Shame, Shame, I Know Your Name

Not a whole lot new to report in my life at the moment. Christmas just keeps getting closer, but I’ve done most of my shopping – aside from a few people in the Houston area who seem reluctant to give me gift ideas and don’t believe me when I say I’ll get a gift that will amuse me. I still don’t have any decorations, but that’s alright by me, since work is about a gallon of Christmas in a half-gallon container. Christmas tree, Christmas lights, Christmas decorations, Christmas music (including Rod Stewart doing Christmas songs, ugh), the works – they’re pretty well stocked up on Christmas.

I’ve gotten to talk with some people I haven’t really spoken to in a while – several months, at least – and talking to them, both of us have noticed a pretty big change. One friend asked if it felt nice to just live, and I said it did – something I would never have said a year ago.I just wish I know what the big change was, or how it came to pass. I mean, it’s good to be feeling better, for the first time in a long while, but it is also frustrating that I don’t really have any words of wisdom for others, or any way to really pass on what I have learned that has helped me so much – because I’m not really sure what ti was that did so much for me.

It’s always painful for me to not be able to help those I care about. The people I form connections with aren’t a large group, but they are very important to me, and I want to help them if I can. But My experiences are fairly limited; while I’ve spent a lot of time with people with addiction, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, PTSD…the list goes on… my only personal experience is with depression. So I can empathize with my friends, and I can try to help them work through things, process them, but I can’t ever truly know what they’re feeling. That’s frustrating; and, even though I know ti shouldn’t, it makes me feel guilty that I can’t help. 

Guilt and shame are two things that I have trouble differentiating; as this article puts it, guilt can be defined as ‘a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined’, while shame can be defined as ‘the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another’. The two seem very similar to me, though. When I feel responsible or remorseful for something bad, I also feel a near-painful sense of dishonor and failure, like I could have done better or I haven’t done enough. So while I can avoid falling into depression along with a depressed or suicidal friend, I always feel like there is more I could be doing to help, and when I can’t help I feel guilty and ashamed. This isn’t unusual for me; I feel guilty for not offering to carry a friend’s tray at meals at Menninger while she was on crutches, and that was eight months ago. Right now I feel ashamed that I can’t help a friend struggling with addiction-related issues because I don’t have any experience in the area. There’s not really anything I can do about it, but it’s what I feel.

It won’t stop me from my recovery, but it is something that I feel, often. It’s not depressing, and isn’t leading me to relapse – if anything, it probably motivates me. But it’s a difficult thing to deal with, because most of the time I’m not even sure how to describe what I’m feeling.


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