Find out who you are and do it on purpose- Dolly Parton
I started writing this blog post about 5 weeks ago, after a conversation I had with someone who made me feel like my feelings were being minimized. I know it wasn’t that person’s intention and I am not going to “out” that person because he or she is not a bad person, it’s just one of those unfortunate situations where you hope someone understands you (or is trying to) and it turns out that is not the case.
If I decide to open up to someone, I am making myself vulnerable to potential judgement, to a possible argument and the chance that the person actually doesn’t really have the time to speak. The worst thing you can do to me is make me feel like my thoughts are not valid or they are not important. Because my thoughts are very real to me and sometimes are scary as hell. Believe me, I live with them. They keep me hidden at home sometimes.
Vulnerability can be beautiful. I appreciate when people show me their true selves and show me they are vulnerable. I would never hurt those people and I know they would never hurt me. Unfortunately, there are so many people who are afraid to let this part of them be seen (if it exists in them at all).
I realize I am not the easiest person to be friends with, or be related to, or be married to or live with. Although at the same time (and not to pay myself on the back here) though I do struggle with self-confidence and self-esteem, I know at my core I am a good person. I am a strong-willed, fiercely determined, ambitious, loving, generous, patient person with more empathy than I know what to do with. This empathic nature gets me into trouble though, because I am a sopping wet sponge when it comes to absorbing everyone else’s emotions, even from a distance! (Sorry-tangential thinking there)
Okay back to the subject at hand. I may not be the most easygoing person at times, but I am never intentionally difficult. Unless you are trying to get me to open up and I have clammed up, and no matter how much you try to pry me open, I won’t budge. I want to explain why this is and what my thought process is, because I think it is important for people who care about me, or who want to understand me to know and this is the best way I can explain it.
Before I delve into my thought process, I want to talk more about the issue of minimizing thoughts and feelings. We are human. We all have thoughts and feelings. How willing we are to express them is an individual choice. I can be very expressive at times, and it is those times when I hope the person I am talking to recognizes I need to be heard. If I feel like I am wasting someone’s time or this person does not have the time of day for me, it is unbelievably frustrating and painful. Or if the person on the receiving end of my call/texts (or however we are communicating) questions the logic behind my thoughts and feelings, it is a crushing blow. I am aware that what I feel and think may not seem logical or rational to many people (no one said anxious or depressive thoughts were rational), but let me work it out. I like to think out loud sometimes.
Sometimes, I become preoccupied with the idea that I am a burden to my friends. I don’t know when this started or why I think this way, but this belief only strengthens when I am feeling depressed or starting to go on my downwards spiral. I worry that I am a needy friend and that when my friends see messages from me they think “Oh boy, not again” or “She’s so draining” or “She’s so needy”. I hesitate to reach out when I need help.
Instead, I suppress my emotions and I try to keep it to myself. I have written about having great friends, which I do but when I get in one of my “funks” I almost don’t believe that I have friends. What ends up happening is I drive home from work, sad, in pain and tears, wanting to call someone, but I can’t, because if he or she is busy, I will be disturbing them (or so my mind tells me).
My thoughts spiral further and further to the bottom of the pit. I begin to feel like I am a waste of space. I start to doubt my abilities. I wonder why I bother blogging or with mental health advocacy, I think “Am I really making a difference”? and “Who cares about my Instagram account and what I have to say?” and so on.
When I come out of my “funk”, I remember that these thoughts are just thoughts. The same way my anxious thoughts are just thoughts and not necessarily true and not necessarily indicative of things that can and will happen, because anxiety is not a psychic. At least I hope mine doesn’t evolve into one. That would be f*cked up.
When I originally started to write this, I was listening to Florence + The Machine’s “Shake It Out”, and the lyric, “It’s always darkest before the dawn” spoke to me. You don’t know light without dark. You don’t know good without bad.
Or, as Albert Einstein once said,
In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.
What opportunity you ask? For growth. To develop strength. To learn an important lesson. Let your difficulties teach you something. I know I certainly have. Over the last 6 or so years, I have been challenged more than I deserve, I have experienced profound sadness and absolutely terrifying anxiety, stigma, the loss of friends, more stress than I ever thought I could handle and I am still standing.
Do you want to know what I have learned?
Here it is: No matter what life throws at me, I am still here. Yeah. Take that life! I’m not getting knocked down. I’m not going anywhere.