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All of us imagine, create, and play out all kinds of scenarios and information in our minds that will never happen. We often hold onto beliefs that simply aren’t true, but we are afraid to test them.

For over twenty years I was afraid to reveal my diagnosis. I thought that people would avoid me, I would lose my job (I don’t currently have one), I would be treated differently, and that people would stop trusting my judgment and push my ideas and input aside as someone who is “crazy.” Most of these things haven’t happened, and if they have, it hasn’t been noticeable to me.

I was living with shame.

My husband said that I have gained a significant amount of self-confidence in the time since I came out. I have to say, I feel stronger because my head is not down, and I am not using all that energy to keep people from finding out my secret.

I have noticed this same type of avoidance and secret keeping in other people, and it isn’t just in marginalized populations like LGBTQ, or the mentally ill. People hide other things about themselves, too. One such secret that I see people in my personal life try to keep is the fact that they came from a lower class (economically).

There are people in my life who have become upper middle class, and they are constantly trying to make people believe that they know everything about fashion, food, wine, and the “finer” things in life. They do everything they can to separate themselves from their upbringing.

I came from a small town, and my parents didn’t have much money. Most of our neighbors didn’t have much money either so it didn’t seem unusual at the time. I ended up going to high school overseas and traveling to many city and countries. I never severed the ties between the small town girl and the worldly woman.

I kept both with me, and I have to admit that both of them have served me very well. There are things I learned from not having much money that have made me a more responsible, compassionate, understanding, and capable person. There are things I learned from traveling and my education that have made me more tolerant, less prejudiced, more friendly, and willing to try new things.  One of the most valuable things I learned about not having much is that I don’t need or want much, and it has little to do with happiness.

Personally, I don’t feel shame about where I came from, but I know others do, and I understand the feeling even if I can’t relate to the details.

Coming out of the closet about my diagnosis has made my life better, and it has nothing to do with how other people treat me. It is about letting go of the shame. Releasing all that shame of who you are, what you are, where you come from gives so much life and energy back to you.

I feel like I have claimed me, and I have claimed my life. I feel like instead of a person who is one person in public and another in private, that I am now one stronger, more complete person.

People feel shame for many reasons. I wish they could throw out those feelings of shame and begin to allow others to accept them as they are. Most of us with bumps, bruises, cuts and injuries will welcome the parts of others that they feel are undesirable for whatever reason. Most of us have been there in one form or another, and I hope everyone has the support and desire to join me on the other side of shame because there is acceptance and freedom on the other side.  And it feels good.