On Feelings

I am incredibly independent.  To a fault.

You see, several failed relationships plus living alone has led me to feel like I need to be completely self-reliant.  This can be a good thing sometimes because I am very capable, and it’s nice to know I can live on my own.  The flip side, however, is that I hold everything inside.  I don’t want to bother anyone with my little problems, and so I keep them to myself.  Inevitably, this leads to me pretty much collapse in on myself.

In trying to be so independent, I somehow began to equate that with not letting out my feelings.  Instead of talking to someone about what’s on my mind when I’m down, I hold it in.

I’m not sure how I got this way; I don’t think it was always so.  But in the last 5 years, this has very much become my way of coping.  I’m a private person to begin with, but I’m starting to realize that I don’t need to keep everything private, especially not when it comes to bad feelings, and especially not when I have people that care about me that want to listen.

I worry so much about inconveniencing others with my feelings; I don’t want to bother them, don’t want them to worry about me.  I pretend that everything is ok because somewhere along the way I got it into my head that my feelings aren’t as important as the feelings of others.  Or, that I will be judged by the way I feel.  I couldn’t give myself permission to admit my feelings out loud because they were constantly being invalidated.  They were wrong, inconvenient, unfair in some way.

And so I pushed everything down.  I pushed and pushed and pushed.  I compacted my hurt so many times.  I folded it up and tried to make it small, tried to make myself believe that it was insignificant, that it didn’t matter.

And then the bottom fell out.

In the past few months, I’ve been working so incredibly hard to change this habit.  I know that I need to talk about my feelings, to ask for help sometimes.  The thing is, I hate it.  I’m not a particularly touchy-feely person.  It’s not that I’m not sympathetic, but I hate whining.  Especially when I’m the one doing it.  But I know that if I want to be whole and healthy and comfortable with me, I need to talk things out.  I need to say what I’m feeling.  And I need to reach out and ask for help.

The phrase “reach out” is one of my least favorite phrases in the English language.  I detest it.  I abhor it.  I loathe “reaching out.”  But the fact of the matter is, regardless of what I call it, I have to do it.  For someone who has put all of their bad feelings in a box for the last several years, it’s a difficult thing.  Necessary, but difficult.

A few weeks ago, I had an argument with a friend.  She said that I was “dead inside.”  It hurt.

I’m not dead inside, not even a little.  I feel things, maybe more than most people, because I force myself to feel them alone.  While it takes me longer to process and articulate my feelings, it doesn’t mean I feel them any less, and it doesn’t mean they aren’t real or valid.

So I’m trying to change.  I’m trying to ask for help.  My poor mother has borne the brunt of this, listening to every teary phone call and supporting me while I’m trying to find my feelings again.  She does it unselfishly, the picture and definition of unconditional love.

But I’ve started to talk to friends about it, too.  Not just any friends, but close friends, friends who care more about me than I ever really realized.  The craziest part is that they actually want to listen.  They don’t clam up or shy away when my voice breaks in tears.  They don’t tell me I’m being silly or that the way I’m feeling is my fault.  They don’t blow me off or try to squash my feelings with some cliché.  They listen.  They murmur sympathetic things.  They tell me they’re glad I told them.  They tell me to call anytime.  They are there.  And I’m a little less alone.

It’s not easy, finding your feelings and acknowledging them after pretending for so long that they don’t exist.  After being told for so long that they were somehow the wrong feelings to have or that they didn’t matter, it feels different to have someone listen.  It feels different to be validated.  I can’t say it feels better; sometimes it feels like hell.  But after, it is always cathartic in some way.  Like a little battle I’ve won in some larger war.

What I’m learning is that my feelings are important.  I need to talk about them.  I need someone to listen, to hear me without judging or offering feedback.  I need to be with these feelings and acknowledge them for myself.  Being alone with them has been killing me.  It’s been isolating me.  And I have done it to myself.  But that doesn’t mean I can’t be different, smarter, better, and kinder to the me I want to become.


19 thoughts on “On Feelings

  1. At least you talk to your mom, though. That’s got to help even if it’s not to a friend. I think you and I are the same in a lot of ways. I do this same thing and I think I’m getting worse instead of better.

    I’ve had friends tell my husband that they feel like it’s hard getting close to me because I don’t talk about my feelings or myself very often on a personal level. But also, that doesn’t make me very comfortable and I don’t like people knowing a lot of personal stuff about me. (Weird we have blogs, right?) Also, I avoid saying things to avoid fights too.

    Anyway, I’ve often wondering if I’m just an unfeeling, uncaring person because other people perceive me as distant. So I like that you mentioned that you just like to bring those feelings out when you’re alone. I think I’m the same way and I’m not sure that’s the right thing to do but I don’t know that I can help it either.

    Maybe your friend was just trying to envoke a reaction in you, because the person I know from the writing in this blog is certainly not dead inside.

