We live in such an emotionally constipated culture, y’all.
We grow up learning, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways, that feelings are something to be hidden away, unacknowledged.
I always felt like I was wrong for feeling my feelings.
I was told I was too sensitive. People didn’t know what to say or do when I was acting like a normal human and, you know, emoting.
So, after years of believing that something was horribly wrong with me because I seemed to feel things more deeply than others did, I did my best to stuff ‘em down.
And while it was cool to feel less like an outcast, it wasn’t cool to be struggling with near constant bouts of low-grade to moderate depression by the age of fifteen.
I got more in touch with my feelings as I got older. Even though I kept a lot of stuff to myself, I learned to at least recognize and acknowledge the things I was going through and my feelings about it.
And it helped immensely.
But somewhere along the way I guess I stopped doing even that much.
Life got complicated. I got married. I was in college, I was working. I had the never-ending to-do-list from hell and nowhere near enough time to get everything done, much less time to relax, unwind, and give my emotions the space and attention they needed.
And somewhere along the way the stress of it all built up. And it kept building, along with all those pesky emotions that had been lurking in the background.
Until the day that I was driving home from work and got rear-ended by another driver.
That’s when my body and my brain saw the opportunity to force me off the stress-filled, relentless path that I’d been traveling, and they ran with it.
I’ve been in pain ever since.
And in some ways, my pain has helped me.
It forced me to slow down and start paying attention to my needs. It forced me to learn the importance of setting boundaries. It forced me to learn how to take better care of myself.
In its own weird way, my pain has protected me.
But I’m so ready to be done with it.
So, I’ve been telling myself that it is safe for me to feel my feelings.
That I am safe.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m learning as I go and sometimes it certainly doesn’t feel safe.
But I’m doing it anyway. Feeling my feelings.
All of them.
Even the ones that I haven’t wanted to acknowledge. Especially the ones that I’ve kept bottled up for decades.
It is not fun. It is not comfortable.
There is a lot of crying.
Plus, I’m having a lot of days where I don’t want to journal or deal with any of this.
But more often than not, I am journaling. I am doing the work.
And I’m feeling better.
My pain is between 75-90% gone.
And when I’m having a bad day, I know that it’s time to pull out some paper and a pen and get brutally honest about all the stuff that has been weighing on me.
So, I do.
Because I know that in 20 or so minutes, I’m going to feel better.
It’s like magic.
And on the days where the magic doesn’t work, I use the tools that my pain taught me:
- Accepting that I’m doing my best and that that is good enough
- Honoring my body’s needs
- Treating myself with self-compassion and kindness
But now I’m doing these things while also sitting with whatever I’m feeling and knowing that I am ok. That no matter what I’m dealing with emotionally, no matter how uncomfortable things may be, I will get through it.
Because my feelings can’t hurt me.
As long as I am willing to feel them, they can not hurt me.
All they can do is make me stronger.
I bet your feelings can do the same for you.
Confused? Not sure what I’m talking about? Check out this post, Unexpected Benefits of Blogging About Chronic Pain.