I wasn’t even finished the first chapter before a light bulb had gone off in my brain. The words I was reading were so profound, yet so simple. I wondered how it hadn’t occurred to me before. Suddenly, I found myself talking aboutDaring Greatly, by Brene Brown, in every conversation. I felt like a new apostle who had to share the good news – “We all live in shame, but we don’t have to anymore!” The book changed me.
As I have mentioned many times before, Mom’s dementia and delirium hit our family like a sand storm. We didn’t even see it coming. It also came to head a few days before Christmas. Difficult, heart breaking decisions had to be made. Her safety became paramount and her rights and sometimes dignity came second. It was a horrible few months that still hurt remembering.
There was blame; some from within… and some from without. “How could you? Why did you allow that? What kind of daughter would…?”
By the time her nightmare ended and she’d begun to find peace, I felt like there were a thousand bees buzzing inside me, so I began to write this blog. Even as mom settled into the rhythm of long term care, I wrote about health care hurdles and the gaps in the system. I wrote about loss and love and grief. I felt compelled to share, with everyone and anyone I could, the things I had learned and the emotions that I carried. For surely if I felt this way, others must to.
Soon after I was speaking to every medical community and caregiver group that invited me, trying to make something good come out of something so terrifying – becoming a dementia-care “evangelist”, of sorts.
But it wasn’t until I finished Daring Greatly that I had a name for the gnawing feeling I still carried around – even two years later.
As caregivers we all face guilt for not doing enough. But this monster is stronger than guilt. False-guilt fades when faced with the facts, but shame is like arthritis – it aches in your bones every time the weather changes. Every time someone writes me or tells me what a great daughter and advocate I am, I shudder a little. If they only knew… they’d unsubscribe.
And so, it is time.
It is time to face this giant and slay him dead. Maybe you can help me. Maybe I can help you.
And so I declare:
- I am a good daughter, not a perfect daughter, but a good one who loves her mother very much and always will.
- I will not spend another micro second trying to convince others or justify the actions I took during mom’s darkest days. I did the best I could with the information and resources I had and if no one on earth believed that, it wouldn’t make it any less true.
- Other people’s opinions of me, no matter how much I respect them, are not the basis for my self-worth. In layman’s terms: “Who cares what anyone thinks!?”
- I will forgive and embrace grace, not just for others but myself. I will not resort to blame and bitterness when I am feeling vulnerable or falsely accused.
- I will stop rehearsing past hurts in my mind. It’s time to stop sucking on this bitter candy and spit it out for good.
- My writing and speaking will never be a quest for redemption or penance. My motives will be pure: to share information, to help facilitate change, to love and support others emotionally and to be a light in a dark and lonely world.
So, good-bye Shame! Hit the road buddy, you ain’t welcome here no more!
Here are links to some of Brown’s talks and website – they might just change you too: