depression, journalling

The Detrimental Impact of Toxic Shame

Trigger warning: self-harm and suicidal ideation




Alyse Parker, a YouTuber and life coach I follow, said in one of her recent videos that we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with.

That was definitely a thought-provoker for me. Because I spend a lot of my time at work and I don’t really click with a lot of my colleagues. Not many of us have the luxury of working with people we can genuinely be ourselves around but for me personally, my workplace is something I have identified as being a factor in my recent decline with my mental health.

A series of unfortunate events along with feeling distrusting of those I work with has led to me feeling completely on edge and isolated in my workplace. The amount of shame I’ve been feeling is unbearable and I believe it has been triggered by the pain of being surrounded by people who for the most part: a) don’t “get” me; and b) aren’t sensitive to the fact I’m suffering from a mental illness. This consistent discordant feeling at work has started to weave its way into my brain. I have been internalising the idea that there is something wrong with me and that I’m a nuisance. And it’s led me to breaking point.

Shame is an excruciating nervous system response. Teal Swan, my favourite spiritual teacher, believes it goes far beyond being just an emotion. It is something biologically wired into us and it serves the sole purpose of demanding that we adapt ourselves to please others and maintain our position within the tribe/community/society.

The waves of shame have become increasingly frequent and I feel them when I think about not just my work and the sometimes damaging interactions I have had there, but about all manner of things. With these waves of shame often come intrusive thoughts, sometimes born of blind rage and frustration at others for having mistreated me and triggered this shame, and sometimes stemming from a deep-seated feeling of inadequacy and desire for self-destruction.

Things have snowballed ever since I got back from my native Shetland. The contrast of having the time away from this situation and then being put right back into it has put things into perspective. My workplace is incredibly damaging to me at the moment and many of the working relationships I have there have been damaged beyond repair. Or damaged beyond an extent that I feel willing or able to repair them.

There have been multiple times this past week where I have had to stop what I am doing because of intrusive thoughts about self-harm and suicide. I said on a call to Samaritans the other day that: “whether I self-harm or not actually makes no difference to me, every time I think about it, it creates an emotional wound anyway”. I had no idea at the age of 17, after that fight with my boyfriend when I cut for the first time, that 7 years on it would be on my mind on a daily basis.

I haven’t done it in about 5 months but I don’t feel “clean”. I feel anything but. I feel absolutely plagued by it. I hate this discourse around being clean from self-harm – I don’t relate whatsoever. I won’t feel clean or recovered when I reach some sort of linear benchmark, I’ll feel it when I feel upset or ashamed and it isn’t the first thing my mind goes to. As far as I’m aware, the addiction is alive and well – it rattles around my brain and nervous system on a daily basis.

Simply being at work is a trigger for me at the moment and for my own welfare I need to be signed off. My plan for this week is to speak to HR tomorrow, speak to a GP Wednesday and try not to do anything stupid.

It’s my birthday tomorrow. I’m booked into a fancy hotel for 2 nights which I’m mostly excited about. Hopefully I can incorporate some rest, pleasure and self-love into my life the next few days. It’s my intention to spend a lot of time in my hotel room lounging around in lingerie, enjoying my body, maybe taking some nice pictures and watching movies. I bought some nice lingerie today. Things like that make me really happy.

I listened to a great podcast from Celeste The Therapist today and her guest talked about how a way of falling in love with yourself is to more or less “date yourself”. Despite all this mental insanity, that’s what I’ve been trying to do. I think to really love yourself you do have to date yourself and give yourself all the things you think you can only get from someone else.

I was actually making brilliant headway with self-love before all this shit happened. Or maybe they were running parallel to each other – me loving myself and also all of this unbearable shame coming up to heal.

I saw something about the whole phoenix rising from the ashes story the other day and thought: “No. I’m not doing it again. I can’t keep rising and falling. This is it now. This is the last time. I’m not trying again. It’s bullshit.” It simply doesn’t interest me anymore. Survival itself feels very precarious at the moment, I have no interest in rising. I just don’t want to desire death. That’s my main focus right now. Not “thriving” or any of that crap. I’m just trying to live. Even though I don’t really want to.

I don’t want to thrive and reach my potential only to be plunged to the depths of suicidal despair again. It’s not worth it. Plus, each time it happens it’s worse. So it’s not really a sustainable pattern… I don’t really know what I’m saying or trying to say. I just want to survive without it feeling like an uphill battle.

I’ve recently opened my horizons a bit with regards to the therapy that I’ve been waiting on for almost a year. I’ve applied for a few more different places which are more expensive just so I can get something quicker. And I’ll utilise Breathing Space and Samaritans in the meantime. God what a fucked-up situation. I hope to God that there is some sort of plan in place for me, that the universe knows what’s happening. That something to do with my work will fall into place and make my life bearable again. I don’t have much faith but I do have some.

I will write more about the suicidal ideation once I can talk about it with a bit of hindsight and when I am out of the woods. I told my closest friends about these feelings today which was a big step forward.

Thanks for reading.

– SMUT. ❤ xxxx


Header art by @helvatten on Twitter + Instagram.


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