Rain and hail just pelted my little house. The sky has been gray all day, clouds looming over the mountains. Snitz, my tiny Service Dog, is huddled behind me on my desk chair. Poor Snitz was attacked by a HUGE dog about a week ago and is taking a very long time to bounce back. She still has stitches that will come out in a week and still can’t jump up on the couch. She’s very self-sufficient and has a hard time allowing me to help her. But she’s worthy of help and unquestionably worthy of love.
I’ve been thinking, on this blustery, wet day, what it is that makes us feel worthy. I have felt un-worthy for a good part of my life, the part that wrecked relationships and hurt my kids. I don’t wreck things anymore but feeling un-worthy still lingers. I think this feeling is attached to self-stigma and shame.
When my daughter, Mattie, was born in 1991 I was forced to ask for help. I was a single mom with two little boys and a baby and it was because of them that I asked for help. I didn’t find myself worthy enough to reach out for support, but I knew they deserved what they needed.
It raises the question: how do we become worthy of help and love? My Thesaurus defines “worthy” as guiltless, blameless, honest, decent. Surely Snitz fills the bill, but me? I don’t feel worthy all the time and when I do I tend to brush it away, treat it like I must be mistaken, taking humility way too far.
A friend of mine told me a while ago that she noticed I really don’t like talking about myself. This is true. Perhaps I don’t like talking about myself because if I talk about my accomplishments my opinion of what I’m saying is always shrouded in shame. I’ll end a sentence by saying “but it’s really no big deal” when to me it really is. So why can’t I stand up and say I’M WONDERFUL? Because if I say I’m wonderful I don’t end up with the more familiar “comfortable” feeling of minimizing myself.
Deception of self is probably one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome when in remission from mental illness. I can see that I’m getting better, I trust my medication and use it properly, I have mended broken relationships, but still, I cover my feelings with shame. I feel that I’m not worthy of happiness because of all the awful things I did in the past.
Could it be possible that feeling worthy would take away the nervous pit in my stomach and the anxiety of being around many people? The season for traveling and speaking is upon us and even though I have a month before I have to go anywhere I am already feeling the angst of travel and crowds. Perhaps feeling worthy would act like a magic wand and take away my nervous stomach. Perhaps feeling worthy would allow me to believe that some people actually want to hear what I have to say. I don’t behave as though my self-stigma is lodged in my heart but perhaps the self-stigma would dissolve if I could get over the hump of feeling un-worthy.
Just because a stranger looks happy, behaves happy and sounds happy it doesn’t mean that the stranger is happy. We all put on a public face at times, even when we are struggling inside. Regardless of how I am feeling I try to look people in the eye and shake their hand firmly when I meet them. It is one way of affirming another person’s worthiness – a gesture of honest respect. What goes around comes around. Perhaps being a decent human being is all we need to do to spread worthiness around.
Snitz has no trouble telling me what she wants and what she wants to do. For now I’ll take a page from Snitz’s book and feel brave, worthy and stubborn until the next time I sink. Perhaps, with practice, I’ll discover that I am worthy and worthy enough to reach out for help during difficult times.
“Being Worthy” was edited by my dear friend, Karen, who exemplifies worthiness.