Yesterday I had a conversation with my counselor. He is a lovely man; we share a similar sense of humour, one session was basically a conversation about Fringe, we quite frequently take the piss out of the whining bunch of sooks Australians have become and yesterday decided within a generation or two this country would become something really quite appalling.
But our conversations are not just about underrated science-fiction television series and the grotesque state Australia allows itself to be in, they are also about me, and yesterday, our session revolved around my emotions.
I told him about how I had restarted my blog, how I was trying to refocus my mind, how I was trying to put myself back out there – and – like all good counselors, psychologists and mental health people, he asked me how this made me feel.
And I told him the truth: nothing.
He asked me when the last time I experienced something that resulted in happy, positive emotions.
And I told him the truth: I don’t remember.
As the conversation progressed I described how, when I was younger, I was uber-emotional. Not just good emotions or bad emotions but all emotions. I could veer from pure ecstasy to bawling my eyes out in a matter of milliseconds. I didn’t just feel for me, I felt for my family, for my classmates, for random strangers, for small snails that I passed on the way to school. Guilt, fear, joy, surprise, shame, envy, disgust, pride…the whole gauntlet of simple to pure to complex emotions.
But the abuse changed all that.
The inner tradesman in me built walls around my mind whilst the inner castle builder constructed ramparts, battlements, moats at the same time as my inner electrician checked the meter and switched off the electrical connections. Since the abuse I have emotionally withdrawn from life. I won’t let anyone get close; will not allow a single emotion to pass through me for fear of finding myself in the same situation. If you look up the word ‘numb’ in an illustrated dictionary you will see a sketch drawing of me.
Over the years I learned how to be nobody. I feared sharing my opinions would result in a barrage of insult and criticism, further damaging my fragile self –esteem. I believed the words my abuser hurled were true, that I was useless, worthless, a waste of space, that I would never achieve anything. That I was evil; a cancerous cell that infests and brings pain to all I touch.
Every occasion I’ve lowered my defenses and tried to share myself with the world has failed.
A woman I dated for a time would tell me “I know I told you I’d do this but I’m not going to as I now realize you would enjoy it, and as your girlfriend, I’m not supposed to do things you would enjoy” A sentence that told me my happiness, the things I wanted to experience were not important; that I wasn’t important. Organizations established to assist in helping the homeless laughed my plight away by telling me there were people worse off than I was. That I shouldn’t be complaining about my pain and just get on with things. People I tried to befriend, that I forced myself to trust and believe, would tell me I was wrong; that I needed to be fixed.
Cue return phone calls to all the tradesmen, castle builders and electricians. Cue a phone call from a passing Kryptonian to create a fortress of such solitude nothing could penetrate its defenses and I could live in relative, albeit, painful safety.
As an example of how this has affected me, I told my counselor of how, in times long gone, I wrote highly personal pieces showcasing specific periods of my life: of my self harm, my suicide attempts, my homelessness, the effects abuse has had on me. In each of those pieces I wrote of myself and emotions. Now, I struggle to write anything that even borders on personal feeling. Posts that are nothing more than inconsequential ramblings over nothing specific.
My counselor asked me what I wanted to write about:
- The things I used to write about. Pieces that I felt made a difference and were effective in changing opinion or highlighting the forgotten problems in society.
- The things I’ve never written about. Pieces I’ve been writing in my mind for nearly half a decade but refuse to allow onto the page.
He asked me why I didn’t write about these things:
- Because I lost job opportunities as a result of blogging about mental illness.
- Because I’ve been discriminated against because of homelessness.
- Because I have been continually called evil for passions that others consider ‘wrong’.
- Because I can’t handle the abuse anymore.
He asked me what would happen if I were to write about these things:
- ; from others and from myself.
He asked me what I meant by that:
- Because I’ve been bullied and abused all my life, and now there is no-one to do it to me, I do it to myself for it’s all I know.
- Because throughout my life I’ve been belittled into believing I am not important, that I am nobody, that I deserve nothing.
The reason that I dislike the term ‘be yourself’ is because I think it’s a pointless piece of advice that means nothing. Or, to be more precise, I have been made to believe through bullying and abuse that we are not allowed to be ourselves.
A cursory glance over Twitter will see tweets derogatory and abusive in nature purely because someone takes offense at someone else just being themselves. A quick glance through any newspaper will inform you what you should be eating, drinking, smoking, thinking, believing, doing and if you are not, you are ‘wrong’. A flick through various television stations will reinforce these same things.
The world is constantly telling us who we should be and belittles anyone who thinks otherwise.
There is nothing more in this world I want than to be myself. To be able to regain the scale of emotion that I used to feel, to put pen to paper or finger to keyboard and share whatever thoughts or feelings I have without censoring myself out of fear of ridicule, abuse or pain. To love myself as deeply and broadly as I once did.
To be yourself in this world you need a firm knowledge and understanding of who you are; the things that drive you, the passions that fuel you and the beliefs that empower you. You also need the confidence to stand up and share this with the world.
I can still answer each of those questions at the drop of a hat, I’ve been able to for years. I just lack the confidence that is needed and I hope the work I’m doing with my counselor will help me regain that bravery.
Right now, I do not have enough belief in the world to just be myself.
I’ll let you know when I do.
- Sadness. Anger. Hope. (myjourneywithdepression.wordpress.com)
- What is EMOTIONAL Abuse? (Part 1) (acoarecovery.wordpress.com)
- [365 Day Challenge] 001. Hopes. Dreams. Plans (myjourneywithdepression.wordpress.com)