"The Me You Can't See": How To Stop Hiding Behind Your Hurt and Start Sharing Your Story
Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry have produced a new series on mental health - "The Me You Can't See" If the words, "the me you can't see" speak to you in any way, I encourage you to watch this powerful series. If you're feeling like an imposter or unseen because you are hiding behind your hurt, the stories of shared suffering in "The Me You Can't See" will connect with you in ways which you may not have felt before.
Inspired by the series, today's blog is a personal message to you. Because of the stigma and shame around the fragility of our mental health, many of us walk around with emotional and psychological wounds thinking it is better to pretend that nothing is wrong than to admit our lives are not working for us in the ways we have dreamed of and desired. I hope today's blog will encourage you to share your feelings and allow yourself to be seen.
Although there are many reasons why individuals don't seek help or delay it, sometimes it is our own thinking which gets in the way. Let's take a look at three self-shaming thoughts which signal you may be hiding behind your hurt. And, let's learn how to reframe those thoughts in order to come out of its shadow.
Self-Shaming Thought #1: There is something wrong with me.
Have you ever said to yourself, "There is something wrong with me"? You try to ignore the thought but your mind keeps spinning as you continue to self-shame: "I should be able to get over this. I should be able to do this! I'm just too weak. I need to toughen up, suck it up, and get over it." If that isn't enough self-deprecation, the inner dialogue of comparison continues: "My best friend doesn't have this problem. He keeps going, even when things are hard. That's it. I need to try harder. But I do. And then, I give up. What is wrong with me?"
This self-shaming thought is destructive. Not only does it exacerbate feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness, but it fuels depression, anxiety, as well as many other psychological and behavioral disorders. And as importantly, in this mindset of over-responsibility for our "flawed state of being," we continue hiding behind our hurt.
You are not alone if you feel you are at fault. Before reaching out for help, most people feel the same way. One of the most empowering moments in "The Me You Can't See" is the reframing of this self-shaming pattern of thinking. Oprah and Dr. Bruce Perry, co-authors of "What Happened To Me?", bring this self-shaming thought out of its shadow by suggesting the following:
Instead of saying, "What is wrong with me?"
Reframe it as, "What happened to me?"
Whether you have experienced significant or minor trauma in your past, or adverse childhood experiences, or other developmental disturbances, these ALL contribute to your levels of functioning today. There is nothing wrong with you. There is something which went wrong in your past.
One step in coming out of hiding behind your hurt is to explore your past in order to find out "what happened to you." In "The Me You Can't See," we witness how many individuals entered therapy, counseling, or engaged in community support systems which enabled them to unlock their painful pasts and unhook them from this faulty self-shaming thinking.
Self-Shaming Thought #2: I am embarrassed and ashamed of my feelings.
Have you ever said to yourself, "I am embarrassed and ashamed of my feelings"? Or your inner dialogue sounds like, "No one will understand if I say I'm depressed. I don't dare say anything. They will make fun of me." Or, your fear of disapproval takes hold and you begin thinking, "No one will believe me if I tell them what happened to me. In fact, they will blame me. They will say it was my fault. And then, I will feel even more ashamed." Or, "In my culture, we don't talk about anxiety or depression. I would never admit I am cutting myself. I will bring shame onto my family. It is a sign of weakness." And then, there are thoughts such as, "I have made a mess of my life. I drink...I can't hold a job. I've alienated my family. All my friends have moved on with their lives. I'm such looser. I am embarrassed and ashamed."
In "The Me You Can't See," as music icon Lady GaGa, NBA star DeMar DeRozan, and mental health advocate Zak Williams (son of actor Robin Williams) disclosed the pain around their traumas and their mental illness, they also shared how they felt ashamed of their pain and kept it hidden.
- Lady GaGa, who was raped by a powerful person in the music industry, experienced debilitating shame and remained silent for years.
- DeMar DeRozan, who suffered from childhood trauma, stress, and depression, felt embarrassed to speak about it and kept his pain a secret.
