Shame and guilt are often reasons why we keep secrets. We carry these burdens around with us and they drag us down.
Life gets heavy.
All my life I had a fear of being alone, not good enough and ugly. I tried to make myself stand out, fighting to be noticed. All I wanted was to be loved.
You would never have thought it. I loved to be on stage singing and acting, people thought I was happy, but deep down I was suffering from feeling a failure. Shame at how I looked made me hate myself.
Shame also stopped me from telling my best friend why I wasn’t there for her when she was seriously ill with cancer. Guilt grew over the years because I’d never told her why. I write this and my heart is painful; there are tears in my eyes. She was everything to me and I let her down because I was suffering too, but couldn’t tell her because I was ashamed. I imagined that everyone who knew her would hate me for being absent from her life.
What was that shame?
I was diagnosed with manic depression. Yes, that’s it. You might think “so what loads of people do” but to me, it was the most terrible, shameful thing ever. For three years I lived in absolute darkness. I only remember a handful of days; most of those are the vivid days when I would have ended my life if I'd had the courage to do so.
There, I’ve said it.
During those dark days, I was standing on the edge of a precipice. I could fall and never come back, or I could choose to fight and climb my way slowly back up to the light which was way above me. One afternoon I chose to fight.
For many years I was still unsure, scared of falling back down, never telling a soul about how I felt about myself. The feelings of being alone, a failure, ugly, and worthless kept going around in my head. But slowly, step by step, I gained a little confidence. I took small jobs to ease myself back into life, telling no one my secret.
Eventually, I found a job I loved, one I’d dreamt about when I was young. I went on, soon becoming very good at what I did. The confidence started to return, but still, I never said a word. Now, almost 30 years later, my friend will finally know why I wasn’t there for her. And yet, I still feel guilty because my mental pain must be nothing compared to her physical pain and the thought her friend didn’t care.
There is nothing I can do to make up for my absence with my best friend, only to say please don’t make the same mistakes I did. Never feel ashamed of your feelings and fears. Tell someone.
And if you are suffering, please know that life can turn around. I now live on the mountaintop, well almost, and I’m so very grateful to still be here with people I love. If you need a friend or help to love yourself again, please get in touch. I’d never turn my back on you.