I did something the other day. Something simple. Something small. Something quite insignificant.
But somehow my internal critic was certain that what I had done was horrific – and that it mattered greatly. And the shame rose up in me like a tsunami, threatening to wash me out to sea.
Whereas my rational mind knew that what had happened was no big deal, my irrational self was taking over. And this irrational self had determined that what I had done was so bad – that I was so bad – that I deserved to die.
Now, I know I didn’t deserve to die. I don’t believe in the death penalty, and even if I did, I know that no jury would condemn me to death for the little mistake I had made. But even though I could tell you this – even while I was overcome with shame and horror – my emotions were taking over.
I truly felt like I deserved to die.
I know these are old thought patterns that are, perhaps, deeply engrained in my psyche. I describe my mind – at times – like a luge path. Once I get caught in the course, once the mind games are started, it’s nearly impossible not to rush down, on the icy path at full speed, to the foregone conclusion.
That I am bad. That I deserve to die.
I was raised in a religious cult where I was taught about my inherent guilt and sin and shame. I was taught that I was never good enough. The things that happened to me certainly convinced me of that. I learned – I learned well – that most things were my fault and that I was sinful and bad. Or at least that if I took most things on as my responsibility and fault, I might be able to control what was happening around me. I could repent. I could change my ways. I could try harder to do better. And better still.
Luckily I now know that these thought patterns are lies. Luckily I now have the wherewithal to perhaps not make them go away in the moment, but to remember that they will pass. If I can just keep breathing and reminding myself that although they feel true they aren’t true, they will pass.
Years ago I learned a wonderful saying, “Feelings aren’t facts.” I can be awash with feelings, and they can be based on mistruths. I can be overcome with shame and guilt and horror, and that can be based on lies.
I did my best to love myself through this shame-fest. I did my best to acknowledge my feelings, while I acknowledged they were crazy. And crazy making,
Because you know what, I certainly don’t deserve to die.
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