Embarassment and Shame Isolate Parents in Pain

As I have journeyed down the road of having a child who has struggled with addictions, self harm, mental health issues, sexual trauma and suicide attempts much of this was travelled alone, in isolation.  It was a horrible time to withdraw, but that’s what we do, isn’t it?  We feel so much embarassment and shame.  So much guilt.  We can’t bear for anyone to know the truth.  What would they think of us?  Of our parenting?   What would they think of our son or daughter?  We want to protect ourselves.  We want to protect them.  We want to run and hide.  We want to keep it all a secret.  Shhhhh!!!!!!  Don’t let it slip out!  Don’t tell anyone!  Don’t let your guard down!   Keep pretending you are fine.  Everything’s fine!  Sure you are . . . truthfully, you’re dying inside.  Another phrase I like that we first heard in recovery circles is, “Our secrets keep us sick”.  How true.  They keep us sick and they keep us alone.

I had to become incredibly desperate before I would open up and tell anyone what was going on with my daugther.  I had to be thoroughly convinced that I couldn’t do this on my own without “community” around me.  Continuing in isolation had to look worse to me than the possible repercussions of facing the people in my world with the ugly, ugly truth.  It just felt so very risky.  So unsafe.  I felt so . . . so vulnerable and unprotected.  Like one of those bad dreams where you find yourself stark naked in public and you can’t find a safe place to take cover!  Eeeeek!!!!!  What if I was judged or reprimanded for my parental errors?  What if they rejected me, thought badly of me?  What if it ruined my reputation in the community?   How would I handle it all?  Would I have any answers to questions like, “Gee, I wonder what you did wrong?”  “Why didn’t you do this, or that?”  Would I start crying and never be able to stop?

My husband and I had each other to talk to.  My husband is a wonderful listener and comforter.  That was great, but after awhile that can put a strain on your relationship.   We realized we each needed others to share with and support us.  Sometimes we were so depleted and drained we did’t have much to offer each other.    We came to the conclusion that we had to take the risk and reach out to others.  When we finally began to open up, we were only met with words of understanding, comfort and compassion.   We were so blessed and I am so so thankful.   I have heard many horror stories from others who were not so blessed.  As a result they have been deeply wounded.  I am so sorry if you are one of them.  I hope you will try again.  There really are “safe” people out there you can be honest with who will accept you and support you.

A key thing that helped me stop isolating was when my daughter’s story became very public. It was shared worldwide on the internet becoming the fuel that started the non-profit To Write Love on Her Arms.  You can go to their website at www.twloha.com, click on “where it all began” in the right hand column, then click on “READ THE STORY HERE”.   Now I had no choice!  Nothing was secret anymore!  It actually freed me up to share openly, ready or not!  I never knew how good this would be for me.  I quickly realized that isolating due to embarassment and shame only increases our pain, because it allows the pain to fester inside us.  Our pain needs to be released, “drained”, so it can’t keep hurting us so much.

So I encourage you to find a few safe people and be honest with them.  (Maybe for you it also means seeing a counselor or a spiritual advisor.)  Be honest and tell them what is going on with your child.  Bring your secrets out of the closet into the light.   You just might be surprised to find out how many other parents are suffering in silence, too!  Just like you!  You are NOT alone!  And when you open up and risk being vulnerable, you inspire others to do the same!  It’s contagious!

A book that really helped me, written by a woman whose unthinkable family tragedy with her son also became public, is When I Lay My Isaac Down by Carol Kent.  It is a true story and very impacting.  You can get it at Amazon.

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