No Shame

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Rosary0fSighs's avatar

Literature Text

My bones feel soft in the morning, pale under the light and the soft glow of the streetlights as they flicker out. Through the sun painted on the window, like well-formed letters of meaning obscured, I trace the shapes of semi-circled scars, gracing my skin like primitive tattoos.  

It's not shame I feel in the quiet reflection of my soul. It's simply memory – the echoes of battle-scars trembling half-steps across my mind. In the darkness, bodiless voices whisper for my name, but I let the sound reverberate into nothingness, as it slips away – I've taught myself not to listen.    

When they see my body, starved and marked and pale, the whispers start, and strangers turn their faces away. But when I'm alone, I stare into my naked flesh with painful clarity, and see past the horror, into the blue. I know that one day, I'll be beautiful.

I read the words of an unknown author, once, the carer of a mentally-ill child. She said a sick mind is red, while a sane consciousness lies in shades of blue. I thought only of my time in hospital – in room eleven, my mind changing colour with every medication. Soft waves of memory while I lay in a blue hospital gown, under a CAT Scan, and nurses traced the curves of my skull with their hands. I know that sickness is beyond shades, and colour and shadow.

And I wonder, what is the colour of my soul?

The nurses always said, "You shouldn't be ashamed." But in the next breath, they misspelled my name, and I heard them hush their voices behind the curtains. They called me "The suicide".

But for every moment of madness pressed under my skin, and every horror I repressed, and re-lived in tormented sin, I learned to forgive, and search for meaning. Because for every person that made me blush with shame, I hated myself more, for letting them make me feel that way.  

Disease makes you strange. It twists your soul, and slides cold hands around your chest. It robs you of your reflection until you're just a patient in a hospital bed, without a name. It steals your sanity, and leaves you touched and scarred, by death. But the ones who whisper into their hands; you owe them nothing. There is no shame in having to fight for mental health.
Written for the #Mental-IllnessClub's Shame Awareness contest. I don't know if I'll actually enter it though.

This is a very personal piece. I've battled with mental illness for years, and was hospitalised twice this year, in psychiatric wards.

My life is a blur of medication, therapists and psychiatrists, and the horror of hallucinations, mood swings and self-harm. It's hard to fight it. I've attempted suicide twice, and still battle suicidal thoughts and impulses, and the extreme, debilitating depression and mania that comes with living with bipolar affective disorder.

But in one aspect, I'm growing stronger:
I'm getting better at fighting shame.

Shame is a very serious problem with mental ill people. We're often too ashamed of ourselves and our sickness to ask for help - leaving us extremely vulnerable, and in danger of harming ourselves or others.

Even among doctors and nurses, there is stigma. I mentioned a little of the stigma I have faced - being sneered at and labelled by nurses and doctors, having strangers whisper about me, and come over to me to point at my body, laugh and yell abuse. Having my family blame me for being ill, having people turn away from me in disgust and ignorance.

Shame is very, very powerful. It makes you hate yourself. It makes you want to hide or want to die. It keeps you isolated, and afraid to reach out.

But you have to fight it.

Because there are people who do understand.


To be clear: the author I mentioned. Her description of blue and red brains is an idea I became very obsessed with. She was explaining mental illness to someone, and decided to talk about it in colour. Red = a sick brain, blue = mental health.

Unfortunately I became absolutely obsessed with that. It was unhealthy. The idea of it really tormented me. I Just thought "I have a red brain. I'm sick. I want to die, I have to die." I still think that now and again, it's distressing. The author did NOT mean anything negative by that at all. I was just very sick when I interpreted it.

I was obsessed with the idea that when I underwent a CAT Scan in August, in hospital, that they'd see my 'red brain' and try to kill me. I was ashamed of being sick, and afraid of having a 'red brain'.

As strange as that sounds now, it was very distressing a few months ago. That's what shame truly is.

Mostly shame for me is my body. I wear long clothing all year round. Right now it's summer, and I'm wearing sleeves. I always do. The last time I went swimming, crowds of people would stare, point and whisper and yell insults at me. On my holiday recently, it was unbearably hot, so I went for a few days without sleeves. And the whispering and insults were there.

I used to be ashamed to be alone with myself. Why did I have to be sick? Why couldn't I just get over it? Why didn't anyone understand?

You can't know what it's like until you've been there. The shame you feel is profound. I felt physically ill when I had to tell a nutritionist I was on anti-psychotics. The look she gave me was like "I'm talking to a psycho."

It's hard to talk, it's hard to admit.

So that's why we have to fight shame, and fight the stigma. Together.

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© 2009 - 2024 Rosary0fSighs
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thealchemist1's avatar
Bless you for this and the notes about it :)