Do you ever have those times in life where you just don’t know what to feel? I second guess myself a lot. Part of it is an analytical mindset that is constant in asking why things are happening, questioning the way they are happening and wanting to discover the complex nature of people’s behaviors and personalities. Part of it, though, is because feelings weren’t a big part of my growing up so I find them often hard to navigate, hard to validate, and sometimes downright untrustworthy. I have a million good stories of great times, laughs and an amazing childhood, but there was also a thread that bred some less desirable emotions that came to fruition as I got older and ventured out on my own.
When I was 17 I entered into one of the toughest experiences of my life – up until that point and to date. I found myself in a situation, far away from home and family, that I could not find my way out of. Said situation was beginning to cut away at my own ability to function in normal life. I hit depression in two stages. First, in a frustrated attempt to break free from my circumstances I threatened suicide and quickly found myself in 24 hour surveillance with the laces taken out of my shoes, just in case. In a room that never went dark I contemplated my threat and the level of seriousness that I posed it under. One of the medical professionals charged with my life walked by my room early the second day and simply said, “Is it really that bad?” I didn’t know how to answer so I just shook my head no, thinking that maybe my deep unsettling was my own fault and I needed to buck up and get through it or, at least, that in the moment I was not going to end my life over it, even though it was a nine on a one to ten scale of bad. He let me go, right back into the circumstances that caused the panic in the first place, which, incidentally, got worse having missed those 24 hours. I was promised over and over again that it would get better if I just stuck through. I tried, but the feelings continued and within six months I had drained all the anxious energy in rebellion and then tumbled back into the kind of depression that keeps you in bed all day, causes you to miss work and means that other people check on you periodically simply because they are not quite sure what you are capable of or contemplating.
After loads of counseling, a court proceeding and the invasive measures of including every person I had ever known into a thick file analyzing the why’s and how’s, it was determined that my depression was circumstantial and, if I was just able to change the circumstances, I would find myself free and able to return to a normal functioning state. This opportunity was finally granted to me a year and a half after the start of the battle and only the struggle of healing was left. I state that in jest. The following years were incredibly hard mostly because I just didn’t know what to feel in any situation and was very aware of the ripple affect any amount of honesty may cause and the deep ramifications of a rash decision. Eighteen months had stripped me of the little I had of self assurance or acceptance and I had barely come out treading water, only 19 years old.
It is a lot easier to just not feel sometimes. At least for a little while it seems that shutting down the pain and disappointment will be a reprieve. It is survival and only possible if all other emotions are kept at bay, so we (I) began to avoid and pull away, disconnect and isolate. I still do that when I am afraid of pain or disappointment sometimes. If there is a lot at stake, it takes me a while to feel confident enough to be enthusiastic.
Part of my journey over the last few years has been one of getting back to feeling again, no matter the outcome, because I am realizing the power of deep love, of empathy and of vulnerability. I am glad that I have been led down this path because my relationships are stronger and my idea of God more solid, but it isn’t without bumps and canyons on the way. I often feel that I am still just learning how to feel.