When the Name of the Game is Shame

If you have read pervious post you know I have been well acquainted with fear. In my very last post I introduced you to my experience with my friend shame. Shame has definitely been a close companion of mine over the years. I learned early on I was too much. I asked too many questions and over thought everything. I drove everyone one around me crazy with my curious mind. Even to this day if I am not mindful my inquisitive nature will get the best of me. The feedback I received from others growing up left me believing that there was something wrong with me. I struggled most of my life trying to blend in with everyone. I would often wonder why I had such a difficult time just being. I wanted a life without the thoughts, feelings and questions. I grew to hate my “curious nature” because it left me on the outskirts.

 

The more I tried to tone down my need to know the greater my anxiety and shame grew. My passive protest against living authentically only served to fuel the shame that was coiled around my soul like an anaconda wrapped around its prey. Literally, each breath caused shame to construct tighter squeezing the life out of me. Because I spent most of my life in fear I was not aware of the depth to which shame impacted my thoughts and actions. Before becoming pregnant shame only taunted me from the shadows, rearing its ugly head only when extreme emotions ran high. Once I began my journey into motherhood shame became the locked jaw monster, never relenting its hold on me. I would wake up in panic just thinking about who I was. Yes, I had guilt about getting pregnant. The guilt I experienced was nothing compared to shame that shook me to my core. See, shame is all about who we are while guilt is about what we do. I was in deep hate with who I was. In my mind I was wrong, foul, dirty, and broken.

 

I recall one day my roommate saw me getting ready to go out. She said, “Danell, you are so pretty. I wish I was as pretty as you.” I remember wanting to vomit partly because I was drunk and also because I hated how I looked. Everything about me was wrong. I was too dark, too big, too loud, too everything. How could this girl think I was pretty? It disgusted me to my core that she had offered me such a complement. Being me was the worse experience possible. My son was living with my parents in Texas as I completed my time on active duty. I hated my self for needing them. I knew how broken my mother was and yet she was the only person I could turn to for her help. I missed my son and wanted him with me at the same time I felt completely incapable of raising him.

 

It is really hard for me to recall my day-to-day life during this period because I spent much of my time and energy managing extreme emotions or getting drunk. I know of the most people around me had no idea about my personal suffering. People either saw me partying or they didn’t see me at all. When I was not out I was locked in my room lying in bed mentally reliving every mistake I had ever made in my life. My mind was cluttered with irrational thoughts that reinforced my shame. Sadly, I cannot recall any happy moments from this time. Events that were meant to bring happiness and joy only feed my feelings of shame. I was depressed and alone.

 

I tried my hand at dating and quickly found I was not built for relationships. Anything more than random sex required too much energy to be worth the effort. I was the queen of mixed messages. It was all fun and games until the guy wanted more. More time, more me…. More of anything was too much. To be honest, I doubt there was anything any guy could I have done right. The moment I met a guy I assigned an expiration date. I knew my relationship with myself was the foundation on which all other relationships were built and that relationship was rocky to say the least. Not only was my foundation cracked, buckled, and slanted it was also built on quick sand; nothing built here would last long. I was tittering on the edge of a cliff called life. Already off balance and barley hanging on I find myself in all too familiar situation.

 

I remember “dating” (I use the word dating loosely) a fellow sailor. This fellow Corpsman we will call Smith. We hung out from time to time and worked well together. However, I did not realize his friend, let’s call him Jones, was interested in me. After leaving a party early Jones offered to take me home. It was not uncommon for one Corpsman to drive another home after a night out on the town. I had been drinking but not enough to render unable to drive home. Initial, I arrived at the party with a female friend. It had been a few hours and I was ready to go home. She on the other hand still had a full night of partying ahead of her. I worked with Jones and never in a million years would I have imagined he would bring me so much grief and pain. As Jones was taking me home he begin to tell me how Smith was sleeping with other girls. I must admit it did seem odd to me that Jones was breaking “bro code” by dishing dirt on his friend. However, I did not find the need to correct Jones on his assumptions about my fluid relationship with Smith.

 

I found it odd Jones had unbuckled his seat belt the moment we passed the gate. I simply noted the action and sat patiently as we drove to my barracks parking lot. Jones put the car in park and before I could unfasten my seat belt I find myself crammed between my seat and Jones. I was in shock at how quickly he moved. I yelled at him to stop, but he continued to hold me down as he forced my pants passed my knees replacing my underwear with his face. I remember the stubble of his beard scrapping the tender insides of my legs as I tried to move. The more I resisted him the more forceful he rubbed his face between my legs causing more pain. The car was hot and the windows fogged. All I could hear was my frantic breath leaving my lungs and my hand scratching the space between the seat and center console as I tried to find the seat belt. My other hand was pushing against the armrest on the door as I tried to escape his greedy movements. I was not in my body. I could see myself observing this horrific scene from outside the car. The more I inhaled the wet sticky air of the car the more my head spun while vomit rose in my throat. My cries for him to stop fell on deaf ears, as Jones did not care what I wanted. The moment he moved I was out of the car, pants barely on.

