The Release of Shame

When I was in high school, Jeremiah was my best friend. I lived the farthest away from that rural school than anyone else, over in the next town. Every school morning my mom would drive me the mile from our house to the elementary school to get on an elementary school bus which would drive north for miles where I’d switch off to my school’s bus. The school times were offset so that once I got on the second bus, it sat there for about thirty minutes before actually going any further. Jeremiah was the second person (after me) to get on, so we usually had quite a bit of time in the mornings to just talk (if we weren’t catching up on sleep).

My parents had mean tempers and both severe and erratic punishments to match. There were times when my mom or dad would beat me severely enough that I would have visible bruises. Usually from mom because she used her fists. Dad used a leather belt most often, but rarely hit my face. Being beat by your parents is a shameful thing. I was ashamed. Ashamed of myself and my failure to meet their standards. Ashamed of my parents because I knew it was wrong. Ashamed that I never could stand up to either of them because that’s just how I was raised. Ashamed that I had no voice. I never told a soul about it. Shame and inadequacy shrouded my days.

But the thing is, I WANTED someone to know. Not to fix it or rescue me, but to just hold my hand, as it were; to simply share my burden. I never could get past the shame though. Sometimes Jeremiah would say, what happened to your face? And I would laugh and say, oh you know how clumsy I am… I fell down my stairs again. And he’d laugh too and say, yes you are very clumsy. Then he’d ask if I wanted to play blackjack or gin.

I reached out in my own way. Sometimes, when there were hidden bruises rather than visible ones covering my skin, I would say: well, I fell down my stairs again… but I guess he never did realize what I was actually trying to say. What my meaning was behind the shallowness. It was the only cry for help I could muster.

The first time I told anyone about being beat up by my own parents, was several years later. The guy asked me why I flinched whenever he gestured by my face while talking. Initially I tried to play it off but he persisted and pried it out of me. And I cried as I uncovered my shame and embarrassment. He just looked over at me then back at the road and kept driving. But I noticed his knuckles turn a shade paler on the steering wheel.

And my shame loosened its grip on me just a little tiny bit that night.


tara caribou | ©2019

There are times when those without a voice are crying to be heard. Listen and show empathy.

27 thoughts on “The Release of Shame

  1. Thank you for being brave to share this. I was a child of abuse as well. It took decades for me to come to terms with it enough to release the pain, but of course the memory never leaves.

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    1. Rob, I agree wholeheartedly with discipline in terms of the actual meaning of it: “to train by instruction and exercise; drill.
      to bring to a state of order and obedience by training and control.”
      What my parents did was abuse. There is no other way to say it. My dad would beat me and my sisters if one of us disobeyed he would beat all of us over and over and over until you couldn’t cry anymore. My mom would fly into rage over simple things, such as asking a question. (I remember once I asked where a certain cooking utensil was because it wasn’t in its normal place and her getting up and punching me and when I fell to the ground she began kicking me over and over screaming about what a stupid witch I was.)
      I’m over the physical abuse by now and I’m not afraid to be hit anymore. But I still struggle with the venom spewed from that mouth. I won’t even get started on my dad.
      Thanks for reading.

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  2. Hand to heart. I have often spoken of your courageous writing on many subjects and this is another. The abuse both physical and verbal on children is so unforgivable. It took me most of my life to finally come to a place of peace with the verbal abuse I received as a child. We do need to ‘really listen’ when small voices are crying to be heard. I so admire your strength Tara.

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    1. I think what I really wanted to convey here is that we need to move outside of our own heads sometimes and really pay attention and listen to others. Because we each have our own story and being alone is the worst. Simply listening can mean the world to a person.

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    1. By now, it doesn’t hurt really to talk or think about it, as I have come to a place of healing within myself. Their shame is their own burden to bear. I’m old enough now (in my 40s) that I can see more where they were coming from, even if I completely disagree with them. We are all just broken people. Mainly, I wanted to address the idea that we would be better off so self-absorbed and instead put more energy into reaching out to or listening, really listening, to those around us.

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    1. Hey Tom. I am of the personal belief that this was NOT brave. It would have been bravery had I spoken up while I was in the abuse. Now I have the luxury of hiding behind time and distance, along with not really in any danger of speaking out. That said, I do take your point. I wish I hadn’t endured this but then again, suffering teaches us way more than blissful peace.

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  3. Thank you for baring your soul again, this is another tesserae in the mosaic of you. And though it maybe a dark piece, it fills out the overall picture further. It feels odd to ‘like’ this type of work, I would much rather hug you in realms of actuality. .
    Everything we go through is a test, and has brought you to who you are today. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Indeed, we learn the most about ourselves during times of trial and adversity than in the fluffy soft moments. Mostly, I just want others to listen to the hidden or disguised cries from those hurting. Get to know someone so well that you can read between the lines. Listen.

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  4. It takes awhile doesn’t it …… Tara,… we share certain experiences , but I will not weigh you with mine now , I am just listening to yours …… I am so very glad to hear these words ….
    My Therapist ,. laid a plan in front of me before leaving Japan months ago ,…but my assignment was to go back through each event and separate which was Fear , and which was Anger …. and to look behind the mask … Because Fear is often masked by Anger , and we cannot Heal what we are hiding … the Mind and heart won’t let us do both …
    The amount of fear , that some children carry is unconscionable . But we live . And we become…..

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  5. I’m so sorry this happened to you. I wish I had something helpful and perfect to say. (I’m sure you know this now, but still…) … it was never your fault. I think it’s very brave of you to share your experiences. ❤

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  6. I’m sorry that you had to go through this abuse as a child – shame is such a terrible, insidious part of abuse or bullying when actually there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I wonder if Jeremiah knew what was going on but didn’t know how to reach out, or if he ever realised it as an adult.

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    1. I’ve often wondered about Jeremiah too. It would be interesting to know either way. I know he had his own things going on at home, but he kept me going so many days. If nothing else, I wish I could thank him for that. He always made me laugh and was a bright spot in some dark days.

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  7. Tara, you have greater strength than any that I could ever muster up. All that hurt that you have hidden is now appearing in your creative works. You are a survivor and reveal the scars now, almost as a bit of armor. You are loved due to who you are.

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