After a traumatic event and years of acting out when I was younger, it was recommended that I go to therapy. With one of my fears being toilets, this therapist made the decision to lock me in a bathroom that had one toilet with the lights turned off in some sort of twisted “exposure” therapy. It wouldn’t surprise anyone to find out that instead of helping me with current events and fears, this created more fear and chaos in my world. So I refused to see that therapist again and my parents obliged but only if things got better, if I stopped acting out.
The good child
So I got better at hiding my fears and I worked at bottling my emotions. And I remember the exact moment I decided to close myself off to my feelings completely.
I was riding my bike up and down the street as my parents watched from the porch when I fell off of the bike and on to my knees. When I looked down, I saw that my right knee had gotten the brunt of the impact, I could already see pieces of gravel deep in the wound and there was blood everywhere.
Holding my knee, I looked over at my parents as they silently waited for me to respond. So I didn’t. I willed myself not to cry because I didn’t want to be taken back to that therapist, I didn’t want my parents to keep trying to fix me. If I had to, I would remove myself from anything.
I was about 9 years old.
Always the dumper, never the dumpee
Gender has always played a part in how I compose myself as well. Growing up I could see my brother getting away with being loud, being rambunctious, but I was always told to be quiet, reserved as no one wants a bad girl and no man would ever want to marry me if I was too emotional with him. “No man wants a girl who whines too much or demands too much from him. You’ll need to put aside your needs and emotions to make sure he’s happy.” Even though I realize now how wrong that is, as a child I felt like I would never find love as I got older if I revealed my emotions, or reacted poorly to anything someone said.
Having so many pent up emotions, I ended up with a lot of anger that even then had to be bottled up. I was a ticking time bomb of emotions but you’d never had known it, I had gotten so good at not reacting to anything. I remember one time where someone wanted me to react, to show anything, so they held a gun to my head to see if I would show fear. I still don’t know if it was loaded but I do know they didn’t get what they wanted; I would have rather died than give in.
If I ever did stand up for myself, whether it was in a relationship or just at school, it was poorly received because I was too sensitive and an emotional girl. It caused me to push most people away. My relationships when I was younger would be cut off at 3 months by me as I would feel like getting too attached would reveal my innermost thoughts and feelings, only to have the person abandon me. I became known as cold-hearted and even though I felt lonely, I didn’t want anyone to know and kept to myself.
Most of my time growing up, I actually had a time where I would allow myself to cry. I would pick a sad movie and watch it alone, hoping to get some kind of release. Then I’d be back to where I was before, bottling up my emotions and trying to be this “chill” girl that everyone seemed to want.
At 30 years old I gave in to the very obvious solution to my issues- I needed to attempt therapy on my own terms. After one failed attempt, I found someone who’s helping me connect more with my emotions and understand why I feel that way in the first place. Understanding the need for boundaries both with my parents and in my relationships, I’m learning to stand up for myself again.
Accepting my emotions and what they mean also means rethinking current relationships. My partner has said on multiple occasions that I’ve become too sensitive, too emotional and I don’t blame him, after years of hiding them and suddenly exposing my heart, can seem like a shift in my personality. But I don’t want to be the “chill” girl who lets people walk all over me, desperate to not seem clingy or emotional. I want to be loved for who I am, even if that’s a work in progress. It’s more mental work now, to feel a reaction to something he says or does, and express my feelings when I feel that they’re rational or understood to be something people would not have accepted before. I understand my boundaries better and I’m always making efforts to be more independent.
It’s a process to sit with emotions instead of pushing them away but it’s the most freedom I’ve ever given myself. While there’s still a lot of improvement that could be had, I won’t apologize anymore for being sensitive or too emotional. And I don’t expect to always be this emotional, I’m working through decades of pent up feelings. Even after a year of therapy, I’m understanding the difference between justified and unjustified emotional responses and act accordingly. I feel so much more connected to my mind.
I can’t wait to see what this blossoms into.
Hey, I’m dealing with my trauma the best way I know how-writing! Check out some of my other posts about it-
I Can’t Deny Trauma’s Impact On My Life Anymore
No matter how much I want to believe I’m different, I’m not.
Will Exploring My Inner Child Make Me Forgive My Past?
I was never able to actually be a kid.