 

 

Then ice on the ground presented a barrier to my quick escape. Jones was right behind me. I told him I was fine yet he insisted on walking me up. I was hoping there would be someone at the lobby counter when I enter. I had no such luck; there was not a single soul in the lobby or waiting area. When were reached my room I said goodnight and proceeded to shut my room door. Jones shoved the door open and forced his was into my room. As the room began to spin I realized had been here before I knew what was going to happen next. I watched standing at the foot of my bed as my physical body developed a plan to survive this all too familiar encounter. How could this be happening, again?

 

As he shoved me I shoved me telling him to stop and leave. I thought about screaming but decided against it because I did not want someone to find me frantic and hurt. I thought, foolishly, he would keep this a secret. If I could just avoid getting hurt too badly I would be fine. The harder I fought the tighter his hold became. He held my arms so firm I was sure there would be marks after all was said and done. Jones told me to stop fighting, that I wanted him as much as he wanted me. Jones spoke so softly I was certain he was trying to convince himself that his actions were not atrocities perpetrated against someone in his tribe. His words were not meant for me but meant to alleviate his guilt. He whispered in my ear as though this was a mutual encounter. He told me how he wanted this for so long. How he knew I was his and not Smith’s. The tone of his voice was a far cry from the intensity in which he assaulted my body.

 

I hated him. I hated how he tricked me in to thinking we were friends. I hated how I had been so trusting. In the mist of the pain, pressure, and sweat I was hit with a ton of bricks. I realized that this very moment was my fault. The realization sucked all of the air from my body and left behind a single salty tear. I had somehow caused this to happen to me. Fool me once shame you. Fool me twice shame on me. I was not sure how but I was certain I caused this. At best, I should have seen it coming. Either way this was on me. When the breath returned to my body I silently cried. Then it was done. Thank God, it was done. I stood in the middle of my bedroom covering my naked body with my hands. Jones saw I was crying. In that moment I knew he was aware that I did not want he want him then and I certainly did not what him now. He knew that I knew what he had done. Then he fled my room with the same speed and force he used to barrel his way in without permission moments earlier.

 

I am not sure how long I stood naked trying to figure out how this happened. How I had failed myself, again. This was on me and now I had to find a way to live with what I had done. Yes, Jones raped me both my mind and body were aware of that fact. Yet, I felt like I should have known better or done better. I poured myself a drink and took a shower. Not able to wash his imprint from my body with a shower I ran bath. I wanted the water so hot that is washed away every part of me that allowed this to happen. Shortly after climbing in to the tub my phone rang. I saw Smith’s name and sent the call to voicemail. He called again and I answered. I could hear the anger in his voice as he proceeded to tell me how Jones informed him that we had sex moments earlier. I could hear a mixture of desperation and betrayal under the heat of his biting words. He wanted me to tell him it was not true. I said nothing. I wanted to apologize to Smith for what happened. I wanted to tell him I was broken and brought this all on myself. I wanted to soothe the pain I had caused him. But with each word uttered from Smith’s mouth I felt the shame tighten around my vocal cords allowing only breath and silence to remain. I knew I could say nothing because we all worked together. I hoped his bruised ego would prevent him from speaking a word of tonight’s events to any other person. For extra measure I said, “Well, it wasn’t like I was the only person you were sleeping with.” I hung up the phone and poured another drink.

 

I told one person the truth about that night. My friend came by to tell me she heard I had slept with Jones. She was surprised that I would even consider sleeping with him given my relationship with Smith. I told her, to the best of ability, what happened that night. I told the events like I was reading the instructions on a shampoo bottle, emotionless and mindlessly. We never spoke of the incident again. When Monday arrived I got up went to work avoiding both Smith and Jones. My shame spiraled each day I had to see Jones’ face around the clinic. I begin to develop a deep loathing for everyone and everything. I had a strong aversion to looking in the mirror because I could not stand my own image. My shame isolated me. I was left alone with my thoughts and feelings. The deeper I climbed into my head the darker the outside world became. I started to despise my very existence questioning if I should not just put an end to it all. Breathing became hard; living became harder. To survive the havoc shame was wrecking on my psyche I developed a knack for climbing out my physical body. When the emotions became too heavy or the world too dark out I went. I lived in a perpetual state of dissociation.