Nov 20 2013

Julianne Bull,


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Gratitude, Shame


gratitude image


Shame is a powerful thing. It locks things up inside of you that, if released, could free others of their own. It hides you away from the things that truly matter.

Nothing has ever changed quite so much for me as it has in 2013. And that’s saying something, because I’ve seen a lot of change. I spent my childhood on television sets and my adolescence in lockdown treatment centers. I’ve bounced around from state to state, never quite sure where I would land. Still, 2013 has been something special. Because for once, every change was a fire and no one but me had lit the flame.

I got into my top choice grad school. I graduated. I moved into my own place. Adult life has begun. It has stayed pretty consistent that way.

That’s not to say it’s been easy the whole time. Around the time of this cosmic planet alignment of prosperity some other things fell apart. I experienced a little bit of a nervous breakdown. I got a terrible and chronic case of hives that I’m still fighting every day. I was trying to graduate and trying to get ready for a new school I would start merely months later. I was dealing with the loss of moving out of my childhood home. It was a lot, and shame was once again my co-pilot, urging me to give up.

But 2013 has changed almost everything for me. I’ve entered a Marriage and Family therapy program that turned me upside down and emptied my pockets, shook me around a little and gave me a noogie as soon as I walked in the door. Every deep-rooted fear, anxiety, emotion, insecurity and doubt I’ve ever had is sitting passenger side along the ride every day, just as I expected it to be. I’ve met people who care more about me, and whom I care more about, in the short 4 months I’ve known them than I have ever experienced with other human beings. We explore our flaws together. We cry together. We share the humbling knowledge that we are being given the incredible power to help people someday, and we are terrified by the implications of that responsibility. Everybody is a little raw. But I think, already, we love each other. And that’s something special. That’s something I’ve never really had.

I don’t know what kind of therapist I’m going to be. But I do know that two years ago being a therapist was an often-quieted dream in the back of my head, something I pushed backward with another confirmation of “well that’ll never happen.” It went in the same locked drawer with my 5th grade aspirations of being a marine biologist. Why? Because I was sure I couldn’t do it. Because I was sure I could never be strong enough to help others when I can barely help myself. Because I was absolutely convinced that someone like me would never be able to graduate college, and the thought of a graduate program at a school like USC was absolutely laughable. Shame had made me absolutely convinced of my inevitable failure. It’s funny what happens when, just for a moment, you question shame’s convictions and see for yourself.

2013 has changed everything, and it’s easy to forget to be grateful. I never fathomed I would be here, and every day I doubt myself. “I could’ve done better on that test, I didn’t have the answer to that question, how am I ever going to sit in a room with a client and pretend to know how to help them? I’m not good enough to be here, they made a mistake admitting me, everyone is going to find out what a fraud I am any minute. Who would trust me with their mental health when I can’t be trusted with my own?” This is the mantra playing in my head every single time I’m at school. Rarely do I come home feeling good about myself and my future as a therapist. Often I come home and need a bubble bath and a glass of wine and try to keep from stewing in every insecurity I have.

Shame tells us we must wait until we’re perfect before we begin. But the moment we’re perfect is never going to come.

I don’t know yet what 2014 will bring. But as of now I’m pursuing my dream. I live in a nice apartment with a nice roommate and a nice job. I go to my top choice school and I’m on track to do what I love for the rest of my life. Everyone I love is happy and healthy and a phone call or drive away. It’s easy to forget these things when we’re caught up in the running dialogue shame puts in our heads. It’s nice to shut it up once in a while and listen to gratitude instead.


Julianne Bull is a student pursuing her degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, a weekend writer, and a humbled explorer of this great big world. Her blog, chronicles her journey from “troubled teen” to “future shrink,” with some poetry on the side.



Follow on Twitter: @bulljulianne

  • Michael Gullickson

    Realizing we’re imperfect is a key to move towards perfection. Realizing we’ll never get there does not deter from the act of reaching for it. Helping others, as a therapist, counselor, friend is an important step for you and the person you’re helping. When I teach poetry to someone, we both learn. It’s exciting to see a new voice emerging, and someone who shares their poems with me adds their perspective into my mind.The best pastor I ever heard speak was from the “Been there, done that”school of higher education. You could see him at the end of the bar at closing time. You could see him cheating on his wife, or in jail for a DUI. When he spoke you could see the changed man. As Paul says “Somethings got to change and it’s probably me”.
    What would a Saint know of my troubles? You will be an excellent therapist, your patients will come bearing gifts of their life experiences, that will help guide you through yours. Love and Peace to you.

