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.
Ida Soon-ok HartMarch 2, 2021 at 1:53 pm
I love your honesty about confronting the shame we encounter as we write our memoirs. It’s a huge emotional step when we decide to write a memoir, to be honest about those episodes of degrading ourselves. As a memoirist, I decided it’s ok. In describing my life’s journey, I want to sugar coat it but know I can’t. I will write about my alcoholism, cocaine addiction, homelessness, promiscuity and finally, a healing journey that took me back to my village in S Korea to confront memories. There are people out there needs to know that hope exists that we too can be “resilient. And kind and funny, honest and encouraging. I am creative and dance like a maniac”. I can see you dancing like a maniac! I love that phrase. I let it go on a beach in Costa Rica and so many people came up to me afterwards and thanked me, said it made them happy to see me dance. After years of crying and shame, we too can dance with pure joy like never before. Ida Soon-ok
Ria TalkenMarch 2, 2021 at 2:35 pm
Ida, Being in the writer’s group with you I am eagerly awaiting your memoir when it gets published. I am so glad that you decided to write the warts and the sunrise!!
Ida Soon-ok HartMarch 2, 2021 at 1:49 pm
I love your honesty about shame. It’s a huge step when we decide to write a memoir, to be honest about those episodes when when I degraded myself. As a memoirist, I decided it’s ok. In describing my life’s journey, I have many feelings of shame about parts of my life and want to sugar coat it but know I can’t. The alcoholism, cocaine addiction homelessness, promiscuity and finally a healing journey that took me back to my village in South Korea to confront memories. There are people out there needs to know that hope exists that we too can be “resilient. And kind and funny, honest and encouraging. I am creative and dance like a maniac”. I can see you dancing like a maniac! I love that phrase. I let it go on a beach in Costa Rica and so many people came up to me and thanked me, said it made them happy to see me dance. After years of crying and shame, we can dance with pure joy like never before. Ida Soon-ok
Emily CarverFebruary 27, 2021 at 9:12 am
Your courageousness and warrior-like spirit help to strengthen the knowing inside of me to “vault the shame” (as you said in one of your comments) and write about my experiences. I am in the very early stages of this. A friend shared your essay contest with me and I am so grateful to have you in my “teachers” circle.
Ria TalkenFebruary 28, 2021 at 6:17 am
Thank you, Emily. Perhaps we will see an essay of yours? I am thinking of doing a post about FEAR too. Something that to me is learned. By getting rid of shame, and facing fear, I feel like I am getting that wonder of the child back. Reach out whenever you need to. I’ve had great cheerleaders and believe in paying forward.
PhyllisFebruary 27, 2021 at 8:51 am
I love you to bits, Ria! I am so excited that you are writing about shame. You have it so right about how shame is a horrific dark hole that many of us felt was our place in life. Long after whatever happened that we feel shame about, we hold ourselves there with that negative inner voice. I love how you are discovering HOW you can let that negative inner voice go and be in a more grounded realitY that includes all your many lovable, creative, honest, fun loving, intelligent and adventurous parts. Cheers to your liberation❤️. Cheers to sharing your story to lift up others in their path of liberation ❤️.
Ria TalkenFebruary 28, 2021 at 6:25 am
We love you too, Phyllis and Kim. In our chat, I loved how Kim brought up descriptions of me as contagious and radiant. It wasn’t long ago that that definitely wasn’t me. I am thrilled to be getting stronger every day and hold my friends dear to my heart. Knowing I have unconditional support given to me is a lovely feeling. I hope everyone can experience that.
Cynthia GentryFebruary 27, 2021 at 12:59 am
Ria, this is a beautiful post, and I’m so glad you shared it. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you in LitCamp and our writing group.
Ria TalkenFebruary 27, 2021 at 7:22 am
Thank you, Cynthia. All you Lit Camp folks have offered me such nice encouragement. I am just loving my groups. I wouldn’t be on this path of writing without them.
Cynthia NooneyFebruary 26, 2021 at 3:48 pm
Ria, I’m so glad you’re owning and using your voice! Your honesty and courage are inspiring. Keep it up–we’ll all be better off because of it!
Ria TalkenFebruary 26, 2021 at 4:15 pm
Thank you Cynthia, Kind of feel a mission to get it all out now. And each time I write or speak up, I feel better.
