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What Happened When I Realized I'd Made a Habit of Ignoring My Emotions

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The past few months I have been competing in athletic events, and my body and mind have been fighting against me in this journey. I’ve learned something, though, and I wanted to get it out here, to make sense of it and hopefully have it help someone else. So here it goes.

I fear the worst when it comes to appearance. I fear looking weak, like I’m failing, because then I wonder if it’s true.

How would it appear if I began crying and struggling to breathe in front of people? How would the things my mind thinks due to depression and anxiety appear if I said them out loud?

Part of me wants people to know how I feel, but I don’t want to appear in a negative light. So I built a strong wall of stone around my feelings to protect me from people.

I have slowly found a few people I have been able to confide in (one being my therapist) and in doing so, I have discovered a second wall I built.

I not only guard my feelings from others, but I guard them from myself, too. Instead of feeling my emotions, I’ve made a habit of ignoring them for as long as I can.

In difficult periods of time, I end up having panic attacks in the aftermath of not allowing myself to feel in the moment.

For me, feeling in the moment is dangerous because there is a possibility of breaking down in a public place. Pushing aside some emotions is necessary and fine when I am in a tight spot and need to concentrate, but when I continue to do so past the time of need, I am running from it, and the farther I get, the harder it is to address.

Another competition was coming up, so my therapist challenged me to feel my emotions when they came. As the event started, I began periodically asking myself these questions: “What do I feel right now?” and “How do I feel about this?”

As I questioned myself, I caught myself red-handed in the act of stuffing my feelings behind the wall. I had to actively search myself to identify what I was feeling. I had to relearn how to process my emotions when they came. My goal in doing this wasn’t to simmer in my emotions, because sometimes I am bitter, angry and jealous. But unless I acknowledge them, they would keep growing underneath and explode later. I am still practicing this. It is a habit hard to break. Yet I’ve found that once I can admit my fear, my insecurities and my pain, then I can work through them.

A great way I’ve found to do this is through journaling. I can just write down everything that’s running amok in my mind onto the page, and no one other than me will see it. By the end I always feel lighter because I got to be honest about how I feel, and I often come to some sort of conclusion or resolve to get me through the day.

I want everyone to know what they feel is real, regardless on how others may perceive it. The pain we feel is real pain.

Once I admit what I feel, then I can respond by working through it. It is not easy, and it is for sure painful, but to move forward, steps have to be taken. For now, those are addressing my pain.

Follow this journey here.

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Thinkstock photo via alexandralarina.

Originally published: August 17, 2017
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