Shame and Mental Health - Petra Nunzi / by Richard Bentley

Petra Nunzi is a Co-Active Coach and Therapist who is a member of the BACP Register and the International Coach Federation. She holds an MSc in Psychodynamics of Human Development and has an extensive background in Youth Work and the mental health field.  Petra regularly facilitates workshops in secondary schools & parent groups including topics such as designing the family you want, mental health, well-being, happiness and fulfilment. 

When I was 23 I was pregnant unexpectedly and moved to London to be with my boyfriend. I moved away from friends, family and everything I knew.  I thought that in order to be ‘normal’ and enjoy this process that people said was ‘magical’ I would have to act as normal as possible and morph into a version of myself that I thought my boyfriend’s family would approve of.

We had a flat, my boyfriend had a good job and we had the world at our fingertips. On the outside it was all promise and blessing.

On the inside I had never experienced such loneliness as I did then. Instead of reaching out to connect to people I felt deeply ashamed of what I had become and how I felt about being a mother, so I hid myself and cut off contact with most of my friends. How could I tell them that I was miserable, in pain and didn’t want life to go on? So I suffered in silence, developed depression and a drinking problem.  This went on for years.

I look back now and think, if I’d only told someone how I was feeling, if I’d only told someone I needed help before it got so bad that it got dangerous for both me and my little family.  Over the years I’ve realised that I can only be me, I can’t change into a version of myself that I think other people want me to be. When I’m not authentic and true to myself, when I hide away who I really am for the sake of some kind of approval, that’s when I suffer, that’s when the pain grows from it’s manageable size into something overwhelming and grotesque.

The thing that helped me get through it (albeit the hard way) was a determination to live my purpose. I knew I had something to give even though you wouldn’t have known it on the outside.  So I began studying to be a counsellor one day a week. I learned about myself, I learned it was ok to have flaws and I learned to talk. That was the main thing. I learned to talk about how I was feeling and encouraged others to do the same. Through this process I learned that we all have mental health and just because we don’t know how to put things into words and judge ourselves more harshly than anyone else, that doesn’t mean we’re bad people or don’t have something to give.

I’ve found my mission. To help young people and parents create families that understand mental health and create environments where it’s ok to talk about it. I’m now a life coach and workshop facilitator who tells people that it’s ok to be yourself and to live your own identity while being supportive of those around you and their journey.  I can tell them this because I know how deeply debilitating it is to try be someone you’re not and hide what you really feel.

As Dr Brene Brown, the world famous shame researcher, states:  ‘Shame cannot survive being spoken…and being met with empathy’

Petra  - Life Coach. Workshop Facilitator. Counsellor. www.petranunzi.com

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