Shame on Me – Elizabeth Acosta

I’m in a prison of my own design. Four white walls — a framed portrait of Madonna and Child looking down on me as I sleep, an unreadable calendar held up by pink ribbons, and a photograph of my father holding my infant body. They’ve been meticulously placed to hide the scratches and holes from over eight years of trying to escape myself. There’s rotting flowers everywhere. I refuse to throw them out as I see them as an appropriate reflection of the sinister presence that has been festering here like a mold since I was just a fresh pre-teen girl; an offering, even.

My therapist says that I have some attachment issues. Not just to people, but especially physical objects and states of being. Maybe that’s why I haven’t actually gotten rid of them — I convinced myself that I was also rotting a long time ago. Why else would I sleep for 12 hours a day? But I also convinced myself that this was an acceptable thing to do, probably in some kind of malnourished delusion, as well: “Sleep felt productive. Something was getting sorted out. I knew in my heart — this was, perhaps, the only thing my heart knew back then — that when I’d slept enough, I’d be okay. I’d be renewed, reborn.”

I’ve recently developed a fear of being ill, which is quite ironic. I remember when I used to stand inside a circle of images that I’d printed of thin, waifish women and would proceed to sit and do Russian twists or crunches for hours. It felt holy, like a kind of baptism as the sweat poured down from my temples, to my neck, and so on. Looking back, though, it was probably more like a satanic ritual, but a retarded one like you would see in some D-list surrealist horror film trying to make some kind of social commentary on the adolescent female psyche. I’ve always loved those.

My anxiety tends to manifest in physical ways — full body tremors, incessant pacing, and a lack of appetite or ability to properly keep any food down. I feel like my subconscious is aware of my neurotic level of avoidance to discomfort and this is its way of playing a little joke; or just trying to push me to realize that it is an integral part of life that I have to come to terms with if I intend on properly functioning as a human being, perhaps. My perception on the matter changes often — are we at war with each other at the time?

I wonder what Lacan or Freud would say. I can accept when my OCD starts to flare up and I start crying because my foot is hanging out the frame of my bed; a terrible omen. I can also except the cruel words and acts that have been said or done to me. I can accept all the mental and emotional pain, but I seem to draw a line at the physical.

I could be calling for it now, unknowingly. I have a thermometer on my night table for when I have sudden bursts of heat on my cheeks, a common occurrence throughout my life. Google is my keeper and Reddit is my shepherd.

I just woke up with swollen tonsils and lymph nodes in the morning and was put in the same hospital room where I had gone for a ‘bad episode’ a few months before. 1332. My mother and I couldn’t stop laughing at the coincidence. We looked up the number, however, on some random numerology website and it didn’t seem like one anymore — “Angel Number 1332 is a number of faith and trust in yourself and your personal abilities. You are encouraged to step in the direction you desire with confidence and optimism and with the belief that you will find success and fulfillment.… [it] is a message to stay positive and optimistic about your future and destiny, and give any concerns, fears and worries to the angels for healing and transmutation.”

I get on my knees every night, rosary in hand, and pray for over fifteen minutes before bed. I ask for health now. It was something that I never cared about because it was at odds with the things that I’d always desired and lusted after — to be a feeble, weak little girl that was worthy of being loved and taken care of. Although it’s true that I’ve been plagued with quite the attachment issues in the past, I’m finally ready to let her rest peacefully.

While I believe that a part of me will never truly stop grieving for my younger self, shame on me if I ever do. But similarly, shame on me if I continue to inappropriately use that grief to hide or fill the self-perceived scratches and holes within me, like those on my walls. My room is and was only ever just a room, innocent in all this — never a prison.