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Clenched Fists

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I think anyone that knew me would be shocked to know how angry I am. All the time. I can feel it inside me.

I don’t even know what to do with it. I feel like it is compressed into this tight ball of pure, raw emotion. It’s boiling inside me.

I don’t act angry. I don’t seem angry. I am kind. I try to be thoughtful and considerate.

I like to think I keep it tightly wrapped up. It is usually under control. It is just another part of my personality that I hide. But lately it is feeling dangerous. Like I am walking around with an unstable nuclear reactor in me. I don’t want to lose control of it.

I am afraid I am going to hurt someone. I am afraid of my angry desires sometimes. My punching bag used to help. And yoga. And meditation. But hitting things has lost it’s appeal.

The thing about anger and nuclear reactors is that they are hard to control. And being out of control is the scariest thing ever to me.

So, ideally I need to stop being angry. I WANT to stop being angry. It’s exhausting. But I also don’t know how to let it go.

My fist has been clenched so tightly for so long. My whole life really. Holding on to that anger feels like I am holding on to my entire life. I literally do not know how to let it go. I can’t figure out how to unclench my fist.

I have been talking to my therapist about it. She says the key to working through it is finding out where it stems from. Finding out what emotions are behind it. Generally fear and sadness. And I so get that.

I know why I am mad, sad, and afraid. The injustice of my life has made me feel that way. And I know that.

But I am also weirdly afraid to go down that road. I am afraid to really examine the injustices of my life. So the real issue is, am I afraid of the examination process (which is unusual for me)? Or am I afraid of losing my anger?

In one way, I don’t know why I would be. I hate it! I am actually angry about how angry I am.

But in another way, I get it. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t angry. Sometimes, I am afraid of who I will be at the end of all this.

I know these changes are good and healthy. But trying to figure out who I am is so scary sometimes. Knowing who I am, even the bad things I don’t like, is at least a known entity.

What if my anger is what fuels my passion? My strength? My fierceness? What if without it I become some wishy-washy pushover? What if I stop liking who I become? That’s a scary, intolerable thought.

What if I do all this hard painful work and the anger is still there? What if I try and fail? What if my anger is such a facet of myself at my very core that I wind up not letting it go? What if I suffer and work for nothing?

Those things are all possibilities. And that’s a lot of fear to be carrying around in one clenched fist. But, in the other hand, I hold hope. Hope of having a life without a nuclear reactor core of anger inside me. Hope of not having to keep tolerating this intolerable anger.

And just writing about this thing that I have been so afraid to talk about has made me feel a little better.

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Life and Death

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As you know, I have suicidal ideation. I think this gives me a different perspective on suicide and depression. I know many of my readers also struggle with this issue. And I have a few friends in real life that do as well.

One such friend, was recently going through a difficult time in his life. His relationship had ended. He was going through a vicious custody battle. He suffers from depression. And he had once been hospitalized for previously attempting suicide.

We all know that nobody kills themselves just because they are sad. Or because something bad happens in their life. The story is never so simple.

This friend confided in me that he was starting to think about suicide. That it was on his mind all the time. That it seemed like a reasonable response to what was happening in his life.

I was glad he told me. He is the first person that I have ever talked about my own suicidal ideation with. I was a relief to hear him tell me all these feelings that I myself have felt. And to know that I could speak to him from experience.

I was very concerned for his well being. He asked me to promise to not call anyone. He did not want to be Baker Acted. I made the promise. But he doesn’t know how close I came to breaking it.

I felt that being hospitalized would only make him more apt to kill himself. That does happen sometimes. But I was determined to help him.

I called him every day, multiple times a day. I let him talk for hours. I stayed up till late into the night and early morning, listening, giving him advice, sympathizing.

He came close several times. Maybe even closer than I know. Once he called me in the hopes that I could talk him out of it.

But I am happy to say that he is still with us. And he has since told me, that him being hospitalized would have been the worst thing for him. And that knowing I was available to talk any time helped. That knowing that I was there, listening, letting him feel his feelings, was more help than any doctor could have given.

I know he is not out of danger. People with suicidal ideation will always be in danger of acting upon it. I have tried to get him to go to therapy. But he has resisted.

I urge anyone that is feeling these feelings to tell someone. Talk to someone you can trust. Get help if you can. But talk if you can’t. Sometimes our feelings really are a matter of life and death.

Past Lives

Today, someone asked me what I was like as a child. I had to think about it for a long time before answering. But it really depends on what age we’re discussing.

I did nothing but cry for the first 6 or 7 years. I was unhappy and morose. And suffering from PTSD from many physical, emotional and sexual abuses. Eventually my family punished me for crying enough that I stopped.

I spent the next few years like a wild animal backed into a corner. I had zero control over my emotions. I was angrier than I have ever felt in my entire life. My anger was like a separate being trying to violently claw it’s way out of me. This is when I began punching trees. A lot.