    • Julianne Marie

      I couldn’t agree more about your first line. I don’t think there ever comes a day when we feel “ready.” Often times we just have to dive in with a blind leap of faith, because the biggest decisions and the most meaningful choices are always just outside your comfort zone and your area of certainty. Thank you so much for your kind words, I hope I can live up to them.

  • Nanook

    Julianne, thank you so much for sharing this; it’s helped me a lot because I, too, fight those same demons every day. The last 48 hours have been difficult because after being out of work for nearly six months, I finally landed a second job interview with a company. Trouble is, it’s not the job I ‘want’ (that application is still sitting ‘under review’) on someone’s desk. I’d hoped to get out and away from the career path I’d been on for the past 14 years but the interview I had yesterday is in that same field. A lot of why I haven’t wished to continue on has to do with the past, with past toxic environments/people; especially some for whom shame is used as a ‘corrective’ tool in the workplace. I was very good at what I did but had come to see myself as a failure. When this new opportunity arose, significant others in my life started jumping up and down – “You’ll be perfect!” “This is fabulous!” “The job was tailored just for YOU!” – I wanted to do nothing so much as to crawl under my bed and hide, cowering from those voices in my head….”It’ll be EXACTLY like those place(s) you worked before! “That boss? The one who always put you down in meetings, then took your ideas – there’ll be four more just like her at this new job!” – and then, the BIG one – THE voice – My OWN voice chiming in – “Yeah, that boss thought you were an idiot and you know what? You really are. You didn’t know half of what you needed to know, you only got 90′s on your monthly exams, when you should have been perfect; she was right, you know – and these folks will figure out you’re a failure too! Remember this mistake, and that mistake and blah…blah..blah… Shame is a lot like that children’s book, “If You Give a Moose a Cookie” – for me, it’s “If You Give Your Inner Critic a Listening Ear”….. Instead of projecting my fears ‘forward’, I was going backwards – judging a whole company of possible future employers based on my past, as well as giving myself a hearty stomping for good measure. But I DID turn it around. During the last three weeks, I went in for not one but two interviews with this company; yesterday, the final one before they make a decision. I made the choice (quaking all the way there in my ‘power’ suit and pumps) to accept myself with all my imperfections, for better or worse, despite the fact that it isn’t the job I ‘think’ I want (remembering Paul’s wonderful “No” is a gift) took deep breaths and entered that boardroom, facing the panel with a spring in my step and a twinkle in my eye. I don’t know what will become of this, but I accept it – and gratefully, gladly as another ‘adventure’ should it be offered to me. It’s hard – damned hard to tell inner demons to go piss up a rope or take a long walk off a short pier. I struggle daily, even after five decades, to re-route those negative neural traces, repaving them with positive reinforcement – but it can be done. One of the most powerful images I’ve gained from your piece is the image of all my inner ‘snarks’ by my side, each and every day – a car full of ill-tempered, obstreperous ‘back seat drivers’ – and all I have to do is remember that I am the one who truly controls the direction. Thanks.

    • Julianne Marie

      Thank you so much. It’s always so cathartic to hear others are in the same boat. It’s also way too easy to second guess things because we are unsure or scared. I have second guessed being in this program about a million times since I entered it, even though it was my top choice for what I wanted to do and I know I can do it. It’s been all too easy to tell myself I’m not good enough or underprepared or making the wrong choice, that maybe I should’ve done something else. I am so humbled and grateful that you got something out of this, largely because I think I needed to hear it just as much as I was typing it. Doubt is very, very powerful! But, I think, things have a way of working out, especially when we doubt them most. All the best of luck to you with the job.

  • Christina Wolfgram

    Yay! This is great.

    • Julianne Marie

      Thank you so much!

  • Steppie Royes

    Shame does slow us down. It’s not something that we’re comfortable talking about but facing this problem can open up new doors that help make us better people. I have a realitve who used to tell me that I couldn’t write. It was a shame if I even tried to write a short story, or even a poem. I allowed this to hover over me for the longest time. It was proven that I have a great writing ability when I blogged on this G&T site. I can make a difference with my life experiences and not feel shamed or judged. Great blog!

    • Julianne Marie

      I’ve also gotten told I was a terrible writer, by someone I considered a close friend at the time. It’s amazing the kind of messages we allow into our lives because of shame. I’m glad you learned not to listen to them, I think I’m starting to learn that as well. It’s incredibly liberating once you’re able to cross that bridge! Thank you so much

  • Michael

    I use the Daily Love and appreciation guidance app to make sure I don’t forget about all the positive things that happened and all the love I receive every day. Try it!