    • Katie says:

      I’ve had the ‘distant’ thing from people too. I’m hard to get to know, apparently. I hate that! I’m better alone or in small groups. I’ve had people say that I wasn’t what they expected when they talked to me, because they thought I was distant and quiet. I’m not! 😛 It’s tough.

      • OMG–just read this part of your comment and I am totally the same! I need a small group atmosphere or I have a ton of anxiety. I think people just need to realize that everyone is different. Just because you’re not outgoing doesn’t mean that you are a cold or distant person.

    • I have to say that it is REALLY REALLY hard to talk about things, but I am learning that it does make me feel better. It’s funny that you mentioned about us having blogs since we’re such private people. I think maybe it’s “safer” to put our thoughts/feelings into the blog world because there’s a little anonymity to it??? I’ve often wondered about that, too, and I definitely censor some things because I don’t want people I know to read them.

      I wish that “friend” had those intentions in mind, but since we still aren’t really speaking, I think she may have meant it to be hurtful. But I guess that means she’s not really a friend.

      Oh, and you aren’t distant OR creepy. So what if our closest friends are in the blog world??? 😀

  2. Katie says:

    I’m with you on the past years changing how I handled my feelings. I still struggle at times to overcome what years in a bad relationship did to me. I question myself because I was told that I was wrong, selfish, and ridiculous. At times, I still feel that way – and I apologize for how I feel or what I say. But, ultimately, I have learned to say how I feel, because I need to find my voice and find my way into being confident and comfortable with my emotions again. In the meantime, I feel bad at times but make it through thanks to supportive people in my life that love me.

    It’s hard, but don’t give up! It’s worth it to open up to people. Nobody should deal with everything alone, but that doesn’t mean you’re not able to take care of yourself. You’ll figure it out. 🙂 Just let me know how, because I swear I spend far too much time feeling bad for my feelings!

    • I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who apologizes all the time! Just talking about it here and knowing that we’re not the only people who feel this way and have difficulty being comfortable with our feelings helps me! If I ever figure it out, I’ll be sure to share. 🙂

  3. Hi, new reader here. I can totally relate. I’m a very private person and it feels like I’ve been more withdrawn the longer I’ve been single. I’ve had people say “I know you dont like to get hugs” and stuff, which hurts cuz I do… I don’t know why they think that. But I think it’s great that you’re starting to open up… and listening to your feelings!

    • It is so tough because people do confuse being private with being unfeeling in some way. I think it’s just harder to relate to people when you’re by yourself all the time, but it doesn’t mean you don’t want to or that you don’t need affection.

      Thanks so much for commenting and for your encouragement! It’s nice to know I’m not the only one! 🙂

  4. i so totally get you. It’s nto easy, and that is SO me. It’s only very recently that I’ve been able to open up and actually say how I feel, say that I need help, I’m unhappy, I’m happy, whatever! I seriously think having my blog has helped me open up in some strange way

    • Me too! Blogging is oddly therapeutic. It’s like it gives you a voice that you can’t use out loud, if that makes any sense. I’m so glad that you’re feeling like you can open up and say how you feel! That has been and continues to be the hardest part for me.

  5. Melissa,

    You most certainly are not dead inside, I am so sorry that someone said that to you. I can relate to so much of what you just shared especially not wanting to worry friends and family and be a downer. People who really care about you want to lift you up when you’re down and hear how you are really feeling. It’s something that I struggle to remember and practice as well.

    I have been so impressed by how much you have been sharing over the past few weeks because I know how hard it can be to be so honest and open. You are making amazing strides, and I know that you will continue to improve and the weight of these feeling will get lighter and lighter.


    • Thank you SO much, Jenny! I worry about sharing these kinds of things on the blog because I don’t want to be a downer here, either. But I realized that I began this blog in the first place to figure out what makes me happy, and talking about my feelings is a part of this process. Reading your blog has helped me to feel less alone in this, too, and I can’t thank you enough for being a constant positive presence for me! HUG to YOU!!! 🙂

  6. Reading this post made me think that you jumped into my head and described me. I learned the very hard way the importance of sharing your feelings. It was a tough lesson and one I still struggle with, but it gets better. My sisters are phenomenal – they listen without judging and help pick up the pieces when needed. Hugs!

  7. i think its sweet and so brave of you to open up here or anywhere. i love that you can confide in your mom. (that’s what moms are for…unconditional LOVE, no matter what!!!) i could totally relate to so many things you said in your post. i tend to hold things inside because i dont want to talk to others, and feel that i am so strong that i can deal with ANY and EVERY thing, alone…which is not always true. i get to the point that my stomach starts hurting and i feel literally sick because i just keep taking it all and holding it in….until i almost explode.
    i want to kick your ‘friend’ who said you are ‘dead’ inside. that was not nice and i guess she really is not that good of a friend.
    thanks for sharing a very personal part of your life, it makes others feel like we are not ‘abnormal’ afterall! lol..
    and a big hug to you!!! xo

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