Something happened last week that I want to talk about and that my friends is shame. (If the title didn’t give you a clue of course)
So most weeks I head to the same pub on a Wednesday night for drinks with friends. I have been going there for a good few years now and it is my favourite day of the week because I enjoy it so much.
I always go a few hours earlier than my friends, there are a few reasons for this, it’s because I always worry about getting my favourite spot, I love to listen to music at a dangerous volume, I like to be as relaxed as possible before my friends arrive and I usually use the extra time to write. This may be a blog post or a poem or two. The relaxed atmosphere really helps with my creative process, as does the loud music. I don’t really interact with anyone there really because I’ll be honest, small talk just isn’t my forte. However I talk to any pub dogs I meet and this has meant that I usually have to chat to the owners at least a little bit. One of the reasons I love my weekly pub trip is that I have anonymity. It doesn’t matter that I may be a little strange or out of place because these other pub patrons don’t know me or my life and I find that very liberating.
So now I have laid the groundwork, onto the shame part.
I am besotted with the landlady’s dog, Brian. He is a blue Staffy with an enormous smooshy head and I love him. If I’m very lucky I see him a few times during my evening, usually when I go outside to vape, and because he is there, so is his owner. The landlady is a lovely woman. Salt of the earth, happy to chat to anyone, and has had a lot of practise because of her time as a publican. I like her very much which is a bonus because of my love for Brian the dog.
Last week I was chatting with the landlady at the bar and she asked me what I did for a living.
Simple question right? Wrong! As someone who has been out of work for over ten years due to severe and enduring mental illness this is not an easy question, at least not for me, and there my friends is the shame. Big, glaring, terrible shame. As I said this person is lovely. She has given me zero reason to be worried about her reaction, not to mention that what she could possibly think of me was 1. Out of my control and 2. Of no consequence whatsoever, but I still lied. I told her I worked at my last place of employment. So, why did I lie? Especially when it doesn’t matter? It was in fact a deeply ingrained shame, brought on by myself, because of my thoughts on what makes a person a valued member of society. This shame is deeply personal as I said and I have not and will not feel like anybody else is anything less than valuable. I see no shame in others who can’t work for any reason. I spend a lot of time trying to help others who see themselves as less than. but me? Myself? No. I have to hide my life, I don’t discuss my income, I don’t discuss how I spend my money. Because I don’t want people to know that I need help to survive.
This post is not to spout some garbage about how I am trying to be kinder to myself, or how you can be kinder to yourselves. It is simply to illustrate that if you feel like this too, you are not alone in feeling this way. I’m nearly forty and I have had this shame for most of my adult life. Yes, of course I know that this is something that is shit to deal with. Of course I know that stigma still exists in society against those of us with mental illness and that it may have contributed to the way I view myself. But it is also possible to have these feelings without dissecting societal constructs, and just being able to say, ‘I feel this way and it’s shit’.
If I get asked what I do for a living again, and I’m sure that I will at some point. Will I tell the truth or will I lie? I’d like to say that I’ll try my very best to tell the truth, but if I’m honest I will probably just lie again because I much prefer the easier option.
Maybe I’ll just tell them I’m an astronaut?
Peace out all