My chest feels hollow and there is a sick feeling in the the pit of my stomach. These sensations are as old to me as…my life. Memories flash before me–dozens of them. The content of most of them doesn’t stick to me as much as the physical feeling of them. But there is one memory I cannot shake…

I was in the second grade and for whatever reason I had written my name on the textbook with a permanent marker. I cannot fathom why I did so given the fact we had to return our books at the end of each term; that they were school property. As the school year wore on I began to feel a sense of guilt that quickly morphed into an unbearable and secret shame. I hid myself in the bathroom and tried to scrub my name off the cover of the book. I carried this pain secretly within. I couldn’t let anyone know that I was suffering; that I believed the world was going to crumble away when I was discovered. I don’t recall how the story even resolves itself. My guess is that nothing awful actually happened. And yet…I suffered for weeks in this private hell. When I think about that little kid the thing that makes me saddest is the way he carried that pain inside like a dark secret. A little kid writes his name on a book and he believes he is the worst child who has ever lived. And he is alone with that. So very alone. He doesn’t believe that he has anywhere to turn so he turns back inside.

I carry within my bones the belief that I am bad. For all the work I have tried to do on myself throughout my life I fall back to this familiar place. It is as though my body refuses to let me off the hook. I keep turning back inside and thinking that something different will happen.

I am tired. I say this constantly: I am tired. What does it really mean to say that? To feel that all the time? It means that my body can only bear so much. So much work. So much uncertainty (within and without). So much loneliness. So much ancient shame. It means I’m tired of trying so hard to be “good” in order to compensate for this shame. But the moment I let my guard down then another ancient fear grips me: you will be abandoned for resting; for not trying hard enough to be good. And in swoops another familiar feeling: a burning in my chest; a restlessness in my limbs; a feeling that I have to do something or I will die.

I’m not sure that there is a point in sharing any of this. Does it bring relief to acknowledge these things aloud rather than suffer privately like the little boy? Does it make any difference to be able to voice these things? I don’t know if brings relief or if it simply keeps me stuck. But for right now typing this…doing something with my fingers…it is what stands between me and more sobs.

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