i know it’s scary, but it’s okay to open up
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
- Maya Angelou
Hi friends! If you can’t tell from my last post, I really enjoy Maya Angelou’s writing. I love reading poetry and I very much admire her and the words she shares. The quote above correlates to what I want to discuss today. When you are struggling with something, it seems to be human nature to keep it inside. We learn to lock those feelings or experiences in a box, throw away the key, and make sure we can never find it. But emotions are something that want to be felt. There’s a reason we have them and when we lock them away and pretend they’re not there, they just kind of fester. When we’re happy, it’s a good feeling, so we embrace it. But when we’re sad or angry, those feelings don’t feel good to us, so we try to not have them. We ignore them or push them away.
What if you had a child that really wanted something. They constantly were saying “mom, mom, mom, moooooooom!”, but you kept ignoring them, because you didn’t want to give them what they wanted. Finally, when they pester you enough, you lose it and go, “WHAT!” That’s kind of how my emotions feel. It’s like a child that wants to be noticed and they keep bothering you until you finally blow up. The more you ignore them, the more they bother you.
That might not be the case for everyone. I know of some people who are VERY good at pushing down their emotions. To the point that they probably don’t even know they are there anymore. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. If those emotions truly aren’t bothering you, then let them be. But there are people, like me, who need help with their emotions. There was a point in my life where I was not able to lock down my emotions anymore. They were running rampant, and I didn’t know how to control them. That’s when I was introduced to therapy.
I started therapy when I was around 17 and at that age I was so embarrassed that I didn’t want anyone to know. Mental health wasn’t talked about in my school much and back then there was more of a stigma surrounding it. I knew I needed to go, but it was hard for me to actually accept that I needed it. I have been in therapy off and on for the last ten years. I have seen a few different therapists, but everyone I went to eventually told me I just needed to go on medication. Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with going on medication, but at the time they were suggesting it, it was the last thing I ever wanted. The main reason I didn’t want to go on medication was because majority of my anxiety is health related and I was worried about possible side effects, so I wanted to do everything I could to not take it.
Two years ago, I went to a therapist that was outside of a medical facility. I thought maybe if I went to see someone who wasn’t connected to a facility like that, it might be more focused on just therapy versus medication. I met someone at a counseling center and she honestly has been wonderful to work with. She was up front right away and explained that she wanted to get to the root of everything and find out what’s causing my anxiety and OCD instead of just treating the symptoms. Hearing her say that was exactly what I needed to hear. It made me feel like someone believed I could actually get better.
For those of you who have been in therapy, you all could probably agree how much hard work goes into it. Sometimes you leave a therapy session emotionally drained and that can feel so tiring. You usually have to do work outside of therapy, as well. But it’s the best kind of work. In the last two years, I have learned more about myself than all the other 8 years of therapy I did in the past. It’s amazing how it works, honestly. The first while in therapy, we learned coping skills. Ways I can handle my anxiety on my own and not let it consume me. Then we started talking about tougher subjects, things I wanted to bury down and not let out. Eventually, we got to a point where I started having what we call, “aha moments”. These are moments in therapy when you are talking about something and a lightbulb goes off in your mind where you go, “yes that makes so much sense”. And when it happens it can be a great or awful feeling. It depends on what the connection you made was. I’ve had both. There have been times I had “aha moments” that I left therapy feeling so much better, because something that had been tormenting me for years finally made sense and I was able to process it. Then there were times I left therapy after having one of those moments and I left feeling drained and poured myself a glass of wine. Both scenarios are just as important as the other. It just might not feel like that at the time.
the lightbulb goes on
everything makes sense
the reasons behind my emotions
caused by something in my past
sitting there bewildered
realizing the process is working
slowly treading through the memories
and learning how to move on
- feeling is healing
I said at the beginning of starting my blog that I was going to be honest, so that’s why I want to share my experiences, even if it might be hard to talk about. This last year, actually within the last couple months, I have had many break throughs. It almost feels like we opened one box I buried and suddenly every other one is springing open. As I mentioned in an earlier posting, I didn’t have the best relationship with my dad. He was an alcoholic who had an undiagnosed personality disorder, which made it hard for him to connect with my family the way most fathers do. Growing up with him, I just felt very disconnected from him. I didn’t feel like I had a relationship a father should have with their daughter. I loved him and he was fun to be around sometimes, but a lot of times, he wasn’t. When I was 20, my dad passed away from cancer and liver disease. There were A LOT of mixed emotions going through me when he passed. It was hard to grieve when I didn’t really understand how I felt about him. I struggled with this for 7 years up until a couple months ago when I had one of my “aha moments”. I talked to my therapist about how I wanted to write a letter to my dad and read it out loud to him, because I never got a chance to have this kind of conversation when he was alive. I wrote my letter (I had to rewrite it a couple times) and I decided to go out in our open field one day and read it to him, because that’s where I felt closest to him. As I was reading it, I started feeling a lightbulb go off in my mind. I realized that despite all of the hurt and confusion I had towards my dad, all I really needed to know was if he loved me. You see, with the way my dad was, he did love us, but he just didn’t know how to show it in the way I needed it. So as a child, I wasn’t being loved in the way I felt I needed, and because of it, I just thought he might not love me. But as these last few years have gone by, I’ve learned that my dad did actually love us, it’s just he couldn’t love me in the way I needed as a child. There was a disconnect. After I read the letter, I realized the thing I had been searching for, I already knew. My dad loved me. That’s all I needed.
After that moment, I have not had a confusing, guilty, sad, or angry feeling towards my dad. I’ve felt very content with the way our relationship was. He loved me in the only way he knew how and that’s all I need. Being able to feel content like that after 27 years of confusion and pain was a wonderful feeling and I never would have gotten there without someone helping me tread through those memories.
Therapy is a terrifying thing. Opening yourself up to a stranger and sharing your deepest fears and vulnerabilities is not easy, but at the same time, it’s very freeing. You don’t need to hide anymore. You can be open and honest with someone who is literally there to help and not judge. I know there may be a stigma behind therapy, but I really want people to understand that there doesn’t have to be. It’s okay to not know how to process your emotions, it’s okay to be vulnerable, and it’s okay to be scared at first when you start. Therapy isn’t for everyone and you have to believe in it for it to work. You can’t just go in, sit in the office, and not believe it will help, because then it won’t. Therapy is a big step and people should do it in their own time. Again, it is not for everyone, but I wanted to share my story in case there are people out there who felt like I did when I started. I felt weak and scared.
It took me a long time to realize that opening up and being vulnerable is a strength in its own. If anyone wants to share their story, I am more than happy to listen as always, but I understand as well that this is your personal thing and should be respected as much. Just remember if you are struggling with something, you are not alone and there is always someone ready to listen. Let’s continue on this journey together. Stay tuned, friends!