by Tammy Kennington
Your parents had to get married. Her words, rife with condemnation and mockery, penetrated my third-grade heart. I felt the stares of the other children. I blinked hard, forcing my humiliation to be quiet. Undetectable. But shame rose fast and unrelenting like floodwaters. Tears blurring my vision, I bowed my head and hurried toward the school cafeteria. That day, every bite of food tasted like shame.
My struggle with shame began long before elementary school. It festered and grew in a home where words were weapons and hurtful labels were accepted without question. I was a burden, not a blessing.
As time passed, a well-rehearsed script played again and again in my head. You aren’t worth being loved. Nobody will ever want you. You mean nothing. The words ran through my mind like a ticker-tape and held power in my life far into adulthood.