BrianFebruary 26, 2021 at 2:26 pm
Thanks so much for sharing this. I suffered from ADHD and depression my whole life. It’s only since I retired and started writing that I’ve felt whole.
Ria TalkenFebruary 26, 2021 at 4:15 pm
Fabulous Brian! Glad you are finding your voice.
Cheryle Gail GraceFebruary 26, 2021 at 1:29 am
Quick wit, honest, heart felt. Thank you for sharing yourself fully and authenticily. You are an inspiration.
Ria TalkenFebruary 26, 2021 at 8:29 am
Cheryle, I so appreciate your encouragement. Every day that I write and share and receive lovely responses a bit more of me blossoms. It still isn’t that long ago that I was looking at the pill bottles and crying daily, thank god I chose to leap in a different direction. You and our Lit Camp writing groups have surrounded me with love and motivate me each time we meet.
MaidaFebruary 25, 2021 at 8:33 pm
I love you, Ría and I think you’re perfect as you are. I miss you tons and can’t wait to see where this awakening will take you. I hope to be a part of it and look forwards to more shared adventures.
Ria TalkenFebruary 26, 2021 at 8:23 am
Maida, we so miss your energy in San Miguel and look forward to the day we can all hug each other again. I will be looking for readers and when the time comes, hope you will be among those who guide me in strengthening my words. Much love to you and Ralph.
rhoda drawsFebruary 25, 2021 at 6:46 pm
The title of this blog post really grabbed my attention. I am in the early stages of writing a memoir and haven’t yet grappled with the shameful issues in my past. I am grateful for your example and encouragement.
Ria TalkenFebruary 26, 2021 at 8:20 am
Rhoda, thank you so much for your kind words. And remember to be kind to yourself while writing. Truth can be told in multiple ways. Take your time with the process, give yourself breaks mentally and physically, and know you can temper the words as you need to. You will be adding your voice to a growing dialogue and every writer who comes after you, and person battling their own demons will say “thank you.”
Jacqueline R HamptonFebruary 25, 2021 at 6:39 pm
Send the writing group an email with how much I loved this blog. I also can’t wait to read the memoir. As another person crawling out from under the shame of mental illness – thank you for the inspiration. Jacqueline 🙂
Ria TalkenFebruary 25, 2021 at 6:45 pm
Thank you, Jaqueline! As we all move through our mental illnesses I feel it is our duty to encourage others to come forth. Each time someone vaults the shame and comes into their own by speaking up, writing memoirs, and showing others that they too are valuable the better the conversation is.
Carole StiversFebruary 25, 2021 at 4:53 pm
Ria, this is wonderful. A much-needed message, full of quotable quotes. Would you mind if I shared it on my Facebook Author page?
Ria TalkenFebruary 25, 2021 at 5:23 pm
Thank you so much. I would love it if you shared and totally appreciate it. The more I write and share about my mental illness the more I realize there is such a growing number of us just one paycheck or life challenge away from being struck with these challenges or becoming homeless. I am so glad to see more memoirs being published about all people who are affected by it rather than just the headliners.
Nikki RodwellFebruary 25, 2021 at 4:39 pm
Amazing post Ria. I can’t wait for your memoir x
Ria TalkenFebruary 25, 2021 at 5:24 pm
Thank you Nikki! I am still heading for March first to have my rough draft, first memoir done. Thank you for your encouragement.
Amy BovairdFebruary 25, 2021 at 4:08 pm
Your words resonate with me. As with mental illness, those with sight loss feel embarrassment. I had to get past that in order to write my memoir. I just added it in and was forthright about it. People appreciated my transparency. I am now on my 5th memoir. My brother is also bipolar. I do everything I can to point out his positive qualities, reminding him he is a good, caring person with an illness that sometimes surfaces. But he is doing well with his medication now. The point is we are all human and there is no “norm.” We are each doing the best we can and those qualities such as kindness, loyalty, friendship and generosity of spirit should all be celebrated. Good luck writing your memoir!
Ria TalkenFebruary 25, 2021 at 4:21 pm
Yes, this post could be applied to anyone who feels “less than” and I hope we continue to see others come forward and write about their experiences. Stigmas and stereotypes are horrible things and the only way to break them down is to be vocal and not ashamed.