Whose voice is that?

A miniature update and a poem.

In therapy, every time I criticised, chastised or shamed myself, no matter which therapist, one way or another they asked the question… ‘Whose voice is that?’ and I’ve been unable to answer it. I know that they are implying it’s a voice from my past but I’ve been so resistant to admit it’s anything to do with my mother. I’ve always said that voice is mine. I haven’t wanted anything of hers inside me. I have wanted total blame because then I have some sort of feigned control… but really that control is all an illusion.

Over the past few months something huge has crumbled, like a defensive wall, a barrier… something that’s been up around me forever has broken down and I’m feeling things I’ve never felt before. And it is intensely painful and right there, unavoidably loud. I can’t put into words what’s being processed just now, the sessions are intense… yesterday’s session was mostly wordless and a little scary when I was right in the middle of it. Something big being felt and held by us both. I’m feeling very vulnerable just now, experiencing a lot of reliving a lot of emotional flashbacks… physical rememberings. I think a part of me is finally coming to terms with what happened to me and all the ways I was failed, neglected. The things I needed and had to live without somehow, and how that has impacted me. What my life is like and what I am like because of all the ways I was so badly let down and hurt.

I wrote the following a few months ago to help me process what was coming up for me then. The anger I’ve been feeling recently is a little more raw and unrefined but it helped to revisit this poem and remember the core of it all.

(It’s more like a spoken word poem but hopefully it works in the written form too.)

Whose voice is that?

Whose voice is that?
I hold my breath each time the question is repeated, lest I learn the truth.
Then one day, unannounced and uninvited, it came up my throat like acid.

Whose voice is that?
It is the voice of shame.
The shame that my mother fed me daily,
Wrapped in the guise of love.
And I swallowed her shame willingly and gratefully and claimed it as my own,
Because it was the only gift she readily gave me
In abundance.
And there was such a lack of anything else.
The hunger for anything from her was so powerful that had she withheld it, in fear of starvation, I would have begged her for the shame.

Whose voice is that?
It is the voice of the only thing that connects me to her,
This one directional tether of shame.
She is shameless because I am full of it.
To no longer believe that voice would be to abandon the only thing she gave me.
How do I let it go when it is a part of me?
It grew in my cells as I grew inside my mother’s resentful womb.
The shame coursed through her blood, from her hurting heart into mine.

She did not want me.

Who am I without that voice?
Implanted inside me like a weed.
Without it’s far reaching roots I’m an empty cavity.
And the emptiness echoes.
The self hate grows.
Like a black hole, it sucks everything into it’s vacuum.
The hungry space within me drew in the shame willingly.
Filling me up with words of hatred and disgust that multiplied.
Poison set in cement inside the hollow in my chest.
What would I be without it’s dense knowing?
The truth that I do not deserve love.
The truth that I am not worthy.

And at times, so violently thrust inside of me.
It dug into the very bones of me.
Woven through the fabric of me.
It can’t be extracted with the same force with which it first penetrated.
It has to be carefully teased out, unravelled. Unpicked.
One painful lie at a time.
The lie that I do not deserve love.
The lie that I am not worthy.
Like the staples from a scar, torn from the skin that has so desperately tried to heal around it.
Removing it will hurt.
It will gape and the exposed wound will be bruised and bleeding.

Whose voice is that?
It is the rejected voice of a wounded woman, who refused her role as mother.
All of the shame that seeped from her pores had to go somewhere.
Through the process of osmosis, my skin absorbed it.

Whose voice is this?
This is the voice of my inheritance.
Generations of reluctant mothers who could not or would not heal their own shame and instead forced it down the throats of their girls.

It’s been said that shame is the closest thing to death.
I’d argue it’s like being buried alive.
Or maybe burned alive.
Trapped in a casket of searing humiliation.
To be seen and known is to be set on fire
Like the women branded witches and burned with the second hand shame of those who tied the ropes, lit the tinder and watched the smoke rise.
How many of those women held their breaths?
How many screamed?

Shame is like being withheld the relief of death.
Screaming in silence.
It won’t let me go.

Whose voice is that?
That voice is mine.
And for as long as the voice of shame is inside me, there is no space for anything else to grow.
I could try to wrestle with the words and tear them out of me, force them into my own child.
The pain of that would surely kill me.
I could try to throw them back towards their rightful owner.
Like a boomerang, I fear they would return.
My only choice is to tease each morsel of shame out of it’s darkness and into the light.
Like worms pulled from the ground,
Each one resisting the cold air.

It didn’t start with her just like it didn’t start with me.
Why is it we fear the witches more than the monsters who burned them?
Who first planted the voice of shame?
I feel the weight of all the mothers before me who only knew how to purge themselves by putting their shame into those that came after them.
I hear them willing me to find a way to neutralise the heat of the burning voice and take back the power.

It will take intention.
And time.
Force will not silence it.
The shame cannot be hated into submission.
I have to love it into evaporation.
I will persist.
I have no choice.

Whose voice is that?
It is the voice of a ghost named Shame.
Traveled through generations,
Desperately seeking the one
Who is ready to perform shame exorcism.

12 thoughts on “Whose voice is that?

  1. So moving.

    I was not genuinely wanted but I came alongside my wanted twin brother. My older sister being the first born.

    My mother struck a patriarchal bargain when she chose a faith that told her that her ordinary youthful desires were sin. My father saw how useful that chosen faith was, made her easier to control, offered justifications for his violence towards me and my siblings

    Her faith promised to purge her shame, so she shoved shame within me for being me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh what you’ve written really moved me. Just devastating the implications of their actions on our lives. Im so glad you’re here and do in awe of the work you’re doing to heal from what was done to you ❤️‍🩹

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 💜💜💜 I’m so glad to know people like you are working to heal, and to break the cycle of abuse. I might never become a parent, but the world sure as hell needs parents like you 💜💜💜

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That really means such a lot to me. And you know, we impact everyone we meet in one way or another, the ripple affect is real… it’s not just parents who make a difference and I’m sure your healing will positively impact those who know you 💜

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This was beautifully and painfully written. This is such a terrifying wound. I think we need to be in a safe place for these feelings to be fully felt and processed, but the pain is unavoidable. Lots of hugs to you Lucy!

    Liked by 1 person

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