When I was growing up, I often felt shame. My mother was mentally ill and there was nothing you at all talking about. I carefully avoided anything that could reveal my mother's illness. It was an upbringing in shame and denial. I also felt a great debt. It felt somehow as if everything was my fault and that it was my responsibility to set things right.
At school, alcoholism could be wisdom. "Stina moved away from home. She did not stand out with her parents. Her father dropped. "I remember feeling fond of jealousy like Stina. It would have been so easy to just say that even parents were kidding. But no. Mental illness itself was never talked about. Yes, of course. I actually had a classmate in high school, Fredrik was his name. He told me that his parents were divorced because his mother was mentally ill. Only now at high school he had been told that he had not only a sister, but two more siblings whom no one had told. Fredrik's father had not been able to take care of all four children, without the two youngest he had left away and never told anything about Fredrik and his big sister. I felt terribly sorry for Fredrik and also felt a cohabitation. It was not only me in the whole universe who had a mentally ill parent.
My mother's mental illness made it among others in the fact that she could not clean up, but instead gathered and accumulated. She was not able to throw anything. When other friends took their buddies so I went alone. I could never bring home someone and I had nobody to talk to. When I was maybe twelve years old then expressed my mother very hard and clear to me that if I divulged a single word about how it looked in our home so I would be utkört. I remember the fear I felt. Where would I go? I had nowhere to take my refuge and I had no one at all to talk to.
My siblings were much older than me and them, I could not talk to. Everything was somehow under the lid. In stealth, I tried to clean up as much as I could. One summer I emptied my nephew and my parents' basement in secret. It was basically just rubbish we sorted out and threw the container. Unfortunately, it did not take long, it was just as much junk in the basement again.
When I moved away from home to 19 years old, it was such an incredible relief that I could finally stay somewhere where I could keep in order. I enjoyed being able to win friends and I made a decision to not feel guilty that I was no longer at home and cleaned my parents. Eventually I realized that I actually could do nothing. I freed myself from a lot of the responsibility that I put on myself to be responsible for my parents' lives.
There is an expression in Sweden that I really deny and that's the expression; "It's both pity and shame." It is so incredibly easy to blend these two concepts together. Taste these words yourself: SYND - SKAM.
When I became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as I learned about sin. What is a shame really? According to our theology is a pity that of their own free will choose to disobey God's commandments or not to act righteously despite knowing the truth. James 4: 17 says:
He who thus knoweth to do good and doeth it not, he sins.
Sin is thus only about one thing; not following the will of God / the good that we know what is right or wrong. Sin is not about what other people do, it's not about making mistakes, though it was not intentional and it is definitely not about shame.
In our church, we have a wonderful theological doctrine that shields us from shame. Unlike all other Christian churches we believe is not for the original sin. Original Sin means that someone else has done wrong and we others can carry the sin and shame. How unfair is not it.
When I read the literature I'll take some of the thoughts of the förkättade original sin as completely poison the people's self-perception. You can find it in Baudelaire The Fleurs du mal as well as in Hawthornes The Scarlet Letter. We are born as sinners, we inherit the sins of others ... How false is not this doctrine! The truth is that we are born completely new and pure without sin and we do not inherit the sins of others.
Most recently I read Jean Paul Sartre's play The flies that just about guilt and freedom of action. Sartre was one of the 1900's greatest existentialists and he stressed that we as humans were free. We are, if condemned to freedom. It means that we do not inherit someone's sin, and it also means that we must take personal responsibility for our decisions. Unfortunately, it seems that Sartre considers that the fact that people can take their fate in their own hands also means that people can feel the anxiety and guilt.
Having the gospel in his life and truly discovering what the gospel means has led me to understand what sin is and I can distinguish between sin and guilt. I know I'm innocent of my parents' behavior, and I do not even charge them for their way of living. Mental illness is no sin in itself.
The gospel has really meant a lot in my life and one of the things is that I have because of the gospel has come to realize that I can not take responsibility for other people's decisions and way of life, but is responsible for my own decisions and the way we live and I do not need to feel guilty, but can let God take care of my negative feelings. All I have to do is start afresh and learn to listen to the Holy Spirit's promptings.
Of course, all this is a process. When I was 28 years and met my current husband, I felt a great shame to tell him about my parents, how my mother was and how it looked in my childhood home. It is only in his forties that I have come so far in my development that I no longer feel shame, but can distinguish between my life and my parents' lives and tell you about my upbringing.