They say never look back, but sometimes memories from the past are resurfaced with just a phrase. It was something mentioned in passing that felt like the digging up of mistakes from the past. We all know our past has cultivated the present self but we try to negate it, as if we currently don’t need the old memories to keep us in check. When I think about the person I was, I remember having felt that it wasn’t right, that I needed to change just to be a better person for people. Yet, no forcing or stipulation could have made me change unless I wanted to, and I desperately did. However hindsight, there wasn’t anything wrong with me. I just handled my emotions, or my lack of understanding for them, in a different way than most.
There is no better phrase to compare the panic and instant blockade that occurred in me any time my feelings surfaced than, “a frog in my throat.” Whoever came up with that was both genius and profoundly hurting. I can’t remember the exact moment that made me emotionally inept growing up but I imagine it was in those times when binging my own emotions was the safest option that impacted me the most.
So last night I was getting to know a friend of a friend whilst standing in a line at Howl O Scream and I made a comment that led to him asking me, “so you must be very empathetic?” I proceeded to agree while disagreeing with uncertainty because again in that moment I began to doubt myself and think of how I can be more empathetic than I already am. . .but I digress. My childhood friend was there and that’s when she says, “She is like that now but wasn’t before.” This led to a two minute conversation on how I used to emotionally shut people out. The conversation was brief and not ill intended, we continued talking about other things and went on with the night unscathed.
However, this brought me back to who I tried to become and how I am not much different from that girl now. My brain was on emotional over drive and I couldn’t sleep anymore last night because I remembered how much I disliked myself then.
The only true exception, is my son. From the day he was born, he gave me that feeling of home I always needed. There is no insecurity or frog with him. He knows the good bad and ugly of me. Maybe it’s because some deep rooted part of me is sure I’ll never lose him. I don’t worry about him finding some terrible something about me that he can run away from. I raised him to accept people for who they are and in teaching him that. . .he accepts me for me but not everyone gets my full spectrum like he does.
I don’t even know why I’m making my defenses so clear and exposing myself but for some reason I have to let it out. For many years and to this day, I use humor as my weapon and shield. Truthfully I love to make people laugh, there isn’t anything more rewarding than being the reason someone smiles. However the old me, made jokes at everyone’s expense and buried emotions like a time capsule. I used to walk around stoic and didn’t show an ounce of emotion for people, unless it was anger. Some people called this tough, I say emotionally crippled. My feelings were there but my eyes said more than my lips ever could. If I cared about someone, no matter the level of emotion, they never knew. I hated this but verbally articulating my emotions has never been my strong suit. There were days when I would pep talk myself and convince myself, “this will be the day they know, I am speaking up today about how I feel.” Then when I found myself sitting face to face with them suddenly that frog would consume my throat again and the emotions and feelings flooding my mind were stuck at a damn in my throat. I went through this cycle time after time, and although I shouldn’t say so, it still happens sometimes now. I hated myself for it then and I still dwell on it. It feels like being defeated, like you’re a coward and you can’t make any sense of it because the monster keeping you stagnant in fear is you.
For me anger has always been the only emotion I have no difficulty expressing. In the drop of a dime I would say things so hurtful to people and walk away just to make sure they knew I didn’t care, yet I did. Unbeknownst to them, I was hurting. I was called cold, I was reminded day in and day out that I had no heart, and the word bitch became a common way to define me. You’d think this was from people who disliked me, but those comments came from friends that laughed at my jokes and shared school lunches with me. They didn’t know better, they had no idea I mentally beat myself up about it every day. They thought they were at some disadvantage for being sensitive to other people’s feelings and for being able to express themselves. I however realized very early on that it was I that was defunct, not them. Hearing myself called so many names hurt deeply, but I came up with generic responses and ways to accept what I was being told. My go to, “proud of it.” . . .but I wasn’t proud. I was hurting because I wasn’t some cold hearted bitch, I did feel everything they felt, I could make connections with people and have feeling. I just didn’t know how to express them, and because of it I became a bitch to everyone.
It is so crazy how this minuscule conversation reminded me of who I truly am inside when I’m not being brave. See, somewhere along the way things changed enough to where I am not shutting out my emotions altogether. Do I still find ways to protect myself and mitigate the pain. . .yes. . .but it’s ok, I’ve accepted myself. This may come as a surprise to some because I know I can be very outspoken, but I’m not outspoken about everything. I found in writing I can let the feelings flow rather than have them bottled up inside. Sometimes I blog privately just to get things out of my head. Some people who know me well enough don’t make me feel bad about telling them I love them in writing because they understand saying I love you out loud can feel a little weird at times. That’s with some people not all, and at some moments not all. As I have gotten older I have found moments to just take the plunge, send the message, blurt it out or whatever it takes to keep from bottling in emotions. It’s a constant trial and error but it’s a better process than that of before. Sharing my feelings comes with a scared shitless kind of territory to me, but if I remind myself enough of the instant relief I will feel after (perhaps followed by anxiety. . .but that’s a whole other story) I’ll gain enough courage to say what I’ve been meaning to say.
This constant self introspection has given me an unusual kind of depth with people. I can connect and feel deeply without saying much. I am really good at gauging emotions and I hate when people feel displaced. I hate when people look sad and a topic being discussed is the cause of it. I can look at someone in the eyes and see the pain they hide and I don’t have to force a word out of them. In those moments I opt for a change of conversation or subject because I realize other people can be unintentionally insensitive to people like us. I take other peoples comfort as my own personal responsibility. I don’t need to question why people are who they are, I get it. Admittedly I am curious about people, I love having long winded conversations about everything and nothing all at once. I guess because I can relate and find reminders of myself in them. We are our worst enemies but when I’m looking at myself through the eyes of others I find the self appreciation for myself that I depreciated early on.