IN MY FEELINGS
Oppdatert: 13. okt. 2022
I’m bad at feelings. I can never get them right. I either feel too much, or I feel nothing at all.
The “too much” type of feelings, started young. And the “nothing at all” feelings, followed as a result.
I have a vivid memory of coming home from school on the last day of third grade. My mom was kneeling in the hallway, folding a fresh pile of laundry.
“How was your last day?!” She said, beaming at me.
I tried to answer, but my throat got really tight. The back of my ears started to burn up. I couldn’t contain it any longer and I burst into heavy sobs on her lap.
She frantically asked me what happened, and I reassured her that it was a great last day. It was a great school year, even.
And THAT was exactly the problem.
Because the next year would be different. A new teacher. New kids. A new backpack hook. I didn’t want a new teacher. I loved the kids in my class. And I had just finally memorized where my backpack hook was!
My mom just laughed at me and called me her “little softie.”
But I hated that. I didn’t like being a softie. I didn’t like being called “sensitive” 15 times a day. I didn’t like my throat tightening up and my ears getting hot whenever I felt like I was about to cry. (Which was a lot - if my brother called me stupid, if I saw someone else cry, when Nemo and his dad finally reunited, etc) I didn’t like falling in love with every boy that let me borrow his pencil. I didn’t like the stress & logistics of having to plan funerals for all the dead birds the cat would bring in. I didn’t like feeling so deeply.
So, I toughened up.
A few months later, my dad woke me up with a hug. Hugging me so tight. I felt so comfortable. So loved. So safe. I was getting older and I remember thinking it had been a long time since he had hugged me like that. During the family breakfast, mom and dad started on what I thought was another famous parenting lecture, but instead they nervously told me and my little brothers that they were getting separated.
I love my mom and dad. So, so much. Mom and dad seemed like something holy to me, my entire childhood. Like they could make any pain disappear, or make any dream come true.
“Mom and dad has something important to talk to you about. We love you so much. Mom and dad want to take some time apart each other, so we’ve decided to live in different places for a while. None of this is your fault. You did not cause it and you cannot fix or change it. Do you have any questions? You can ask or say anything and we won’t be mad at you.”
My throat gets tight, my ears start heating up.
“But...it’s not for forever, right?” I asked, eyes not moving from the family photo hanging on the fridge I’m front of me.
They didn’t answer for a few moments, and I swear my world stopped for a second.
Was my dad...crying? I didn’t dare to turn and look. I had never seen my dad cry. In my 9 years of life. I didn’t think dads were even allowed to cry.
And because of that, the shakiness in what he said next, terrified me.
“I don’t know, hon.”
He sobbed quietly into the palm of his hands.
Nothing else was said after that. Nothing else needed to be said. My dad had just revealed his humaneness to me for the first time. He broke character.
For a decade, he had been keeping me and my brothers safe. Safe from the real world. From real pain. But he couldn’t protect us from this. He was never going to be able to. And we all knew it.
My mom moved out the next day. It was hard, emotional, and it was mostly all a blur to my 9 year old mind. The only thing I really remember, was how guilty I felt for not shredding a single tear during the two years mom and dad were seperated.
Throughout my life, feelings got even more confusing.
I refused to read the last chapter of Harry Potter, because I couldn’t come to terms with the story ending.
But years later, when it came to my grandmother losing her consciousness falling straight to the floor in her apartment leaving her to being placed in the hospital for several months...I was numb.
Two years ago my grandfather, my dad’s father was getting really sick. He had been fighting cancer for awhile, and it had taken a turn for the worse when he got Covid. My grandfather died a few months later.
I waited and waited for the feelings to come. For the weight of his death to finally come crushing down on me. This was my first experience with death, after all.
I knew I was sensitive. I had been told I was dramatic, my entire life. And because of how affected I was by my parents separation in fourth grade, I was afraid my grandfather’s death would break me in half.
But yet... I felt nothing.
It didn’t make any sense. And I felt immense guilt for it. My grandfather had a magical, warm type of love. He seemed to glow with love. He radiated love. I loved him. I mean there was hardly anyone in the world I idolized more than this man. So where were the tears? When was it going to feel real?
The smallest things felt like the end of the world, and the major traumas seemed to just roll off my back.
And the most confusing part of it all? I was applauded for it.
I was praised for how well I “handled hard times.” They called it “strength” even.
