We are at the airport today, setting out for ten days in Greece. It’s been more than two years since we’ve been on a trip abroad. In fact apart from one or two nights a couple of hours away from home we haven’t stayed away at all during this time.
So it’s a big step. We recognise how very fortunate we are to be able to go, to have been able to save up, to both have each other and be well enough for the journey, challenging as it is. At the same time, mentally I’ve been finding it difficult. I tend to feel shame that I do find it difficult and that I get scared, anxious and part of me would rather not go and stick to the safety of home surroundings. It must make me ungrateful, says the voice in my head, and that means I’m spoiled, and that means I need to be punished to avoid a terrifying consequence – and a complex avalanche of shaming gathers pace in my head. It’s amazing the heart stopping fear that can be associated with shame for a seemingly insignificant thing. It’s far more intense than the emotions the shame sprang out of.
This leads me to be frozen in fear with the accusatory voice screaming at me as well as experiencing the stressful emotions that led to the shame in the first place.
I haven’t yet found how to break the link from the emotions to the shame I feel for them. What I’m trying to do firstly is to acknowledge the emotions my shame tells me I shouldn’t have, and as much as I can sit with them gently, and not try to force them down inside or distract ineffectually with whirring thoughts or frantic scrolling social media. Shame means hide your feelings. Acknowledging and allowing them means safety for vulnerability. And to reinforce that, and cast out the shame, I’m trying to find as many ways to tell myself I’m safe right now as I possibly can. Shame means unsafe, for me and my loved ones. So if I act as if I’m safe, perhaps it will tell my mind and body it’s okay and my vulnerable self and my true feelings will expand and find room to be.
We’re at the airport, we are taking in an unexpected moment of stillness in a quiet corner right now. I’m feeling the anxiety, uncertainty, excitement, fear, hope, fragility – and here I am, nevertheless, going forward one step at a time (or one roll at a time since I’m in the wheelchair!).