Do you ever question whether the thoughts or emotions you’re having are ‘normal’? Are you ashamed of feeling or reacting a certain way, and therefore too embarrassed to talk about it? Claire Campbell-Adams is here to bust the shame cycle, and release the burden of guilt by confronting three thoughts and behaviours that might feel taboo…
“Is it just me?” How many times a day do you ask yourself this? Often, it will be an innocent question that prompts you to chuckle, then carry on with your day – perhaps because you put the milk in first in your morning cuppa, or often get lost in a daydream. However, sometimes, this thought can feel more sinister and lingering, causing you to hide in shame.
Does this bring a vivid thought into your head, perhaps a feeling you’ve been bottling up, that you can’t possibly share with anyone for fear of judgement and rejection? In her March 2012 Ted Talk, Brené Brown tells us: “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence, and judgement. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive.” When we experience empathy, we feel understood and seen. For years, I have felt shame over several of my own ‘Is it just me?’ questions, a few of which I would like to share with you in case it offers some comfort to know that, if you’ve ever felt the same, you’re most definitely not alone.
Is it just me that can’t stand the sound of people eating?
If you’ve ever shared a meal with loved ones and wanted to throw your fork at them for chewing so loudly, I feel your pain! This might sound overly dramatic, but some of us fight the urge to scream at our fellow diners just for eating. I’m not talking about a little annoyance, but having an actual emotional or physiological response to the noise. For years this drove me to eat alone in shame, questioning what was wrong with me – even now I only discuss it with immediate family for fear of being rejected and mocked. I am lucky they are incredibly understanding, and work with me to put strategies in place to help tackle this so that we can enjoy meals together.
Let’s start with its name: ‘misophonia’. That’s right, it’s a real thing, and you are not alone! Interestingly, Sana Kamran pointed out that misophonia can be experienced with other sounds like typing, humming, and loud noises, as well as chewing. Sadly, many people experience this, but are too ashamed to talk about it for fear of offending or being ridiculed by those they eat with. This feeling of shame can lead to self-isolation when eating, avoiding social occasions, and generally feeling miserable. In research published in Current Biology, scientists found that the anterior insular cortex (the part of the brain that connects our senses and emotions) is overly active in those who have misophonia, leading to a ‘fight-or-flight’ response.
When I read this, I thought ‘Yes!’ That is exactly how it feels, like I am being attacked and I need to defend myself or run away – which isn’t a practical or often possible option in these typical daily scenarios where is arises. But as there are no known cures for misophonia, what can we do to tackle this?
One option is to speak to your GP, though Shelley Treacher notes that “people report being dismissed”, which is an unfortunate battle many face with their mental health, and can depend on your local practitioners. Sana Kamran suggested that therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy have been successful in reducing misophonia though.
Three things you can start doing today to help with your misophonia:
- Talk to someone you trust and feel safe with, explaining that misophonia is a medical condition. You will feel better just talking about it.
- Try introducing some background noise when you have meals, such as putting the radio or TV on, which can help to distract you.
- Consider your seating arrangements for meals. You could try sitting further apart at a table, or eating dinner in a separate room if necessary, as space helps to reduce the pressure and volume.
Is it just me that regrets having children?
This one can feel like a particularly taboo topic, and many people might have a strong natural reaction to the word ‘regret’ here – but for me, that’s why it’s even more important to speak about it. Having children is a huge life event for many people, and one that shakes up everything you’ve previously known. Nothing can fully prepare you for the added responsibilities, pressure, and work it entails – though of course there are so many wonderful moments too.
But the point is that for some people, uttering these words, or even thinking them – “Why did I do this?” – while difficult, can be essential. Not admitting to yourself when you are struggling, or hiding in shame from these feelings, can lead those emotions to build and build until they feel overwhelming. Opening up and having honest conversations, as well as listening without judgement to loved ones who might express these feelings, is vital to support yourself/them through it. Often this sort of regret can be rooted in trauma, and needs support.
Three ways to find support. Counsellor Jenny Warwick suggests:
- Speak up, and try to be honest with your friends and family about how you are feeling.
- Ask for help and support with the parenting role.
- Reach out to your GP, or child’s school (if applicable), as they may have links to community services you can access.
The most important thing is to be kind to yourself. It is OK and you will get through it. You are not alone.
Is it just me that doesn’t understand self-care?
Sometimes we need a lesson in how to look after ourselves. While we can be bombarded with tips on how to practise self-care, and are constantly reminded of its importance, I found that none of the tips I Googled helped, and, instead, my feelings of failure and shame were magnifyied.
It wasn’t until I opened up to a friend that I realised self-care hadn’t been working for me because I was doing what I thought I should do, instead of what I felt like doing. I discovered the key to self-care is doing what nourishes you and gives you joy. This was not easy, as somewhere along the years I had lost touch with myself, and no longer knew what these things were.
Two ways to find what self-care works for you:
- Ask yourself: ‘When was the last time I was happy, peaceful, and content?’
- Try spending a week paying attention to what/who brings you joy.
In these answers, we find the things that nourish our souls, so that we have reserves to share with others. Life coach Chantal Dempsey says: “These acts of self-care also help prevent burnout by allowing us to vent stress.”
So many of us feel ashamed of thinking or feeling a certain way, and let this shame overpower us. But, the beautiful thing is that when we open up and share our truths, putting them out into the light, they’re often not as terrifying or shocking as we allowed ourselves to believe. And, once we admit to ourselves what is really going on, that’s when we can access support and comfort to help us through it.
So tell me, what is it that you have shame over? Finish the sentence ‘Is it just me…? and let’s see if we can shine a light on shame together.
To speak to a professional confidentially and in a safe space about how you’re feeling, find a counsellor or life coach on happiful.com.