First, a disclaimer. I am not a therapist, psychiatrist, doctor, or anyone with expertise in mental illness. The views here are my own. They may trigger emotions. I am going to talk about acknowledging the shame I had and the relationship to it and writing my memoirs. If you want to write but are unsure if this is the right time, please talk to your therapist or doctor first.
After reading my blog you know I am writing two memoirs. And I am writing about Bipolar 1, ADHD, and Eating Disorders.
So, I am writing about my higher than a kite, open mouth insert the whole leg, not just the foot, grandiosity.
And my sometimes I binged six times (+) and purged just as many in a single day, god that is gross, bulimia.
And my I’ve been fired and reprimanded more times than I can count, ADHD.
I am including a lot of embarrassing moments in my memoirs. There is no way to write about my disorders without bringing them up and exposing my “failings.”
That is how I saw them for sixty years of my life. Failings!
Let me hide my failings. Let me hide myself. And let me exhaust myself doing so.
Looking back, the amount of pressure I added to my life to seem normal went way beyond my capacity to successfully pretend I was normal.
Something was going to crumble. And eventually, I had a total breakdown leading to homelessness. Now there was some embarrassment for you.
I didn’t see friends for years as I moved around looking for help. By foot, in a van, a mini school bus, anything to keep off the park bench. I thought they had all abandoned me, had had enough. More failings on my part.
Then, after attending a party over 10 years ago, my first since the meltdown, I figured out that I was the one that pulled away. Gave up. Hid with shame. Shut me off. Crawled in a hole. Lost my self-esteem. Didn’t want to look in a mirror.
I didn’t get to the “look what I survived, I am damn proud of myself, and I am alive” self-worth until years later. But that party was a start.
I had to do a lot more evaluation and therapy. Crack my hardened shell and start building myself back up. I had to lose the embarrassment and learn to stand up straight and announce, “Here I am.”
But first, Dia De Los Muertos 2019 had to happen. That was the day my mother died. The day the critic stopped. We had a rocky relationship; it ended badly. I don’t mourn that mother; I mourn the earlier one. The best friend one. The latter had me doubt everything and added mind games that destroyed. Her disappointment added to my shame.
In 2020, some lovely San Miguel writers joined my SMA Facebook Instagram group and encouraged me to write my memoirs. And a door opened. I jumped through. Now, I had nothing holding me back.
When Glenn and I moved to Mexico in 2018, I reinvented or rather recaptured the joie de vivre from certain times of my life, typically when I traveled. When I owned myself and my experiences. When I felt fearless.
I have recently had conversations with others wanting to write their memoirs about their own path with mental illness. They have contacted me on Facebook or through this blog saying that they too want to write a memoir, but are struggling. One of the most important things holding them back is embarrassment and shame. I can so relate. Soul searching is necessary. It might not be the right time.
Embarrassment and shame are jailers. Big ones! Destructive ones! I had to rip the keys out of their hands. Declare my independence. Step up and own ALL my actions. And not be afraid of the what-if’s.
Because, the person who was holding me back, that I was giving my shame to, was me.
I thought I was much more important to those around me than their own lives. That they were always thinking, what is that Ria up to now, why doesn’t she act differently, that it embarrassed them. In reality, they were much more concerned about their own jobs and families. I was a speck in their reality.
So, if that was the truth, and they weren’t concerning themselves about my actions, then once again, who was putting all this angst on me? Who the hell was I all worried about?
And once again, it was me. I was creating my whirlwind. I was the one keeping myself in prison.
And if I was doing this, then others like me were probably doing it too.
We do a lot of shit thinking. Berate ourselves. And we don’t need to. We are not bad; we didn’t bring this on ourselves. We are not being punished. We have an illness. It is a part of us. But it is not all of us.
When others allow themselves to write or speak about their life situations, we get a larger and broader conversation. Something much needed in this day and age.
Once I decided I am just going to talk it out and be honest, I felt my shoulders drop and my mind ease. If I would not allow myself to be embarrassed about me, then I doubt anyone else was going to feel that way.
Another step forward.
I am the one who chooses what I write.
I took my power back. I am in charge.
Not that I don’t still do embarrassing things. One of my worst, is I still talk too fast and too much, think I am going to be on Oprah one day (well, if the book does well…) I take over conversations regularly. Especially when surrounded by novelty. Friends know, and I tell others, if I get like that, just reel me in. I don’t get offended. I know what I am like. And now, I am not ashamed or embarrassed. Pretend you are reeling in a fish, I’ll get the message.
I have other qualities that make me proud. I am so damn resilient. And kind and funny, honest and encouraging. I am creative and dance like a maniac. God, that feels good again.
Collectively we can threaten stereotypes and remove stigmas. But we need to move from shame to strength. I am on a bit of a mission.
We need to look closely at ourselves. List the accomplishments we have achieved. Mental illnesses are hard. Let’s be proud we are still standing, still breathing, still learning and then all together say, “we are here.” We are ok.
Let’s share instead of shame.