I threw away the shame that was never mine to carry.
As trauma survivors, we often carry around negative feelings that are associated with our trauma. Shame, guilt, anger, hatred, sadness, and other feelings can attach themselves to our hearts when we suffer traumatic experiences.
This year, I attended a healing vigil hosted by a chapter of the Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice. After listening to some of the many survivors I had the privilege of meeting that day speak, we all gathered in a circle around a trash can. We were handed post-it notes and were asked to write something down that we wanted to get rid of, something we had been carrying around with us. We then went around the circle, each survivor sharing pieces of their story and what they were releasing.
On my post-it note, I had written a single word: shame. I felt ashamed that I had been victimized multiple times as a child, teenager, and young adult, by multiple perpetrators. I felt ashamed that I wasn’t able to protect some of my loved ones from violence and abuse. I felt ashamed that I had allowed fear to keep me silent. Simply put, I felt ashamed of my trauma. All that shame was being internalized and was a part of why I didn’t love and accept myself at that time in my life.
What I realized as I listened to each survivor share, was that the shame I felt was misplaced. The only people that shame belonged to, was the people throughout my life that chose to abuse me, rape me, and traffic me. Throughout all my trauma, I had done the one thing that I needed to, survive. Standing in solidarity with the beautiful, brave, and incredibly strong men and women around me, I concluded that the only thing we should feel as survivors is pride. We should feel proud that we were victorious over our victimization.
When it came to be my turn, I told my truth with dignity and threw away the shame that was never mine to carry.
I encourage trauma survivors to try this exercise. Write down a negative feeling associated with your trauma, something that you carry around with you, something you want to release. Then, throw it away, literally.