No. I don’t feel shame when I look at this because of my hot pink dress and necklace, bright blue stockings, or wings. I look fierce af, no doubt about that. I was living in New Orleans at the time, in a grungy art house, working at a shitty non-profit, going out a lot, drinking too much, making dope friends, some ok frenemies, and just living my best life…except there was all this negative, toxic-ass energy I kept attracting.
While I do see a resilient, smart, gorgeous young woman in this picture, my trauma was front and center and had completely taken over my life. On the outside, I had a master’s degree, was traveling, having fun and making a difference. What no one knew was that I had just left behind an abusive relationship. No one had a clue that in the relationship before that, I was the abuser. In this this picture, I was on the brink of heading towards yet another abusive person, who I would openly and desperately welcome into my life because I thought it was what I deserved. Under this hot pink dress lied a host of unaddressed childhood traumas. Beneath the flyness were layers of police aggression (the art house got raided 3 times by a squat team, one of many police horror stories I’ll save for another time), sexual harassment, misogyny, racism, microaggressions and all sorts of other fun stuff you have to deal with in the body you inhabit.
If I’m being honest, shame is my first reaction to this picture. The shame I feel when I look at this picture is in part holding myself accountable as a recovering rage-a-holic mixed with “Why did you do this to yourself?” What I’ve learned over the years is that my first reaction, or shame, is just an indication that I have more work to do.
Moving past shame, for me, looks like acknowledging it, recognizing my unchecked anger and choices were expressions and symptoms of unaddressed pain, thanking myself for going to therapy, actively choosing a healthy partner to grow and heal with, and being proud of my progress. My therapist, who helped me more than I could ever express in words, taught me that compassion heals all wounds. She encouraged me to look at this and all pictures of myself with gentleness, care, love, empathy, understanding, and forgiveness. Shame leads to violence and harm. I have to do the work.
Yes, I’m still a weirdo. My social interactions are off. I fear getting to know people outside of established relationships, and my introversion can be a lil unhealthy at times. But I am here. Being vulnerable. Sharing myself. Telling my stories. Making myself grow. Making art. Showing up for me.
Thank you for reading.