I once had a therapist who introduced me to the concept of ‘shame attacks’. She was exuberant and expressive, her group sessions were educational and always full of energy. I was fond of her, and I often think of her when I feel crippled by shame.
After my last session with J, I’ve experienced quite a few shame attacks. I should probably explain what I mean by that. You know that feeling when you think of something so embarrassing that your skin prickles all over? You can almost feel the shame running up and over your body. You cringe, want to curl up and hide. That’s a shame attack.
I get this sensation whenever I think about the material we covered in Tuesday’s session. And even though I really needed J to respond how she did, I feel like an idiot for letting myself become so small and vulnerable that I needed a hug and ended up in tears. I don’t usually cry in therapy (or ever really) and I hate it when I do. It makes me feel defenceless.
Today was a bit easier than recent weeks. But I still felt a bit stuck. On reflection, I feel like perhaps that shame was sitting in between J and I, blocking us from connecting fully. As I arrived straight from a busy morning in the office, I was also a bit hyper, which adds another element to contend with. I’m pretty good at coating myself in a tough, protective layer when I need to be professional. Sometimes it is difficult to drop that when I leave.
J and I talked about Christmas. Today was our last session before I go on holiday, and as usual I am feeling anxious about being away from her. I’m anxious about being away from home, my routine and my safety network. Even though my wife and I are going to visit family, it feels like I’m going out into the unknown without a fall back plan. I have to be well. I have to be sociable. I have to survive 13 hours flying each way without freaking out. The whole thing is frightening.
It was however, good to talk this irrational fear through. It reminded me that I need to focus on the good stuff that will happen on holiday. I will see my in-laws, which I’m excited about, we’ll have a proper snowy Christmas and I will get to ski. And it is important for me to reassure myself that when I come home, J will still be there for me. As will my friends and my job and my home. Nothing is going to change all that much in two weeks, and keeping that in mind is strangely comforting.