help you face and beat that thing that is scaring you.
You deserve to feel alive. You deserve peace. You are worthy of being understood and loved.
At the very end, you will look back on your life story. Make your looking back be with pride.
Be brave. Be Goliath. Go forth and slay your fears. Break your invisible bubble and feel alive again.
YOU CAN DO IT.
Your soul is desperately counting on you to try.