Finally, around 10, I completely shut down all my emotions. I began working out compulsively, reading obsessively. I had an eating disorder and began journaling. I was extremely secretive.

I had severe insomnia and depression. Some weeks I would sleep less than 5 hours the entire week. My life was kind of a fog of blankness. That is really the best way to describe it. It was like being on drugs that took away everything it was possible to feel. But I wasn’t on drugs.

All I ever felt was sadness, despair and anger. And the safest place to direct that anger was on myself. It led to getting into and staying in many abusive relationships; platonic, romantic, and familial. It also was the partial driver for some of the emotional/mental issues I have.

And that’s basically where I stayed until my health problems at 25. Like I was frozen in place. Frozen emotionally. And I was. I only allowed myself to feel the barest tip of what was wrong. Only the strongest, most persistent emotions came through.

It has taken a few years to even realize that things were wrong inside me. And it took a few years to get help. I have been in therapy for just over a year.

I am amazed when I look back on the changes I’ve been through this past year. It actually impresses me. People that have known me very well can hardly believe I am the same person. Neither can I.

I can’t believe the life I was accepting for myself all that time. I can’t believe those past people, those horrible past lives, were all me. I look back on how much I’ve changed this year. And I wonder how unrecognizable I’ll be to myself by this time next year.

Unhappiness

I had a realization today after listening to some Bruce Springsteen. His lyrics always make me think.

At some point I am responsible for my own unhappiness.

I am generally very understanding and sympathetic, at least to others. This post isn’t directed at anyone that has mental health issues. And I’m not saying “stop being unhappy and start being happy.” Because I know it isn’t that easy.

I have spent many years being unhappy. We all know someone that is always miserable. But I am never stuck. Some things may be hard to change. And maybe I feel so entrenched that there doesn’t seem to be a way out. But there is always a way out.

If I don’t like my job; I can get a new one. If I don’t like my friends; I can replace them with ones I do like. If I am unhappy with my romantic relationship; I can end it. If I am not happy with my body; I can do something about it.

No matter how bad things have been in my past, and even in my recent past, all of that stuff IS in my past. It’s over now. The older I become, the further away it gets from me.

People have told me to “just get over it.” Sometimes flippantly, sometimes dismissively. And hearing that isn’t actually helpful. And yet. I do need to get over it. I do need to let it go.

I keep dating the same types of men over and over. And I can’t help but think that it’s because I wasn’t ready to let go of my past. Maybe I wasn’t ready to stop being abused. Maybe I wasn’t ready to be in a loving relationship.

Maybe because I had internalized my parents’ abuse and thought I deserved it. Maybe because I didn’t realize that better existed, let alone that I deserved better. It doesn’t really matter why I wasn’t ready.

But I know that I can’t keep carrying these people around with me. I have to let them go. I have to stop hanging on to my past. I have to stop hanging on to my hurt. And my unhappiness.

I’m no longer the powerless child I was growing up. I long ago stopped being the shy, insecure adult I was (I’ve stopped most of the time anyway). I’m not the victim of domestic violence anymore.

My life is my own. I don’t want to spend the rest of it talking about, thinking about, and working out, my past.

I want my past to stay where it is. I want to be over it and done. It’s always going to be a part of who I am. But I don’t want it to define who I am anymore.

Emotional Cloud Storage

I have been thinking today about where emotions go. I think we all have seen or experienced that couple They are hot and heavy and passionate. They are “in love” and “soulmates.” (I have never had first hand experience of this but have witnessed it many times).

But then, a few weeks or months later; they split up. What happened? Maybe they weren’t really in love. But whatever intensity and passion they had was real. Where did that go?

Where does love go when it’s over? Or anger? Or sadness? Nothing lasts forever. And though I have known those last two emotions; I can feel them starting to leave.

It’s kind of like asking what happens when we die. Except we may never know where our emotions go. But we will all have a definite answer to what happens when we die. Someday.

I personally don’t believe anything happens when we die. We are just dead and gone. That thought doesn’t disturb me. I’m not afraid of it. I’ve thought about it enough to be comfortable with it.

But, for some reason, I like to think our emotions go somewhere when they leave us. I’m sure this is just me being uncharacteristically sentimental. Or maybe I am just being too literal. (Or maybe I just don’t get how emotions work).

I like to imagine all of our collective emotions are still out there somewhere. Like little pieces of our souls. Our emotions persist even when we have forgotten or outgrown them.

I like to imagine them hanging out with each other in a sort of cloud storage. (Which I do imagine as an actual, literal cloud).

I like to think my emotions have distinct personalities. Which leads me to believe that all emotions have them.

All of my emotions recognize that they once belonged to me. I am their creator. They don’t all like each other. Or me. But they can be cordial at parties if they have to be. They have genders. But the genders of my emotions are specific to me.

My anger is quiet and serious. He rarely smiles or goes out. He has some acquaintances. But they are mostly other people’s anger. He doesn’t really like being around them.

