My Chronic Shame

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.

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Oliver & Company

 

 

Just as Oliver was the remaining kitten in the box came to reflect the emotional isolation that came with identifying as queer and homosexual throughout middle and high school, watching other students pair off to experiment with the opposite sex, removing early relationship templates for later.  Being separated from his peers Oliver fell into friendship with Fagin and his dogs parallels the friends that homosexuals find in similar people, which could appear dangerous and scary for parents; either because of disapproval or knowing how difficult life would be for the child.  Then Oliver meets Jenny, the rich girl, who offers him the opportunity of life of acceptance, which is based upon the fact that Jenny doesn’t truly know Oliver other than she wants a kitten.  For queer identity development Jenny represents the dreams and goals that are imposed by the majority.  At this point Oliver, like young outsiders, is conflicted between the world they have discovered on their own and the heteronormative, and so chooses neither life, which endangers both.  Only at the end when both worlds, that Oliver doesn’t want to meet, do meet is he able to find happiness in his identity and create unique goals for himself.

 

Oliver & Company painted the picture of New York City that was populated with people that were similar to me.  New York City was a world that was tailored to me.

 

 

 

Root of Worthless

When I think of life growing up the immediate memories always turn towards my sister, though not for particularly positive reasons.  While growing up my parents were supportive, but always seem distracted and pre-occupied by caring for my sister.  She was always on the verge of crisis, and if she wasn’t catered to then there’d be an uproar; this was later diagnosed as bipolar.  Regardless of the origin of my sister’s behavior, it impacted the family’s dynamic, and continues to do so.  When it is just my parents and me I feel as though I am a favorite because I am easier to deal with than my sister is.

My sister’s temperament dictated time and date of family events; my own birthday dinners were decided when my sister elected to make time or take time off from work a priority.  If sister’s wants or mood was not a portion of the plans the result was spiteful and rude behavior by her at every moment of the outing.  Celebrations centering around me had minimal fanfare and conversation because of the landmine field of never knowing what would result in shouting.  My parents did become skilled at judging what would cause my sister to begin her spiteful behavior and quickly hushed me.  In my parents’ effort to keep peace I developed the feeling that my voice and importance would result in violence and negative attention.

Verve (3/17-21)

The in-costume players and actors in Williamsburg, while vacationing with my parents for Spring Break, brought down walls and barriers that I usually keep up, making me feel warm and comfortable.  This is rare for me; typically, my guard is up and fourth guess what to say and do.  Often I am overwhelmed by intense feelings of shame.  It has always been difficult to ascertain the origin of why I am paralyzed, other than feeling my existence is brought into question – to open myself, to create a bond through self-expression, leads to being ignored and thrown away to be forgotten.  What didn’t lead to being ignored is compliance to others and their needs.  It is easier to serve another than to assert myself.  Overtime I have made the masks I wear for acceptance the expectation others have who I am, in relation to them.  Should that mask be revealed to be false, that there is a second me underneath with different wants and needs, I will be seen as duplicitous.  I am terrified that my masks will be seen not as made for survival, which has grown into a core fear that my identity would bring about rejection from others.