An Echo Off a Mountainside: How Shame Affects Me


Editor’s note: If you have experienced emotional abuse, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741.

It feels like an avalanche. That’s what I told my best friend last night. It’s like an avalanche and when it happens, it buries me.

When it happens, it feels as if there, beneath a pile of snow, a piece of myself dies. It feels as if there’s no getting out from under it all. I give up beneath the weight and whatever finally emerges is a colorless ghost of what remains below.

I’m trying not to think in those terms anymore. I told her I really want to try to instead imagine that as soon as the avalanche runs its course, I begin scraping away. Maybe my fingers leave streaks of blood across the white of the snow and ice, but I emerge, whole, ready to keep trudging along and fight my way to the top. Holding tight to all the things that make me who I am, no matter how far away the top always seems.

I’d never described shame in these terms before, mainly because it isn’t something I ever talk about, with her or anyone else. Even in therapy.

My therapist knows it is something I struggle with, but I’ve never shared details about the things that invite that avalanche. The desires and emotions that feel like screams against a snowy, fragile mountainside.

I don’t know how it got to this point. I only know that radical acceptance feels like the only answer.

I support you. I want you to have that. That sounds wonderful for you.

I told my husband once that those are the only words I want to hear. When I share some part of myself with someone, those are the only words I want to hear in return. Anything less, anything different and I’m awash. I’m rolling backwards down that mountainside.

Buried once again.

I’m the girl in a corner somewhere being screamed at, spittle flying because the many ways I’m a disappointment, and a failure, and a slut — can’t even be described in any manner that’s calm. They have to be shouted with a vitriol that’s physical and dripping with disgust.

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Those words, that screaming, never happen in any way in my life now. Nobody treats me that way now.

Except myself.

I climb halfway up a slippery, frozen mountainside just to admit something I desire — something that isn’t what society may say is “normal.” I finally voice it. Not in shouts, but in whispers.

I support you. I want you to have that. That sounds wonderful for you.

If that isn’t the echo that answers my whisper — if those words aren’t on the wind that rolls back in reply — it begins.

An avalanche of shame that buries me anew.

I’m trying to imagine that as soon as the avalanche runs its course, I begin scraping away. And maybe my fingers leave streaks of blood across the white of the snow and ice. But I emerge, whole, ready to keep trudging along and fight my way to the top.

Holding tight to all the things that make me who I am, no matter how far away the top always seems.

I’m trying to keep whispering. No matter what rolls back down the mountainside.

I’m trying.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

If you or a loved one is affected by domestic violence or emotional abuse and need help, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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Thinkstock photo via konane

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