- Zak Williams, who struggled with crippling anxiety and depression, masked his suffering and shame with alcohol.
As they continued sharing their stories, Lady GaGa, DeMar, and Zak disclosed how their shame flourished in secrecy and silence. All three described how they were able to bring it out of its shadow by reframing its presence in their lives.
Instead of saying, "I am embarrassed and ashamed of my feelings."
Reframe it as, "Who or what is the source or cause of my shame?"
Whether someone or something has traumatized you or you have endured traumatic events, or if you have been predisposed genetically or environmentally to mental illness, you are not the cause or source of your shame. However, you can be its host. As long as you choose to carry it in secrecy and silence, shame will thrive in quiet darkness.
Another step in coming out of hiding behind your hurt is by identifying and addressing the sources of your shame, whether they are physical, emotional, psychological, relational, environmental, or other. Lady GaGa, DeMar Derozan, and Zak Williams sought out professional help and bravely processed the causal elements of their shame. By doing so, they brought shame out of its shadow while bringing themselves into the light.
Self-Shaming Thought #3: I am powerless and afraid.
When you are hiding behind your hurt, have you ever had the thought, "I am powerless and afraid"? As you consider speaking up about your pain, your mind rehearses additional self-shaming thoughts: "I've been told not to complain. Even when I've asked for help, no one has supported me. I am alone and I am frightened." Or, perhaps others have added fuel to your fear and sense of powerlessness by guilting you: "If you speak up and tell what is going on with you, you will ruin our family and our reputation. This is our business. Don't you dare share it with anyone." And as you continue to self-shame, you convince yourself the situation is hopeless: "This is all my fault. Even if I wanted to, I can't change myself or anything in my life. I am powerless and I am afraid."
One of the most hopeful messages in "The Me You Can't See" is that every person profiled in the series courageously worked through their sense of powerlessness over their feelings and of being afraid to share them. Each person invested into a safe, trusted person, path, or process in which to become vulnerable and do their healing work.
- A young Syrian male refugee with severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder slowly and painfully opened up to a camp doctor.
- A Pakistani adult male catapulted into severe depression over his mother's premature death found healing in writing poetry and sharing it.
- A brilliant college student suffering with the sudden onset of schizophrenia reluctantly accepted her diagnosis and then fully embraced effective, strategic interventions.
- In addition to a traumatic childhood, a war vet further shattered by his son's suicide gave himself over to a professionally-guided safe healing environment where he found healing through bonding with animals who were also traumatized.
- Prince Harry suffered silently for years with unresolved grief, depression. and anxiety following his mother's tragic death. Encourage by his wife Meghan, he opened up to her about his unresolved anger and deep pain. Shortly after, he began his recovering journey which continues today.
As long as we hold on to our suffering, we will feel powerless and afraid. When we share our stories, there is risk involved. It requires that we become vulnerable. And yet, it is in our vulnerability where we grow, heal, and transform.
Instead of saying, "I am powerless and afraid."
Reframe it as, "When I share my feelings with a trusted source,
I am vulnerable, strong, and brave."
One final step in coming out of your hiding from hurt is to begin sharing it with trusted sources. As the layers of pain and shame are peeled away, their shadows will fade. And, you will experience a lighter way of being. *See note below.
In closing, I hope today's blog has been helpful. I hope you are able to watch "The Me You Can't See." I've always been a strong believer in the healing power of "shared suffering." If you see a story which mirrors your own, and I believe you will, I know you will no longer feel alone. I hope you will allow yourself to be vulnerable and process your pain with a trusted source. I am confident you will experience the healing which comes from sharing all of your story.
Believe and Be Well
Coming Summer 2021! Stories of Shared Suffering and Healing!
*Note: There are many situation and circumstances where it is not safe to share our suffering and when it may illicit further harm to ourselves. Therefore, it is important to remember to share your feelings only with trusted individuals and sources which will welcome you with unconditional positive regard, empathic support, and professional guidance.