I Am So Embarrassed!

“Embarrassment is caused by putting far too much fear into what other people think very little about.”

Author Unknown

As I look through the pages of my old journals it surprises me just how many different topics I write about. Sometimes I document the happy moments in my life and include all of the little details. Doing this helps me to vividly recall the memory back into my thoughts. Other times I may take a special poem, song or verse and map it out. Verse mapping is the process of defining key words in a passage to achieve a better understanding of it. I admit that I am a self-proclaimed word nerd. If I am honest though, much of my writing is the process I take myself through as I am in the midst of a difficult moment or season. It is interesting to me just how much my journal ebbs and flows with me as I experience the ups and downs of my life. Journaling has become a very therapeutic process for me.

Through writing I have discovered that many of the issues that challenge me as an adult stem from my childhood. That in no way implies that my childhood was bad. Growing up was wonderful and I have so many great memories. I have the most amazing parents and I am so thankful that I have been blessed with them. Along with my two brothers, we were taught what was right and wrong and how to navigate through the world. Our parents allowed us to make mistakes and we learned from them. Through the simple process of growing up and experiencing life I was shaped into who I am now. I am perfectly imperfect.

I have struggled with low self-esteem my entire life and it has taken up residency inside of me. It is that nagging little voice that quietly tells me I will never be pretty enough or that I need to lose ten more pounds. It encourages me to compare myself with others and continually points out my smallest of flaws. I am not sure if there is one actual event that triggered the flame of my low self-esteem, but I do know that the fear of embarrassment fuels it.

When I was eighteen I discovered my first gray hair. My mother went gray early so I just assumed that I would too. Although I have struggled with self-esteem issues my whole life, my hair was never an issue for me. The early embarrassment of a stray gray hair or two was quickly erased by color and highlights. I always had a good stylist and kept up with the most current styles. There came a time when the luxury of getting my hair done turned into more of a chore. My natural hair color is dark brown and I colored it for more than twenty-five years. With my increasing gray, not only was I needing to color once a month, I was needing to touch up in between to hide the harsh demarcation line. Several years ago I started to consider the idea of letting my natural gray grow out. The challenge I was faced with was the embarrassment of the grow out process. I looked at pictures of ladies going through it and it looked awful! I wanted the beautiful white hair that my mother has, but the fact that I hadn’t seen my natural hair color in over twenty-five years left me to wonder what it looked like underneath the color. I did not want to be embarrassed by the process so I avoided it for years. When I became ill and lost my job my financial situation drastically changed. I could no longer afford to get my hair colored every four weeks and so the process began. I cut my hair into a really short pixie cut and let the growing process begin and to my great surprise the gray grew in beautifully! The front of my hair is almost all white and it fades into a really soft gray in the back. It is healthy, soft and in the sunlight I say it sparkles. I love it! It has been the most liberating thing I have ever done and it is crazy to think that I almost let the fear of embarrassment stop me from doing it.

Embarrassment is a common theme with my chronic illness. I have so many unpredictable symptoms that I fear I will be struck by one at the most inopportune time. For the most part, I have learned to hide my symptoms from others. There are a few, however, that I can not hide and I am embarrassed by them. My cognitive ability has been affected by my illness. I have difficulty finding the words to express my thoughts. Carrying on a conversation can be very difficult. When engaged in conversation my brain can tire very quickly which sometimes leads to numbness in my face which causes it to droop. I also start to produce more saliva, my tongue gets numb and it sounds like I am talking with marbles in my mouth. On more than one occasion I have had to inform people that I was not having a stroke. When my body hits this point my cognitive abilities stop and I need to end the interaction -- Often abruptly. I am embarrassed by the abruptness of the situation but have learned over time that it is necessary in order to stop my symptoms from worsening. I am thankful for the kindness I have received from people during these situations. Not only does their kindness encourage me to accept my illness, it also reminds me that it is okay for me to be gentle and kind to myself as well.

Personal Reflection

Journal about a time when your illness revealed itself to others and evoked feelings of embarrassment. How did you respond, and what can you do to overcome these feelings?

Community Question

What is something about your illness that causes you to be self-conscious or embarrassed?

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