“Look Mister, there are some rules you need to follow. First of all, keep him out of the light, he hates bright light, especially sunlight, it’ll kill him”- Gremlins

There is a tiny shame gremlin that resides within us all; that little, creepy voice that whispers “You aren’t good enough. You’ll never get that job. No one likes you, because you are bad.” Brene Brown, my social work prophet, describes shame in this way. It’s kind of funny, because growing up my favorite movie to rent from Blockbuster every weekend was Gremlins (probably tells you a lot about me, and you’re absolutely spot on). I decided to get to know my shame gremlin, and know him well. So well, in fact, that I decided to name him Seamus.

For me, as a clinician and human being, shame is something that I know well. I know that it is this emotion that pulls on our soul, right down to the shadow. I know it is something that we all experience, and I know it’s something we aren’t lining up to talk about. The thing about shame though, is that the secrecy of it all feeds it after midnight. It turns that cute little Gizmo into Stripe. What turns a little chaos into A LOT. I know this, because I lived it.

Seamus reared his ugly little head in my life in 2020; prior to the pandemic, I lost patient’s to their illness and it put me into the eye of a shame storm. “It’s all your fault”, he whispered. I stayed silent; I kept going through the motions of the days and putting on my mask (literally and metaphorically) because that’s what everyone else was doing. We talked about it, and then it was business as usual. Now, this is where Seamus began to grow. By staying silent, I was feeding shame into my psyche. Imposter syndrome had be in it’s claws, which was being comforted by the dull pain of shame. I felt so lost, afraid and unsure. Until I learned the remedy.

To smash shame into smithereens, we must use the hammer of empathy. To freely give the love we give to others to ourselves. To find that soothing, maternal voice within that talks over shame and says “No, you are a human being. You are struggling, and that’s okay. You are doing the best you can. You don’t have to have it all figured out.”

Empathy is what will bring us back to ourselves, and back to one another.