the way we experience the world relies on many factors… from our race to culture socioeconomic status to attachment styles…. and so many more things. throughout my counseling education I have been extremely reflective and attempting to have a level of insight that allows me to understand how and why I behave I do. I’ve written papers about my cultural identity formation, sexual identity formation, and even a 12 page research paper about how my experience of identity foreclosure in adolescence set the stage for many issues.
all that educational background to say despite how much insight I try to have sometimes I’m blindsided by my own behavior. I struggle with the dichotomy of “impostor syndrome” from this false sense of pride and ego that I should “know better” because of my job and education.
the past several weeks have been hard for me personally in a lot of ways. for the first time in a long time I’ve started to “settle down” with a regular job with office hours. for the first time in forever I am in a happy, healthy relationship… the kind that makes you feel safe to let your guard down and just be. and I was thriving.
and then… seemingly out of nowhere I started experiencing and increase in mental health symptoms. we always talk about how to handle things when life is shit, but we forget that those of us who have lived in chaos for most of our life get realllll uncomfortable when things start to get calm. My irritability was through the roof for no reason. I was stressing about how much I was stressing. Things in my relationship that should have been non-issues were causing me to experience emotions similar to what I have experienced in past relationships and when my body remembers those experiences it goes into high alert. my insomnia flairs up. I am suspicious of everyone and everything. I can’t relax. and in those moments it’s like a Chinese fire drill in my mind. I dissociate, I isolate, and I self destruct. Being passive aggressive to those closest to me is one of my signature moves. Because if I can be enough of a bitch I can prove myself right when they inevitably leave. but that’s just half of it. the other half is the meek, apologetic little girl who tries to make herself smaller to fit into whatever space the people I care for have for me, completely neglecting my own needs – and frankly – my own self respect. I apologize incessently for things that weren’t my fault. I take on ALL the guilt. because if everything is my fault than somehow I’ll be able to fix it.
“I’ll be better next time”
“I’m working on not being so broken”
“I’m sorry I’m so crazy”
“Don’t hate me for my feelings, I know they are irrational”
and on and on and on.
Friday morning I sat with a client who had a son pass away a few weeks ago. He was just 24. As I sat with her I told her that she needed to give herself permission to feel. I told her if she didn’t just sit with her feelings they were a ticking time bomb that would go off and cause a myriad of casualties…. collateral damage as a friend of mine put it. And as I sat in the silence of my office after she left session I began to cry. because I have been stopping myself from feeling lots of things for far too long. So when an unexpected opportunity to have a weekend mostly to myself came up I made a choice. I was going to sit with my feelings.
It was hard. so fucking hard. Old Courtney wanted to drink away my feelings as I’ve done in the past. I even bought a bottle of whiskey. but I turned around as I was leaving to the store and returned it. the next night I got off at the exit where they have a grocery store that sells one of my favorite bourbons on the way home. and I turned around in the parking lot and left. I was uncomfortable. I cried. I wore out my “You are Safe” grounding meditation. I cleaned the house. I dyed my hair. and I wrote and wrote and wrote. and I discovered that I was able to stay with my feelings until they found a natural crest and began to subside. I woke up this morning feeling more peaceful than I have for awhile.
It’s exhausting holding your feelings back. Trying to control/avoid/ignore big feelings feels like the right thing to do in the moment, but it’s like a rubber band. The more you pull it back the harder it hurts when it breaks and snaps you.
Giving yourself permission to feel your feelings in a safe and healthy way with appropriate support is so important. It isn’t always easy, but the more you do it, the better you get at it.
If you need someone to talk to or someone to give you permission to feel your feelings, I’m here. I don’t pretend I have it all together because I just don’t. But you don’t have to be alone as you’re figuring it out.
What big feelings have you been wrestling with?