Self-Care: A Short "Shame" Story

Nov 16, 2017 by Bethel Swift, in Self-Care
[Please note: I love the studio I attend classes at, so this story is not about naming names; rather it is a reminder that a) words have weight and b) people have worth - regardless of their appearance or accomplishments.]

A few months ago, I went back to cardio dance class for the first time since the spring.

The night before class, I was experiencing great anxiety about my comeback but I was determined to overcome my fears. I'd bought expensive new inserts for my gym shoes (to combat tendinitis and fallen arches - the conditions that caused me to take a pause from cardio dance in the first place); I had my new inhaler; and I had my old workout outfit (though it fit embarrassingly snug).

The morning of, I binge ate Reese's PB cups and started shame spiraling but pulled myself together in time to still attend (and even more impressive for someone on the ED spectrum, to do so not as "punishment" but because - as I reminded myself - I love dance and I wanted to give that gift to myself).

I got in my car, cranked up the music, and arrived right on time. Once I approached the check-in counter and handed over my prepurchased punch pass, I quickly realized the lady signing me in could see that the last time I'd come was in May and she wasn't ready to let that go unannounced.

"May!" She loudly exclaimed, then repeated. "May? Shame on you!"

"I know. I know." I answered, in the expected tone of self-reproach although I could already feel this post writing itself in my head. I took my position in the class and very consciously choose to let it go: the comment, my affirmation of it, and the shame I felt about both. Instead, I focused on having fun and inwardly congratulating myself for getting there.

To be clear, the woman working the desk that morning is a very nice person and an instructor herself who just has one of those coaching personalities with a "drop and give me 50" style of teaching (which is one of the reasons I don't attend her classes - fear of getting called out for modifying a movement or taking too long of a break to catch my breath, etc.). I get it, I really do...

But she doesn't get it. And she doesn't know me like that. And she doesn't know the hidden strength it took for me to be able to get myself here today.

She doesn't know about the pain-filled days, sleepless nights, and increasingly frequent panic attacks. She doesn't know about the hours spent in doctors' offices, pharmacy lines, and urgent care clinics; the endless referrals to more and more eager-to-dispense-another-drug specialists, about side-effects, and trying to be one's own patient advocate so "they" will finally get to the bottom of why I can barely function. She doesn't know that it takes everything out of me to hold down my care-giving job and a little bit more than I have to do anything extra for myself.

She doesn't know I've put on a ton of weight and I fear the room will be rank with palpable judgement about that (it wasn't, so thank you ladies and gent!). She doesn't know how easy it is to self-sabotage when you know you will be entering a fit-friendly space - and you aren't fit. She doesn't know any of that and so she doesn't realize what it means to arrive here and be met with both a smile - and a heaping dose of shame.