I’ve never known a life without shame.

It taints my earliest memories, fills me up and pours out of me; colours every thought, every reaction.

Shame is a sickly feeling, both red-hot and freezing. Shame is staring furiously at the ceiling, holding my breath. Wanting to disappear, wanting to die. Shame wraps itself around my limbs, leaves me unable to move, speak, say no. Shame is dread, pure and undiluted.

Shame whispers in my ear: ‘you’re too small, too powerless to say no. Who would hear you?’. Shame whispers, ‘you’re too small, too powerless, too pathetic to help yourself. Who would help you?’.

Shame whispers, ‘you’re too small, too powerless, too pathetic, too broken to love yourself. Who would love you?’

I listened. I did not say no. I did not help myself. I did not love myself and I was small, powerless, pathetic, broken.

Wherever I went, shame followed. My constant companion.

Sometimes- not very often- I would feel a stirring. A call to healing. In these moments, my shame whispered, ‘Don’t be getting any ideas. I am strong, stronger than you’ll ever be’. In these moments, my shame burned like acid in my veins and pricked my eyes with tears. It rose in my throat like a jagged rock, left me mute and struggling to breathe. Of course I could not fight it. I’d been stupid to entertain such a notion.

My shame led me into many dangerous relationships and was content to let my partners do the whispering- and the shouting, punching, slapping, raping. I knew I was unworthy of better. I knew nothing but shame. Abusive partner after abusive partner served to confirm my worldview that I was nothing and deserved less. I took comfort in this. To admit to myself I was worth something would mean defeating my shame- my oldest friend, and growing more powerful by the day. I took the beatings. I suffered the silent treatments.

We ran from one abuser into the arms of another. Me and my shame.

We ran together, until the day came I could run no more. I could take no more. I sat beside a lake, alone and defiant under a pale moon. My shame whispered, ‘You’re nothing.’ I waited for the burning. I felt instead a different kind of warmth.

‘I am everything’.

And I was, and I am. The warmth grew. I knew then, that shame was never mine to carry.

With that I cast aside my clothes, dove into the lake and in that cold, clear water I drowned my shame. I sacrificed it to the Goddess within. I cleansed my soul of that which was not mine and invoked her with this offering, invited her to come out of hiding, to join me in my love.

That was the beginning of freedom.

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