Shame is a parasite. A sickness that bores its way into you, bedding itself inside your core, presumably, perceivably dormant, but licking steadily at already sore, already raw pain. It eats away at kindness and love, those which you might give yourself, except for the growing illness coiling its way around your spirit like a snake, suffocating the life out of you. You become a shadow, only the edge of you showing definition, the rest a single amalgamation of what gives pain: it’s you, everything about you, not one thing making you worthy enough to breathe the same air as the world. And still shame moves through you, elongating, expanding, reaching every end of you. It owns you, yet wants more. Even the tips of your fingers pulse with its poison, hands trembling, wanting only to be steadied.
The cavities that hold your heart and lungs grow smaller, and the twists of your brain become curves to slither along, and the illness deepens, until you’re afraid to breathe, until you don’t want to, until you can’t. Shame does not stop or rest or cease its progress. It will consume you. It will kill you. A silent death, where you can see and hear and walk and talk, but the inside of you is cold and stiff with rigor mortis, frozen and waiting for it to end. And you can either live like this or die like this. You know these are your options, and you hope that your life is short, because the parasite is unbearable. And breathing is difficult. And you are bleeding out and you know it.
A hand, warm and gentle and soft, wraps itself around your fingers, stilling their shake. It reminds you that you aren’t alone, that your death may not be as silent as you fear. It makes you want to live. Just a little longer. Even though you are being eaten alive. And then the hand has a voice, and that voice tells you, “You are worthy,” and you take the first breath you’ve breathed in years. A decade of years. And then that hand is two hands and four, and ten voices, then fifty. The parasite recedes enough that you can see it inside you, and the black and white of the shadow’s edge turns to shades of grey, and subtle curves abrade its flat surface. The sickness will give you the fight of your life; it is your life, but death is no longer imminent. The rigor mortis has been reversed by the press of an army that stands with you at its center, with you both a welcome member and a beating heart to guard.
Shame doesn’t come free with a simple tug. Instead, it is with the use of a fine scalpel that each piece must be delicately removed. And you can’t miss a single piece, because the tiniest grain will grow full again. This blade is not metal or bone or stone. Instead, it is love and acceptance, built to break the shame that holds you bound to your living death. Cut by tiny cut, the threads of death and pain and hate come loose, and the heap at your feet grows until it is a mountain and you wonder how all of that could have been inside you. No wonder you couldn’t breathe.
The places where the parasite have been feasting are newly exposed and raw again, and you stumble, because there is pain and fear in the freedom you feel, and you recoil, your shaking fingers fumbling and the scalpel falling out of reach. The shame returns with a vengeance and rages and reigns in you. But the warm hand is back, or it has never left, and it puts the scalpel back into your hand and wraps your stiffening fingers around it, and at first you can’t cut on your own, so it guides your hand, cuts away the beast, whispering words, feeding love into the blade, because you can’t find yours and don’t remember how. Then the voice tells you again that you are worthy, and the knot that has caged the memory shatters. The scalpel is yours again, and the shame is coming off faster this time, because you understand, you know what is beneath. You pull frantically at the winding death inside you, ripping piece after piece. You are still bleeding; it wants to take you with it, but the blood begins to run clear, soon pouring from you like water, washing away the remnants of your illness.
As you pry the last of the shame from your soul and drop it on the ground, a burst of flame turns the mountain of death to ash. You breathe in freely, your lungs filling, and when you release that breath, it carries the ash away, completely, without even a fleck to start anew. You are free and it is the shame that has died, not you.