shame on you

It feels like I remember every embarrassing thing I have ever done. All the times felt like I was the center of attention, thinking about all my flaws and shortcomings, while other people probably didn’t even notice me. I obsess over these moments endlessly, thinking about how I felt when the embarrassing moment occurred, or even worse, how I felt about when I eventually realized how stupid I was earlier.

I still feel ashamed for many things in my past. All the inappropriate things I have said at the wrong time, all the stupid things I did to other people, all the mistakes I’ve ever made … they replay in my head frequently, at the least opportune times. I have made apologies to a couple of people for things I did or said, and they accepted my apology gracefully, but it doesn’t erase in my mind the fact of how I feel about these things.

Shame has always been a defining factor in my life. My adopted mother and her adopted mother shamed me constantly, making me think I didn’t deserve anything, and that anything I did to call attention to myself was wrong. I learned early from my schoolmates that doing anything outside the ordinary was a source of embarrassment and shame. As you can imagine, having bipolar as a teenager (and into adulthood) caused me to do more stupid things than ever before and resulted in continuing humiliation when I looked back at my actions.

My intelligence, and my reputation as the smart kid, caused other kids to tease me and exclude me from their social circles, and I learned to hide my intellect to avoid being the focus of attention. In 4th grade I deliberately failed during the school spelling bee because I didn’t want the spotlight focused on me, the person who was expected to win. Because I had more advanced schoolwork than the kids in my classes, I was often separated from them, suffering the indignity of having my own special corner in the classroom, or even worse, being sent to the “special” class where I could work independently. [Funny thing is, the “special kids” were some of the most genuine and kind-hearted people I knew.]

Sometimes I would forget who I was, and get a little false confidence to try something; these times would usually result in the most awkward moments of my life. The 6th grade talent contest comes to mind, when for some reason I thought I could be the emcee and tell jokes in front of the whole school; I failed miserably, and I felt people making fun of me. [Whether they actually made fun of me, I don’t know, but I was my own worst critic.] After these failures, I would retreat into my shell again.

There have been very few times when I was in the spotlight and I actually felt good about it: making a great play in baseball, or nailing my solo during the band performance, or winning the marching competition my first day at college band camp. Some of those memories where I actually accomplished something are still good, and I remember those times very well. But the memories of the times where I failed, or did or said something ignorant or embarrassing, are much stronger than the good memories, and I relive the shame of those moments daily.

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contradictions

I have done everything possible to forget about childhood in Goldville (the hometown), but I still tell stories from there. I have ignored all my friends for nearly 30 years, but I am trying to reconnect with them via Fakebook. However, connecting with those people brings up bad memories from those times, so I ignore them once more.

Much of the time, I want to be alone, yet I am often lonely. I have a family who loves me, but I feel so isolated. The bipolar has changed who I am inside to the point where I don’t really feel good things anymore. I want to be happy, but all I feel inside is melancholy and sadness. My illness makes it impossible to feel the way I want. Instead of valuing time with my family, I value the time away from them because I can be alone, which makes me feel more alone. I want to able to share the things I enjoy with them, but my own damaged thought processes won’t allow that.

I want to live into my retirement years so I can enjoy life for a change, but I know that I will not enjoy it when I get there. I will be worried about money and health care and quality of life, and I am afraid of early dementia robbing my mental vitality. I want to live, but every day I think of reasons it would be convenient to die now before things get any worse. I have plans for when I get to the point where I can’t enjoy life anymore. Despite wanting to live for my family, I will selfishly go out on my own terms.

I am outraged and sickened by the direction this country chose in the election, but I am so stunned and overwhelmed that I am unable to do anything about it. I sit in the sidelines, not contributing financially or with my voice or actions to fix the mess that has been created. I am so apathetic right now, and despite wanting to be involved and aware, I ignore the news as much as possible because it disgusts me so. I still find myself angry at my co-workers and acquaintances for doing this and thinking they were doing the right thing. They just don’t value the same things as me, and I wonder if that prevents me from being friends with them. This leads to isolation and loneliness, with depression on the side.

More than ever, I am motivated to be more healthy, but I know I will not do anything about that either. My social anxiety rises whenever I try to exercise, and I fear people are watching the fat guy stumble around in futility at the gym. I won’t go to the YMCA with Annie because I am simply too embarrassed to be seen there. Then when my clothes don’t fit, I feel worse and more embarrassed and more isolated from others, and I am less motivated to do anything about it. I get closer to the inevitable heart attack or diabetes, killing myself one slice of pizza at a time.

I’m proud of my kids for being kind, good-hearted people, but I wish they could have the motivation to do more, to be more successful. I know it’s not fair to compare your own kids to other people’s kids, but how can I help it? My friend is constantly bursting at the seams with his daughter’s latest great accomplishment, and all I have is “my kid showered today” (which is a big accomplishment for her). I feel like I didn’t give them the tools they needed to succeed in life, because I wasn’t there emotionally or mentally for them while I was fighting my own demons. Unless he finds the ambition to change his life, my son will be stuck in low-wage jobs for the foreseeable future. My daughter is essentially unable to anything for herself because of her mental illness. You want your kids to do better in life, but for many reasons it’s not going to happen. I want to be a supportive parent, but it is difficult.

I want to live, but I’m so tired of living.