Many of us are told from childhood that our secrets and embarrassing moments should be kept quiet and hidden from others. Anything that we have done that would bring shame to us or our family should be locked in a deep hole never to reach the light of day. However, I come as a walking testament to the fact that the very shame and guilt we carry can only die through the light of exposure. Many of the things that we believed we should hide were never even of our own doing. The deeper the hole we dig to cover them, the further we remove ourselves from inner peace and contentment.
Perhaps a family member sexually abused us when we were young and even though our folks thought it was responsible, somehow their desire to cover their own self perceived inadequacy as a parent translated to us. Then we were told to brush it off, move on, and forget it. Thus, the vicious cycle of covering and silence repeats itself until our parents shame kills them early through alcoholism or suicide. The cycle gets passed to us by the example we are shown and we kill ourselves quickly with mind numbing chemicals or any other destructive behavior that begins as “fun.” This goes on and on until the chains of bondage are broken by someone who is brave enough to bare their scars for us to see. It takes much courage to expose our wounds for the salve of healing can only come when the dirty, infected bandages are removed.
If one is not broken to bits, how can a new building be built. Some were brought up with religious backgrounds where the idea of admitting our hurts, “sins,” and hurtful behavior is somewhat ubiquitous. I grew up with the practice of confession at church, but didn’t learn the life saving importance of it until later in life. There is something truly freeing about admitting our assets and liabilities to another person, as they become a load we no longer carry alone. Pain shared is pain lessened. Pain held in kills like stage five nuclear weapon grade cancer.
I became a paramedic at a young age after I saw a classmate die tragically in an accident. However, after many years of working in public safety did I realize that I became a rescuer because I was the one who needed the rescuing all along. Someone who was supposed to look out for, protect, and show me the right path abused that responsibility when I was a teenager through sexual abuse and the rescuers abandoned me. No one came to help me. The ones who were supposed to tell me it’s not my fault and I was safe didn’t. Denial, blame, and ridicule was served to me on a platter. Just go ask the kids of the Catholic Church sexual abusing priests scandal who rescued them. Everyone has felt abandoned, ashamed, or just plain hurt through no fault of our own. How we contend with difficulties is what gives us freedom or bondage.
After I was abandoned and told to drop it, the journey of acceptance began. I searched for it by any means possible. Trying to hide my anger and pain was fleeting at best.I would seek solace in new peer groups even if I didn’t like what they did. If they accepted me, I would toss out any moral yardstick I previously measured myself by. If so and so shoplifted and invited me I would join because the opportunity to belong enticed me. If this person asked me to join his club, sure, because at least I don’t have to be alone with myself. Distraction was a great way to keep the demons at bay for a little while. The problem inherent in this practice is familiarity. Once we become used to the new shiny thing, it’s luster goes away and we need a newer, brighter one. If a person takes 4 aspirin daily for nerve pain, eventually more are needed as they become tolerant to what once worked.
Eventually the new job we dreamed of while washing dishes comes and we believe it’s our way out. However, we take ourselves with us where we go. Shortly the new job becomes old and we need more to satisfy and stimulate. We become restless and want more. The disease of more is prevalent in all humans. Furthermore, I found that the only cure to this disease is an internal one. The more we attempt to fill an internal hole with external things, the greater the deep gorge within gets. If the only difference we as humans share are outer characteristics, then we are exactly the same otherwise. We have all been insulted, let down, and embarrassed. Nothing has changed in the human experience since the Garden of Eden except for specific details of each individual’s life journey.
We are more connected by technology and social media yet could never really be far apart. I can Snapchat a silly dance or naked selfie to someone in another hemisphere, but never connect with someone on a meaningful level. We are fooled to believe our validation comes from how many followers we have on any given social media site and not from the own security of knowing who we are. Our wounds do not define us unless we continue to suffocate them with what we cover them with. While working as a paramedic charged with helping others in life threatening situations, I was the one who needed the rescuing but was unaware. I just kept on medicating my fatal condition with whatever worked for the moment. In the unique first responder field where I served for many years, pride and ego covered the hurt I carried since childhood. The harsh words of a fifth grade bully would be drowned out by the siren and adrenaline rush that many seek when choosing these professions. Like many of my previous colleagues, I felt deeply but couldn’t share with others because that created vulnerability and who has time for that? I am persuaded to my core that it’s the vulnerability of being real and authentic which cures the fire of anger, fear, and bitterness burning like wildfire in our bellies.
Taking another pill prescribed by a medical doctor or a street pharmacist was how I contended with the fear of being me. Take the sex or attention of whatever her name is tonight to at least have the contact of another human if only just for the night. Buy the big SUV that I can’t afford to make up for the little boy hiding in plain sight who is scared to death. Try having another kid or joining the new gym t when the previous solutions stopped working. The things I use to combat deep self loathing continued until one day while shaving I look into my eyes in the mirror and have no idea who I see. That day becomes the day that the pain of staying the same is greater than that of doing something different. I was told to get honest and stop hiding from who you are. The good, bad, and ugly, Let it all out like a waterfall from the sky. When I became open about everything with everyone, freedom came in short order. When you live your truth, nothing external can make or break you. Your true identity is just that and the only one who takes it away is you. You give it away when you decide that another person or thing can lay out the terms. We are born and naked and die the same way. We are exposed in the beginning and in the end for what we are. The trick is to stay naked all the time for it allows others permission to do the same. The more we bare it all, the more security we have, paradoxically. I stopped killing myself when I found that I could love myself for who I was, regardless of the bumps and bruises I acquired along the way. If we want to live abundantly, then we have to undress.