Shame, an important human emotion. Shame drives us to adhere to established norms. But is this feeling always justified? In chronically ill people, shame often arises from the fear of no longer being enough.

I was on sick leave for a very long time. At some point, I had to admit to myself that I wouldn´t be able to work. I was living in a partnership and did not feel that I was equal, because I felt I could no longer pull my weight. My daughter was still quite young. We have a very close relationship. Sometimes it was painful when someone put their arm around me. In every role, I had been demoted, that's how I felt.

At the same time, I am a very spontaneous, flexible, energetic person with lots of ideas. I couldn't explain to my boss at the time what I had. With my partner, I was at the beginning of our relationship. He did a lot of research on the disease and asked me a lot of questions. Friends told him "You're already taking on a lot of responsibility." We are married today. My daughter loved me unconditionally, no matter what I looked like or what I had. Probably the biggest problem was myself. I no longer felt I belonged, no longer felt worthy, and without dignity.

I felt ashamed, but I had "only" become ill. "Look at you, you have had a child and you are in this state"! Admonition from a close person. Due to all the medication, especially in the beginning, I had put on a lot of weight. I no longer felt capable, no longer part of society. And this feeling was confirmed by those around me. I was often asked, "When is the time coming?" So when the child will come. When I was well into my 50s, I began to see this as a compliment.

When I look at my biography, there are a lot of difficult episodes. But for me that was normal. Children are very adaptable, at least that's how it looks on the surface. When I was with an ADHD therapist for whom I was allowed to write a résumé of my biography, she said "I haven't read a CV like that in a long time" and I was surprised. (ADHD means "attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. In my case, the "H" is missing.)

Often these periods in my life resulted in complaints, but I did not associate the circumstances with the complaints. For example, My father was married three times, my mother four times. I came from the second marriage. I moved houses a lot in my life, attended 6 different primary schools. Again and again I had to say goodbye to friends, find new ones. Until I didn't anymore. New families were presented to me, which then also left. At the age of fifteen, I suffered from anorexia, which of course I was not aware of. At that time nobody talked about it. Later, a breach of trust occurred in connection with my father's cancer treatment, which I describe elsewhere. This unfortunately had a very lasting effect on my relationship with doctors.

Taken at face value these things are not particularly devastating. Put together with a lot more they become a chain of events, that does change the way I perceive things.  I'm pretty sure that many of you have also experienced a chain of episodes that have had some kind of physical effect.

It is important to give the disease some space, even if it may sound strange because actually we do not want it in our lives. But now we have it, it deserves its space. Only then can we take a few steps back and not feel so constricted by it.

Being sick is not a reason to be ashamed, to hide, or to have a guilty conscience. We are not to blame for this illness. Click to tweet

This is what a doctor wrote to me.

Later in the self-help group and in further training courses I saw and experienced that not only I, but also very many people are ashamed of their illness, and experience this shame as something very stressful. Such feelings can sometimes be equally as stressful as the illness itself.

Have you also had such feelings?x

What I have learned, and also want to pass on, is. It is good to let go of shame. It sounds easy, but it's not, because it's built up over a long time and is often connected to some behavioural pattern. You have probably said to someone else "that's no reason to be ashamed". You can also say that to yourself, if necessary quite often.

I have learned a lot about shame and vulnerability from the researcher and author, Brené Brown. She gives inspiring talks on TED Talks. She says: "I define shame as the extremely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging." Let that sentence sink in. "...unworthy...of love." Ever felt that? What I like about her is that she talks about her own experiences with shame and vulnerability in a very humorous but authentic way. She also has a great homepage and blog where you can find a lot of inspiring and encouraging things in English. you can also find her videos in English there. On TedTalks you can find some with German subtitles.

Working on this aspect of shame is where the inspiration for the blogname "Shame the pain" came from (not me, not us! )

Photo by Hadis Safari on Unsplash Woman with Flower