And of course, that was music to my ears. I didn’t want to be soft. I wanted to be strong. So, when anything painful or threatening came my way, I learned that handling it was as easy as turning my emotions off. Blocking them completely. That was the noble thing to do. The strong thing to do.
Besides, my grandfather wouldn’t have wanted me to be crying anyway. I was simply being strong. Right? Right?! Tell me I’m right.
Well, after 12 years of being “strong” I learned something.
Feelings stick around. When we block, or suppress our emotions, it can feel like we’re raising above them. Like we beat them. We avoided the pain. We won.
But we’re really just procrastinating. Those feelings are still there. They made themselves at home in our bodies, and we rarely even realize it.
Those feelings are there, and they need to be felt. They need to be processed. Feeling emotions is an integral part of being a human being, and I was just skipping out on it.
Something else I learned?
I wasn’t a heartless person who didn’t love her grandfather. I was traumatized.
I experienced Trauma Related Dissociation. Trauma Related Dissociation is described as a ‘mental escape’ when physical escape is not possible, or when a person is so emotionally overwhelmed that they cannot cope any longer.
For little nine year old me, sweet as can be, with a heart as big and wide as the sky...the emotions that came from my parents separation did feel life threatening. I wasn’t equipped or prepared for that level of pain. So subconsciously, to protect myself, I shut off entirely.
The same goes for when I lost my grandfather. I always assumed that meant I was emotionless. When in reality, the emotions were so intense, stuffing them away was a means of survival.
So then what? What happened after I learned that I had years and years of unprocessed feelings hiding in my body?
I had to get them out.
A few weeks ago mom, dad and I were talking in the living room, watching TV. Dad turned on the movie, “CODA.”
Dad turned it on, while we talked and it took about 10 minutes for me to realize what he had just done.
10 minutes into the movie my fight or flight starts up.
I stood up. I had to leave the room before god forbid I accidentally put myself through watching the challenges that a hearing daughter in a deaf family faces.
But right before I could exit out of the room, I stopped myself.
“You’re running away from your feelings again.” A really sassy inner voice said to me.
Shit. She was right. That is exactly what I was doing.
I have spent the last few months, feeling my feelings. Making up for lost time. I’ve done lots of therapy. I’ve talked. I’ve journaled. I have been working so hard, for a while now, to let myself feel all the feelings I’ve been avoiding. And let me tell you, it’s hard work.
Take it from me, and feel your feelings when they come. Because what happens when you procrastinate, is once they’re ready to surface, you have no clue what’s going on. After the fact, you can’t pinpoint exactly where the emotions are coming from, you’re just made painfully aware of their presence.
“what is this feeling???? You’ll beg to know. “what is the source of this pain?”
It’s in our nature to want to attach a story, or a reason for why we’re feeling certain emotions. But I’ve learned through trial and error...that’s just simply not the point.
The point is to go towards the pain, not attempt to understand it.
Let it scare you. Let it engulf you. And then, let it go forever.
Now it’s gone. Out of your body.
Now you are free.
We can free ourselves a little bit, every single day, just by going towards those uncomfortable feelings, and not running away from them.
So, instead of leaving the room and doing something else that day, I listened to that reminder in my head. I anchored myself to the chair and grabbed a blanket.
Then...I forced myself to watch the journey of the hearing daughter in the deaf family who finds herself torn between following her dreams & fear of abandoning her parents in pursuit of her passion.
AND GUESS WHAT? I FELT. IT. ALL.
But I understood I was being tested. Seriously! Have you ever noticed God will continually place you in the same situations until you learn your lesson? Coda is just practice. So I stared at the screen and let the feelings come up. The “how adorable” feelings, and the “how TERRIBLE” feelings. I didn’t question either of them. I just let them take over. I let them engulf me. And for the next 1 hour 51 minutes, I weeped uncontrollably in my chair.
But I did it. I freaking watched the movie I knew would wreck me.
It sounds silly, but I was so proud of myself.
I’m still working on the whole feelings thing. I have a lot of unprocessed emotions that are still tucked away. But I’m better at noticing when I’m avoiding that process of feeling them. That awareness is making all the difference for me.
The bottom line...is I am FEELING! Which means I’m healing.
But even still, after all the therapy and internal work... a movie like Coda will come a long to humble me and remind me of who I really am deep down.