Shame: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

The toxic emotion that makes illness even more difficult

Martha Manning, Ph.D.
Invisible Illness
Published in
8 min readMay 3, 2024

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Photo by Julia Taubitz on Unsplash

The pain and shame of depression

For most of my adult life, I have wrestled with recurrent, wretched mood disorders and agitation. I was a hard-driving, successful clinical psychologist and professor. I had a young daughter I adored, and a long term, happy marriage. I was pretty pleased with myself.

Early in my thirties, the rug was ripped out from under me. I lost my hold on the life I thought was in my control. It hit so hard that all of my attempts to heal myself were useless.

My body caved in, depriving me of sleep, energy, fluidity, as well as haunting me with the unsettling sense that it no longer belonged to me. I lost my connections to activities, and to people. I couldn’t think or plan. My brain, the jewel in the crown of my existence, eroded by the day. The future seemed like a never-ending horror that I longed to escape.

I was writhing in the pain of the depression itself. But added to that was the overwhelming experience of shame. In the beginning, all my energy went to faking it. But then it seeped into my relationships, and people who knew me well sensed that something was very wrong. I was mortified.

“Helpful” hurts

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Martha Manning, Ph.D.
Invisible Illness

Dr. Martha Manning is a writer and clinical psychologist, author of Undercurrents and Chasing Grace. Depression sufferer. Mother. Growing older under protest.