“You’ve Punished Yourself Enough.”

Have I though? I wasn’t sure. That was the shame talking. It all goes back to shame. Every time … it goes back to shame. “You said it yourself. You deny yourself anything good.” I did say that. A kind friend pointed that out to me a few weeks before. “You have to let it go.” But I can’t. “This is it for you, Ally. It’s the shame you carry. Let it go. That’s how you’re going to change your life. You have to let go of the shame.”

That conversation took place in my therapist’s office a year ago. It was one of the most painful conversations I’ve ever had. There was physical pain in my chest. I could feel the heat coming off my body. I couldn’t catch my breath. It was painful because she was right & the truth hurts. I remember how I felt going into that appointment. Hopeless. Heavy. Broken. And I remember how I felt leaving that appointment. Overwhelmed. Lost. Still hopeless. Still broken.

Before I left that evening she said, “You carry all this shame, but you don’t have to. You know that right? You don’t have to be the person you’ve convinced yourself you are. You can be more than that. You are more than that, you just have to let go of the shame. The shame you carry has diminished your self worth to nothing.”

I asked her how. How do I let go of the shame? “You take it day by day until it’s where it belongs — behind you, but it starts with honesty & compassion for yourself.” The day by day seemed impossible at the time. I wanted to feel better immediately. I was in so much pain. I told her it’s always been this way — I didn’t believe I could change. But she promised things would be different this time next year. “Commit yourself to the process & your life will change. When you look back next year, you will know you’re different. Trust yourself.” I felt so hopeless & broken that night. Desperate actually. I decided to take a chance on myself. I decided to trust myself. I didn’t feel like there was anything I could lose.

It’s been a year, & I can hardly believe it. I feel lighter. Lighter than I ever thought I could be. There’s still shame & there quite possibly will always be shame, but the things that used to bring me paralyzing shame no longer do. The lack of love from my parents. The long list of men I slept with because that was easier than accepting that I am gay. The hearts I broke. The meltdowns in the hospital. The illnesses themselves. The surgeries. The scars. The depression & anxiety. The awful things I’ve done to others. The awful things I’ve done to myself. The lies I’ve told. The ways I hid my truth. The heaviest things that brought the most shame … they’re free. All of it … all of the things that weigh me down & make me sick. I released them. I told the truth. I acknowledge the past. I shared my darkest secrets. I made amends. I let them out so they can no longer be trapped inside of me. Releasing that weight has been my ticket to healing.

And healing is what’s changed me this year. The process of healing. It’s allowed me to forgive myself for my fuck ups. It’s allowed me to see myself as human … and someone worthy of good things. Beautiful things. With or without the fuck ups. Things like friendship & romantic love & the chance to move forward. Things like finding a place to call home & stability. It’s allowed me to put myself first when I need to. It’s allowed me to tell the truth … even when the truth shatters my heart. Welcome the truth. Become the truth. It’s allowed me to realize that when I fuck up — because I still fuck up & always will — I can forgive myself. I can love myself anyway. I can do better tomorrow. It’s allowed me to stop drowning myself in shame & punishment. It’s allowed me to welcome good things into my life because I’m worthy of them.