Chronic shame developed from the best of intentions of my parents when raising two children. They were good at it, striving to create balance for two radically different kids – providing food, shelter, and safety, but I still felt neglected if the parents do not bond emotionally with me. I have few memories of being held, comforted, played with, or asked how I was doing; plenty questions about the events of a school-day, but not their impact. When they didn’t live up to expectations they privately, and I’m sure to this day, scolded themselves; they failed less times than they believe they did. My parents instilled in me the three F’s – family, food, and fun. If there were two then the third would be automatically follow suit; should food be part of the family gathering then we’d have some fun; if there was food and fun, then one must be amongst family.
Most of their concern was aimed at my sister and her uncontrollable outbursts. My sister’s (then undiagnosed bipolar) behavior drew my parents’ attention, exhausting them, resulting in an often-chaotic home life. The chaos she created taught me that disruptions to a plan lead to eruptions of an77ger and violence. I blamed myself for that distress, believing I was the reason I was left alone. I sought safety and closeness from their parent — yet my parents could not be close or safe. All I could feel was “unlovable,” creating the seed of shame. The feelings of my parents, whether expressly communicated or sensed by a child, become internalized and automatic. The state of being alone and powerless became pervasive.
I felt shame for being abnormal or wrong. During childhood, I leaned into my better ability to gloss-over my bad behavior, or just being generally more agreeable, to be the “good child.” This also meant not being seen, in comparison to the spectacle that was my sister. My parents did what they could at the time, so I created a compliant personality designed to make life far simpler; I didn’t want to be the reason for everything or have the spotlight on me. This allowed me to get attention when my parents sought respite from my sister. I became incapable of trusting my own emotions, so was unable to use them as a compass for living. There was no developed skill to ground myself in the present, and being in the moment and staying observant without judgment of my own emotions.
My not being seen combined with its created a spiral of neglect and ignored are bound with being loved. Compliance allowed me to go unseen, my homosexuality never being addressed. This self-imposed inability to say aloud that I was gay. I had seen modelled on TV even how the most progressive of parents reacted, which was with tears of worry. I was not going to add more concerns to their already full plate. I vowed to not be the straw that broke any one’s back.