The Shame in Recovery


Photo by Lux Graves on Unsplash

“Oh you have GOT to rest,” they say.

But deep inside, you feel guilty for resting. Guilty for recovery. Guilty for not being everything to everyone all the time.

That was my experience, and though I’m starting to see a shift in people recovering from childbirth, injury, or trauma, I think for a lot of us, there is still an underlying shame element.

In modern “GO” culture, that’s just not acceptable, is it?

Let’s review childhood.

Awards for not missing any days of school. Awards for pushing through when things got tough. Watching athletes hurt themselves and keep going. (Kerri Strug, anyone?)

We have again and again been bombarded with gladiator images of people completely depleting themselves for a “purpose.” Quite often, the purpose is someone else’s to celebrate.

So when someone says “Oh, honey, you have GOT to rest,” what our brains will often hear is “how kind of this person to be so generous as to ALLOW me to take a minute… I can’t take that minute from her!”

We will throw ourselves into a tailspin of what is best for the group vs. what is best for the individual, not realizing that taking care of the individual is of benefit to the whole. Especially because we’re all going to need to recover at some point. We have to advocate for ourselves and others to take the time required.

In nature, when a goose needs to recover, she falls to the back of the V formation and allows the other geese’s wings to support her. Packs of animals will put the recovering mother on the inside of the pack and support her. In our own ancient times as humans, the entire group would surround someone recovering and take on a little extra work temporarily, knowing that this will make the group stronger down the line.

So, what happened to us?

When work for others became the stamp of approval for us, we assimilated. We wanted to be accepted, so we worked harder. Did more. Fit the mold. Put on the smile.

We wonder why we are broken, sad, under-rested, and unhealthy? Well, this is a big factor.

When we are triggered by shame, we will do anything to get ourselves out of that feeling. And we think we can work our way out by doing more, being more, and skipping the recovery process.

How can we go back?

We have to self advocate and we have to advocate for others.

I got this” goes a long way (thank you, Lady Gaga).

I’m taking my PTO” and not giving a “reason” is an act of resistance.

If we don’t take these actions, we simply won’t be there to move forward.


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