Humiliation and Compensation

I humiliated myself on Saturday, when I cut my hair, as I usually do to save money. I cut the top with scissors, the lower back with the electric clipper, using the half-inch comb guard, and then took off the attachment to trim the bottom edge. When I checked for uneven spots, I found a longer area above and behind my right ear. So I picked up the clipper to finish the job. I immediately saw a glob of hair fall on the bathroom counter and instantly realized that I had forgotten to replace the comb guard. I wear my hair short these days, but I had scalped myself down to the skin. The mirror reflected a hideous sight. It will never grow out before our next speaking engagement!

Stroke survivors often acquire disabilities that lead to a sense of humiliation. After his stroke, Don felt exasperated that, in spite of having a PhD, he could no longer read. Until he started taking Detrol, Don felt mortified on those occasions when he was unable to walk fast enough to reach the bathroom in time. Don used to be self-conscious at how people looked at him in his wheelchair, and even though people are usually kind, he still reacts the same way sometimes when people look at him as he walks. Don is often embarrassed that he says things that are different from what he means. He feels humbled that he can no longer work. He also often remarks that he is ashamed that I have to do so many things he believes should be his responsibility.

What helps us cope and gives us hope:

I have compensated for my temporary humiliation by sketching in my missing hair with eyebrow pencil. I also decided to humble myself and entertain my friends with a pre-eyebrow pencil photo. However, Don’s humiliation is long-term. He compensates with humor, medication, acceptance of his losses, and acknowledgment that he still have value, in spite of his inabilities. These compensation skills often involve hard choices, but they help Don cope.

Questions for our readers:

Do you struggle with humiliation that shuts you down and isolates you? How are you able to combat that shut-down and isolation and compensate for your humiliation in a more healthy way?

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