My shyness is very sweet and friendly, and surprisingly, not shy. She’s kind of the mother figure as she has been in the cloud longer than my other emotions. She has tried dating a little, but keeps going for the sadness types. And the relationships never last.

My sadness is very shy and funny. He’s tried to make friends with my anger, but my anger never laughs and he makes my sadness too insecure. So he hangs out with other people’s senses of humor. And they are all so bitter!

My emotional pain is severely morbidly obese and depressing to be around. She and my shyness are kind of friends. My pain doesn’t know why my shyness even bothers. Frankly, my shyness is just about over my pain’s attitude. But she is too nice to say so.

My fear is foreign. Nobody understands him and he is constantly frustrated by that. He’s kind of boring, honestly. So nobody bothers to try to understand him.

Possibly it is just me that feels this way and thinks these things. But I don’t really know. Does anyone else imagine their emotions this way? Are your emotions friends with each other too?

Chicken Fried Hunger

Holy shit! Something amazing happened today. I was reading this book about appetite, eating disorders, and desires. I was reading it while eating lunch at work today.

I was having a kind of crappy, stressful day (most days at my work are extremely stressful). I was talking to a co-worker about KFC. I don’t like KFC but it made me really want to eat some fried chicken.

So I went to Popeye’s and ordered my favorite thing there (hint: it’s a lot of food). Since I started eating more like a non-disordered person I tend to eat a lot in one sitting. An unhealthy lot.

I was sitting there, eating fried chicken. And I got to this part in the book about eating your emotions. Eating as a way to sublimate desires of all types. Or (in my case) not eating to sublimate desires of all types. And I realized that for the past year, since I started eating again, I have been doing exactly that.

I got a more stressful job and instead of responding to that in a healthy way, I ate. Then some relationship stuff went down and it ended badly, and I ate even more. And that’s definitely why I’ve gained close to 40 lbs this year.

So, I was sitting there with my fried chicken. And I realized not only did I not want how much food I ordered. I didn’t even want what I had ordered. It didn’t taste good. It didn’t make me feel better.

All it ever made me feel was full. But not in a good and satisfying way. In an unhealthy “I hate myself. Why did I eat so much?” way.

In a weird way I can see how that feeling of fullness is comforting. But it’s really only as comforting as that feeling of emptiness was when I wasn’t eating. Now that I am starting to recognize it for what it really is; it doesn’t offer much comfort.

The hunger and the fullness is the exact same feeling. I feel like my hunger was consuming me all the time. It was filling me up and seemed to take up the same amount of space inside my body and my mind as the fullness does now.

I feel like today, for the first time in more than 20 years, I was listening to my body’s hunger cues instead of mindlessly eating nothing or everything.

I actually almost cried.

It makes me wonder if a few books on eating disorders (in combination with my therapy and journaling) can help me so much. Maybe I should read a few books on some of my other issues. It can’t hurt.

I read so many books about so many things I can’t help but wonder why I never picked one up on any of my emotional issues. It feels like I was being willfully ignorant. But I wasn’t. It was all subconscious.

But I don’t want to pretend this stuff never happened anymore. I want to face it and work through it and fix it and move past it all.

Hate

I hated my parents for walking around naked. I hated being ridiculed for not wanting to do so myself. I hated hearing my father say negative things about my body at 9 and 10 and on up till I moved out.

I hated not having privacy. Not even in the bathroom. Not even in my journal. I hated being made to feel ashamed of wanting privacy.

I hate feeling so painfully shy that I can’t even speak out loud to people when I am out sometimes. I hate pretending I can’t speak because I feel like I can’t speak, even now sometimes. I hate the way my mother silenced me and talked over me.

I hated being introduced as the responsible one. I don’t want to be the responsible child. But I know I’ll never be anything else in their eyes. I won’t be the pretty one, or the smart one, or the creative one or the successful one. Just responsible.

I hate that they lied to me about having emotional problems. I do have emotional problems. Just not the ones they told me I had for my whole life. I hate that they made me believe my problems were my own fault. I hate that I believed them when they said I’d never have a healthy relationship with anyone.

I hate that they punished me for crying. I hate that they used to play a game where they pretended I was invisible whenever I cried.

I hated being invisible.

That is so wrong and fucked up. I have a voice, I exist, I’m allowed to have emotions. Even negative ones. I’m allowed to cry. Crying does not make me a bad person. Nobody should ever be punished for crying. Not by anyone. And certainly not me, as a child, by my parents.

I’m allowed to be overwhelmed and be imperfect. I’m allowed to need help.

But I still hate crying so much. I hate crying in front of people. It makes me feel weak and ugly and unlovable.

And I hate that my parents took my ability to cry away from me for so many years. Especially when an outlet like that might have helped.

I hated myself for caring about them. Even while they were doing all of this to me.

I hate that I have spent the last 20 years feeling nothing. Unable to cry.

I hate how long it has taken me to get help and start getting things figured out.