Pandemic Diary: Feeling all the feelings, naming and owning their shame

So I went through a thing with you the other night, when you were feeling all the feelings, but then, on top of that, shame for feeling all the feelings, and I think I helped you, a little, but through it all, I also got feelings—followed by shame about having those feelings—and so today, I find myself pondering—where does that shame about having feelings and emotions come from? I don’t think it’s biological, innate, and inevitable, because it makes no sense—it does not help us survive. It’s destructive, actually, and traps us in horrid spirals. The Buddhists and the yogis, and most psychotherapists, teach you to look at your thoughts and feelings (they don’t always separate the two) dispassionately, without judgement—without shame. But we judge. That’s our go-to. We shame.


Let’s take the generic pandemic-related feelings most of us are feeling these days—frustration, depression, anxiety, anger. Really. All the feelings. “I can’t cope.” “This sucks.” “Pain.” “Alienation.” “Loneliness.”

Fury at strangers, because they’re not wearing masks–because they are…

Isn’t there a layer of shame and judgement on top of each of them? “Why is this so hard?” “What’s wrong with me that I can’t cope?” “So many people have it so much worse—why am I so unhappy? What right do I have to feeling this much pain?”

Every right. Cause it’s your feeling. Your pain. Your level of emotional exhaustion and depletion. Your particular hormonal cocktail.

Isn’t it hard enough feeling all the feelings in the first place without feeling ashamed that you’re having them?

No—stop! Now you’re feeling ashamed that you’re ashamed—stop, stop, stop!

(What am I doing? I’m not supposed to tell you to stop how you’re feeling…)

Deep breath.

Eat some chocolate.

You: You know chocolate is a junk food and not a medicine, right?

Jane: Lie. It’s medicine, and also, a food of the gods. See Sophie & Michael Coe’s The True History of Chocolate; also, Marcela Presilla’s The New Taste of Chocolate; also—this one is the most depressing, tbh, but sometimes, knowledge hurts—Kay Frydenborg’s Chocolate: Sweet Science and Dark Secrets of the World’s Favorite Treat.

I work through my shame in the morning on the page, write my way to being at peace with the ugliest of my feelings. You, I don’t know, I hope you slept deeply and dreamed of beautiful things, and woke up willing to accept all the feelings as part of who you are right now. No shame necessary…

But now, no longer feeling shame, I wonder if instead of dissipating it, we just need to name it and accept it. “I feel—frustrated, angry, suicidal. I feel ashamed of these feelings, because, Christ, things aren’t that bad, really, and yet I feel inadequate, incompetent, a failure. I feel all of these things. And that’s ok. It sucks, but it’s also ok…”


I kinda feel like re-reading Brene Brown on shame (cause she thinks there’s a reason for shame–, and also, maybe, meditating, cause I need to come down a little more, and also, eating chocolate cake, but I have neither flour nor coco powder in the house, should I go shopping? No. I also feel like writing, so I’ll work instead. Julia Cameron says, “The trick is to metabolize pain as energy,” and dammit if she’s not right.

I’m gonna check in on you later, and I’m sure you’ll still be feeling all the feelings. Including shame. But maybe, less powerfully? And that’s okay. That’s you right now. And I love you as you are. In the pain, and in the shame.

Later, I’ll bring you chocolate.



3 thoughts on “Pandemic Diary: Feeling all the feelings, naming and owning their shame

  1. Pingback: Pandemic Diary, the Collection from Nothing By the Book | Nothing By The Book

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