I feel you before I know you are here. I know you all too well. You’ve been coming here for as long as I can remember. You don’t change; you’re still just as loud and persistent as you’ve always been. You start with a whisper, then try to talk. If I don’t respond, you’ll yell, and eventually, you win; you always win.
I finally know who you are. You have many names, shame, self-loathing, and imposter syndrome, to name a few. You are my shadow. I thought you had left for good. I thought I had fought the good fight and found sobriety, so how are you here? When you showed up today, we fell quickly into our usual routine. I helped you unpack your bags, looking for a clue or find the reason for this visit. You did not disappoint. What shocked me the most was I realized I invited you to visit. I paid for your ticket and asked you in, allowing you free reign over me. I’m shocked; I don’t understand how I could invite you here again, especially when I’ve been working so hard, and I feel so much better. I thought I loved myself more than this. Then I realize I don’t love myself at all, and you’re here to make sure I never forget that I’m a complete piece of shit, a fake, and most of all, a waste of a life. You are here to kill the light.
I think I know what solidified our bond years ago. It was the first drink from the cup of shame. It was bullying 4th through 7th grade; it was struggling in school and not feeling safe at school or home. It was abuse, it was poverty, and it was the knowing that I’m ugly. I knew I was ugly; you made sure of it. I had frizzy hair, pimples, and hand-me-down clothes, and the stench of low self-esteem. Then it was the teasing about my appearance from my peers to make sure that I not only saw how awful I was but heard it as well, like a one-two punch knockout combo. You managed to make sure I knew and would never forget what a piece of shit I genuinely am – your mantra for my life.
I thought you would pack up and leave once I forced my way out of my “ugly phase,” earned a good living, and made a family of my own in a new place. But you still visit and come to stay. You visit when I’m at my best; my most attractive, most accomplished, and most together. You call just the same as when I’m at my worst.
Today when you came to see me, I was surprised. I’ve been better than I’ve been in years. I now know God loves me, and I love him. I have peace. I have love; I have so many blessings; I even have 22 lbs of weight loss. So when we started talking today, and you told me that I brought you here, I was shocked. I let it sink in and tried to figure out how I conjured up your arrival, and then I knew. I had been on social media comparing myself to my peers. A pass time that is like roulette sometimes paying out, allowing me to feel a bit better, but most often, I lose it all, and the shadow comes to call. Today the comparison reminded me that my looks have faded, that I’m still overweight, that I haven’t finished my Masters, that I’m lazy, that I don’t have cool hobbies or even a cute butt. As we talked, you reminded me that I am ugly, disgusting even at times, and will never change. You made sure I understood that all the makeup and acceptance in the world wouldn’t fix my grotesque nose or hide my cavernous pores, oh and you managed to find some new faults like my aging teeth.
I thought I had done the work and was at least on a path far away from you, living in the light. I thought I had self-esteem, self-love, and peace; at times, I know I do. But, unfortunately, I have you. You are a cancer of the soul. Just when I think I’m in remission, you remind me that I’ll never be. You hold the heart of my 12-year-old self, the most broken and hurting me. You own the recordings of cruel words spoken to me throughout my life that you are all so happy to play on repeat. You’ve got the delta chart ready for analysis. You’ve weighed the pros and cons and remind me that cons will always win because everything good about me is a facade. You have all the data and supporting arguments to prove that I’m an imposter. And there it’s, my core belief, the reason you can come to call whenever you want, I don’t believe in myself. I know all the bad parts of me are the truth.
Thankfully you have not killed the light, and she brings logic and reason with her as her companions. We discuss the trauma I’ve experienced, my distorted thought process and watch a beautiful slide show of all the great, decent, unique, and beautiful things about me. I appreciate their visit. I appreciate logic and reason, as they can quite the shadow and get me to hear their arguments. We agree that I need to find a way to love myself truly. They tell me that I’m not alone in this, and the path forward is to love God and feel His love, then love others and keep moving forward each day. Logic and reason talk to my soul and decide that a tonic is needed to banish the shadow for good. I must find a way to love myself.