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The Problem With ‘Bottling Emotions’ in Life With Depression

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For a while now, actually, for as long as I can remember, I’ve stuffed my emotions inside of me. I just do not have time to deal with all of these emotions clobbering me. I am in the boxing match of my life, and all of my emotions get to tag-team fight me.

Seems a little unfair, right? Seems like the emotions have the upper hand. But you’ve had a secret weapon to face these emotions all along. You just did not realize it.

Allow yourself to feel the emotions. I know, I know, we do not have time to deal with everything that happens to us. We are already battling major depression and anxiety. We don’t have time to process our emotions and interrupt our lives. So when something horrible happens, like a death in the family or someone makes a rude comment about how you look, instead of allowing yourself to feel the appropriate emotion with the action taken against you, you push it down.

This is classic textbook “bottling up your emotions.” When I was diagnosed with major depression and anxiety, I began group therapy. They harped on all of us accessing our inner emotions again and to process them versus pushing everything away and walking through life essentially numb. I, however, did not listen.

Recently, I attended a dinner party with my wife with what seemed like hundreds of people. Now, those of you with social anxiety know the terror that spreads across you when you see a multitude of people talking and laughing. I knew some of the people who were already there. So I didn’t let it bother me at first.


We had to sit down at the dinner table and begin to eat. I was sandwiched between people. There were people to the back of me, to the front of me, all around me. Instead of giving myself a break and letting my emotions out, I just stayed in the situation, petrified. My wife would nudge me and ask if everything was OK. I lied and said yes because I wanted all of us to have a good time. I wanted to finally face the social anxiety demon and make some progress.

My heart was racing. I felt nauseous. My hands were trembling. My hands were sweating. My neck, shoulders and head were killing me. I had the intense feeling that I was being watched by someone. Still, though, I refused to acknowledge my warning signs of being overloaded and continued with the party.

When we finally arrived home, I completely lost it from keeping all of those emotions bottled up in my head. I broke down in the bathroom floor and began sobbing uncontrollably, inconsolably. I was feeling so many different emotions that I did not know where to start. I went from terrified, to guilty, to shameful, to feeling worthless, to absolutely and completely angry.

My wife tried to help me at first. I was shooting out all sorts of emotions in such a little amount of time that I did not know how she could help me. I hit the wall with my fists. I yelled at the ceiling. I kicked at the counter and prayed to God to let me go. I told my wife I do not want to fight like this every day anymore. I am tired of just surviving day to day. I will never forget what she told me in response to that.

She said, in a pleading voice, “That is not you talking. That is your depression talking.”

That made me wail even harder because I realized something in that moment. I allowed my depression to overtake me by not allowing myself to feel my emotions. Let me tell you something. Your emotions will come back up if you push them down. It is never pretty when that happens either. I just sobbed, sitting on the cold tile floor of the bathroom while my wife hugged my neck and I cried into her shirt.

I began to slowly focus on one emotion. Anger. Now let me be clear. There is healthy anger and there is dangerous anger. I chose to feel the healthy anger. I just needed to process one emotion so I could begin to process all of the others. The anger was at God, my diagnosis, but mainly myself for being angry at God. I believe He has given me the gift of a life after I pass from this one.

I still am feeling the anger. I will not lie, but it is not nearly as strong as it is. Also, it is allowing me to feel again. Some of us, as people with diagnosed major depressive disorder, have to allow ourselves to feel our emotions. Then, and only then, can we begin to heal. This is not just a one time deal either though. This is something we have to do every single day — allow ourselves to feel emotions. Bottling them up will only lead to horrible depressive episodes, like the one I shared with you above.

My message for all of the beautifully, unique people reading this article and myself is to allow yourself to feel and process emotions. I implore you. It is so much healthier to deal with the emotions when they initially come up, versus bottling up emotions from different situations throughout the days, weeks, months or even years. Folks, your emotions will come back up if you shove them away and come back, wreaking havoc and causing despair.

Allow yourself to feel emotions and process them.

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: December 21, 2016
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